This one is correct:

$ find . -name *main.o

So, why I can't find *.o?

$ find . -name *.o
find: paths must precede expression: main.o
Usage: find [-H] [-L] [-P] [-Olevel] [-D help|tree|search|stat|rates|opt|exec] [path...] [expression]
  • 2
    Duplicate of askubuntu.com/questions/112722/…? Oct 17, 2014 at 11:05
  • The one you call correct is also wrong. If there is one match in the current directory and another match in a subdirectory, it will not be able to find both unless both happen to have the same name. I.e. in your first example there could have been a file called ./sub/domain.o, which it did not find.
    – kasperd
    Oct 17, 2014 at 15:25

2 Answers 2


Probably there are more than one file that match *.o, while only one file match *main.o, so, in the first case, shell expansion runs:

$ find . -name main.o

and this works. In the second case:

$ find . -name file1.o main.o

And this is why you got error.

In order to prevent this, you should quote expression in both command:

$ find . -name '*.o'
$ find . -name '*main.o'
  • 2
    Indeed, one can easily check this with echo *.o vs echo '*.o'.
    – Ruslan
    Oct 16, 2014 at 17:06
  • @Ruslan Depends, if there are no files matching the glob (*, ?) bash will treat it as the literal character.
    – user234837
    Oct 22, 2014 at 5:18
  • @BroSlow undoubtedly, I was talking about the particular situation the OP was in.
    – Ruslan
    Oct 22, 2014 at 6:54

Put the file pattern in quotes. Otherwise, * is expanded by the shell (resolved to a list of files before find sees it), confusing find.

find . -name "*.o"
  • 13
    Alternatively escape * with a backslash: find -name \*.o Oct 16, 2014 at 1:29

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