I create a symbolic link:

ln -s /tmp/folder1 /tmp/folder2

Then I go to /tmp/folder2 and run pwd:

$ cd /tmp/folder2/
$ pwd
$ sudo pwd
/tmp/folder1 # <-- This is the odd part

Why does pwd with sudo give the original directory? I'm writing a bash script and need the absolute path of the current directory. With sudo I can't seem to be able to get the original directory.

  • Is your goal to have pwd return the physical (/tmp/folder1) path or the logical (/tmp/folder2) path for both ?
    – user9517
    May 8, 2014 at 11:30
  • Goal is to return the logical path when using sudo
    – iDev247
    May 9, 2014 at 2:34

2 Answers 2


The pwd command is both a shell builtin and /bin/pwd. Under normal circumstances, the builtin will be run in preference to /bin/pwd. The pwd command can be called as pwd -L or pwd -P Both the builtin and /bin/pwd default to pwd -L from the man page

-L, --logical use PWD from environment, even if it contains symlinks

so when you run pwd you actually run pwd -L which in effect prints $PWD (if it exists). When you run sudo pwd, sudo only provides the environment variables that is has been told to pass on via env_keep directives. PWD is not normally in this list so sudo pwd has to work out where it is and in effect runs as pwd -P

-P, --physical avoid all symlinks

The way to solve the problem is to either use pwd -P if you consistently want the physical directory path or (as @Felix says ) to add PWD to the list of environment variables to keep via an env_keep directive in sudoers

env_keep += "PWD"  
  • Works! After PWD is added to env_keep I need to do sudo pwd -L to get the logical path. sudo pwd returns the physical path.
    – iDev247
    May 9, 2014 at 2:45

In bash, pwd is a builtin. /bin/pwd yields the same behavior as sudo pwd.

You will want to

  1. use sudo pwd -L, which only works if you
  2. include Defaults env_keep=PWD in your sudoers file

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