grep reverse - how to reverse the meaning of a grep search

Problem

You need to reverse the meaning of a search you're performing with the grep command. For instance, you've been searching for pepperoni pizza orders like this:

grep pepperoni pizza-orders.txt

and now you need to find all orders that don't have pepperoni.

Solution

Just add the -v switch to your grep search command, like this:

grep -v pepperoni pizza-orders.txt

As shown in the documentation below, the -v switch stands for "invert switch". I like to think of it as reversing the meaning of the search.

The grep man page

While I'm writing about the grep command, I thought I'd go ahead and include the help documentation from the grep man page:

Usage: grep [OPTION]... PATTERN [FILE] ...
Search for PATTERN in each FILE or standard input.
Example: grep -i 'hello world' menu.h main.c

Regexp selection and interpretation:
  -E, --extended-regexp     PATTERN is an extended regular expression
  -F, --fixed-strings       PATTERN is a set of newline-separated strings
  -G, --basic-regexp        PATTERN is a basic regular expression
  -P, --perl-regexp         PATTERN is a Perl regular expression
  -e, --regexp=PATTERN      use PATTERN as a regular expression
  -f, --file=FILE           obtain PATTERN from FILE
  -i, --ignore-case         ignore case distinctions
  -w, --word-regexp         force PATTERN to match only whole words
  -x, --line-regexp         force PATTERN to match only whole lines
  -z, --null-data           a data line ends in 0 byte, not newline

Miscellaneous:
  -s, --no-messages         suppress error messages
  -v, --invert-match        select non-matching lines
  -V, --version             print version information and exit
      --help                display this help and exit
      --mmap                use memory-mapped input if possible

Output control:
  -m, --max-count=NUM       stop after NUM matches
  -b, --byte-offset         print the byte offset with output lines
  -n, --line-number         print line number with output lines
      --line-buffered       flush output on every line
  -H, --with-filename       print the filename for each match
  -h, --no-filename         suppress the prefixing filename on output
      --label=LABEL         print LABEL as filename for standard input
  -o, --only-matching       show only the part of a line matching PATTERN
  -q, --quiet, --silent     suppress all normal output
      --binary-files=TYPE   assume that binary files are TYPE
                            TYPE is 'binary', 'text', or 'without-match'
  -a, --text                equivalent to --binary-files=text
  -I                        equivalent to --binary-files=without-match
  -d, --directories=ACTION  how to handle directories
                            ACTION is 'read', 'recurse', or 'skip'
  -D, --devices=ACTION      how to handle devices, FIFOs and sockets
                            ACTION is 'read' or 'skip'
  -R, -r, --recursive       equivalent to --directories=recurse
      --include=PATTERN     files that match PATTERN will be examined
      --exclude=PATTERN     files that match PATTERN will be skipped.
      --exclude-from=FILE   files that match PATTERN in FILE will be skipped.
  -L, --files-without-match only print FILE names containing no match
  -l, --files-with-matches  only print FILE names containing matches
  -c, --count               only print a count of matching lines per FILE
  -Z, --null                print 0 byte after FILE name

Context control:
  -B, --before-context=NUM  print NUM lines of leading context
  -A, --after-context=NUM   print NUM lines of trailing context
  -C, --context=NUM         print NUM lines of output context
  -NUM                      same as --context=NUM
      --color[=WHEN],
      --colour[=WHEN]       use markers to distinguish the matching string
                            WHEN may be `always', `never' or `auto'.
  -U, --binary              do not strip CR characters at EOL (MSDOS)
  -u, --unix-byte-offsets   report offsets as if CRs were not there (MSDOS)

`egrep' means `grep -E'.  `fgrep' means `grep -F'.
With no FILE, or when FILE is -, read standard input.  If less than
two FILEs given, assume -h.  Exit status is 0 if match, 1 if no match,
and 2 if trouble.

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