In a bash script I want to recursively chown all subfolders of an arbitrary folder with the user and group owners of that given folder.

My approach is something like using stat -c "%U %G" .

But that returns only a pattern of username[whitespace]groupname

Of course I could just try different tools to replace the whitespace with a : but I would prefer to use a more "built-in" way if there is one, to just apply current ownership to the sub folders.


2 Answers 2


You don't actually need to parse the output to remove the whitespace - you added that in your command! You can just format it as you like (with chown's colon syntax) in the first place:

$ stat -c "%U:%G" .

So just pass that to chown with command substitution:

chown -R $(stat -c "%U:%G" .) .
  • Sometimes I am just blind for the obvious. Thank you!
    – Jankapunkt
    Sep 8, 2017 at 15:26

chown, like chmod, can use a reference:

chown [OPTION]... --reference=RFILE FILE...

Change the owner and/or group of each FILE to OWNER and/or GROUP.  With
--reference, change the owner and group of each FILE to those of RFILE.


chown --reference=/some/folder -R /some/folder

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