Take the 2-minute tour ×
Server Fault is a question and answer site for professional system and network administrators. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have an alias that passes in some parameters to a tool that I use often. Sometimes I run as myself, sometimes under sudo. Unfortunately, of course, sudo doesn't recognise the alias.

Does anyone have a hint on how to pass the alias through?

In this case, I have a bunch of options for perl when I'm debugging:

alias pd='perl -Ilib -I/home/myuser/lib -d'

Sometimes, I have to debug my tools as root, so, instead of running:

pd ./mytool --some params

I need to run it under sudo. I've tried many ways:

sudo eval $(alias pd)\; pd ./mytool --some params
sudo $(alias pd)\; pd ./mytool --some params
sudo bash -c "$(alias pd)\; pd ./mytool --some params"
sudo bash -c "$(alias pd); pd ./mytool --some params"
sudo bash -c eval\ "$(alias pd)\; pd ./mytool --some params"
sudo bash -c eval\ "'$(alias pd)\; pd ./mytool --some params'"

I was hoping for a nice, concise way to ensure that my current pd alias was fully used (in case I need to tweak it later), though some of my attempts weren't concise at all. My last resort is to put it into a shell script and put that somewhere that sudo will be able to find. But aliases are soooo handy sometimes, so it is a last resort.

share|improve this question
add comment

12 Answers

Can you add the alias to root's .bashrc or just execute .bashrc through sudo before your command?

sudo (. ~yourlogin/.bashrc; pd ./mytool --some params)
share|improve this answer
Um, this didn't even almost work, either. It's actually fairly close to some of the things I tried above, but is further away from actual shell/sudo syntax. –  Tanktalus Sep 1 '09 at 21:34
add comment

Wouldn't it be easier to simply hack out a script that includes your options, then place it somewhere in one of the folders that is the path for regular account and root? It really wouldn't take much of a script.

exec perl -Ilib -I/home/myuser/lib -d $*
share|improve this answer
It actually has to be "$@" instead of $*, and that's part of the reason I generally try to avoid it. ;-) It works, it just wastes a bunch of disk space relative to what it contains. –  Tanktalus Sep 1 '09 at 21:22
add comment

This is rough, but it works here:

houdini@clanspum:~/ > alias fb
fb='echo foo bar'
houdini@clanspum:~/ > alias fb | awk -F\' '{print $2}'
echo foo bar
houdini@clanspum:~/ > sudo sh -c "$(alias fb | awk -F\' '{print $2}')"
foo bar
houdini@clanspum:~/ > sudo sh -c "$(alias fb | awk -F\' '{print $2}') a b c"
foo bar a b c
houdini@clanspum:~/ > fb
foo bar
houdini@clanspum:~/ > fb a b c
foo bar a b c
share|improve this answer
I pasted an incomplete solution here, then edited to fix. The current one is right. A free upvote to the first person to comment explaining what's going on here :) –  Bill Weiss Sep 1 '09 at 22:02
I was hoping for a simpler way than awk, but hope != reality sometimes ;-) Apparently, "cut -f2 -d\'" would work just as well as awk, and be that tiny bit shorter. –  Tanktalus Sep 1 '09 at 22:05
Yeah, cut would work, I always forget about it. –  Bill Weiss Sep 1 '09 at 22:07
add comment

I'm not real clear on what you're trying to do. I can see two ways:

The Right Way

alias pd='sudo perl -Ilib -I/home/myuser/lib -d'

Then executing pd ./mytool will execute your debugging command as root but still preserve the benefits of sudo (audit trail, not operating out of a root shell).


insyte$ alias sid='sudo id'
insyte$ sid
uid=0(root) gid=0(root) groups=0(root)

The Easy Way

Add the aliases to root's .bashrc and use sudo -i whenever you sudo to root.

root# echo 'alias fb="echo foo bar"' >> /root/.bashrc
root# exit
insyte$ sudo -i
root# fb
foo bar
share|improve this answer
facepalm ++ - that was too obvious, thanks. –  Tanktalus Sep 1 '09 at 22:54
add comment

You want something like this:

(alias; echo "exec < /dev/tty") | sudo bash  -i
share|improve this answer
add comment
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I wish I could mark two answers as "correct". Combining the Right Way from Insyte's, um, insightful post, with the awk (or cut) solution from Bill Weiss, I've come up with this:

alias spd="sudo $(alias pd | cut -d\' -f2)"

Now I'll just go and put this into a shell function in my .bashrc or something, and then create "s" versions of all my aliases that I desire to run as root.

Update: slight modification of Dennis Williamson's simplistic function to make it a bit easier to use:

   local a c
   a=$(echo "$1" | cut -f1 -d=)
   c=$(echo "$1" | cut -f2- -d=)
   alias $a="$c"
   alias s$a="sudo $c"

This means I just have to put "s" in front of the entire command. Instead of:

alias pd='perl -Ilib -I/home/myuser/lib -d'

I just add the s in the front.

salias pd='perl -Ilib -I/home/myuser/lib -d'

And I'm done. Sure, the computer does a bit more work, but that's what a computer is for. :-)


share|improve this answer
You can (or should be able to) mark things as accepted, which is kind of like marking them correct :) –  Bill Weiss Sep 2 '09 at 15:09
Right - I want to mark two answers as correct :-P –  Tanktalus Sep 2 '09 at 17:51
Why not Slizzered's answer? alias sudo="sudo " works perfect. –  trusktr Nov 5 '12 at 22:08
add comment

Just have two aliases and use a variable

I don't see the reason for using awk or cut unless it's to only have the core alias defined once in order to make it easier to modify. If that's the case, then this works:

# ... in .bashrc ...
pd='perl -Ilib -I/home/myuser/lib -d'
alias pd="$pd"
alias spd="sudo $pd"

Here's a simplistic function to make alias pairs such as the one above:

mkap () {
    alias $1=$2
    alias s$1="sudo $2"

To use:

mkap pd 'perl -Ilib -I/home/myuser/lib -d'
mkap ct 'cat'

Now you have pd and spd plus ct and sct.

$ ct /etc/shadow
cat: /etc/shadow: Permission denied
$ sct /etc/shadow
[sudo] password for dennis:
$ alias
alias ct='cat'
alias pd='perl -Ilib -I/home/myuser/lib -d'
alias sct='sudo cat'
alias spd='sudo perl -Ilib -I/home/myuser/lib -d'
share|improve this answer
add comment

Add a "sudo " prefix to selected aliases AND commands from within your ~/.bashrc like so:

#a regular alias
alias pd='perl -Ilib -I/home/myuser/lib -d'

#sudofy (command id, alias pd - add others to this list)
for cmd in id pd;
      do alias "s$cmd"="sudo $cmd";
share|improve this answer
That doesn't work - that's where I started from. Did you try it? –  Tanktalus Oct 8 '09 at 5:23
Nice concept. I think alias sudo="sudo " is easier though. –  trusktr Nov 5 '12 at 22:10
add comment

in my opinion a very elegant way to do it comes from the Archlinux-Wiki:

alias sudo='sudo '
#(recognize the space!)

works for me to pass all aliases to sudo.

source: http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Sudo#Passing_aliases

share|improve this answer
This is a great trick! For the curious, the explanation from the alias section in the bash manpage: A trailing space in value causes the next word to be checked for alias substitution when the alias is expanded. –  Russell Davis Nov 23 '11 at 19:36
This should really be the accepted answer. –  Adrian Frühwirth Oct 11 '13 at 7:39
add comment

As posted a few times, do in '.bashrc':

alias sudo='sudo '

The reason why is explained in 'man bash' and 'help alias':

alias: alias [-p] [name[=value] ... ] Define or display aliases.

Without arguments, `alias' prints the list of aliases in the reusable
form `alias NAME=VALUE' on standard output.

Otherwise, an alias is defined for each NAME whose VALUE is given.
**A trailing space in VALUE causes the next word to be checked for
alias substitution when the alias is expanded.**
share|improve this answer
add comment

I don't know if it's the wisest thing to do on a production box but locally I use

alias sudo="sudo -E"

The -E (preserve environment) option will override the env_reset option in sudoers(5)). It is only available when either the matching command has the SETENV tag or the setenv option is set in sudoers(5).

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.