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27.2.1 Setting Permissions

The basic symbolic operations on a file’s permissions are adding, removing, and setting the permission that certain users have to read, write, and execute or search the file. These operations have the following format:

users operation permissions

The spaces between the three parts above are shown for readability only; symbolic modes cannot contain spaces.

The users part tells which users’ access to the file is changed. It consists of one or more of the following letters (or it can be empty; see Umask and Protection, for a description of what happens then). When more than one of these letters is given, the order that they are in does not matter.


the user who owns the file;


other users who are in the file’s group;


all other users;


all users; the same as ‘ugo’.

The operation part tells how to change the affected users’ access to the file, and is one of the following symbols:


to add the permissions to whatever permissions the users already have for the file;


to remove the permissions from whatever permissions the users already have for the file;


to make the permissions the only permissions that the users have for the file.

The permissions part tells what kind of access to the file should be changed; it is normally zero or more of the following letters. As with the users part, the order does not matter when more than one letter is given. Omitting the permissions part is useful only with the ‘=’ operation, where it gives the specified users no access at all to the file.


the permission the users have to read the file;


the permission the users have to write to the file;


the permission the users have to execute the file, or search it if it is a directory.

For example, to give everyone permission to read and write a regular file, but not to execute it, use:


To remove write permission for all users other than the file’s owner, use:


The above command does not affect the access that the owner of the file has to it, nor does it affect whether other users can read or execute the file.

To give everyone except a file’s owner no permission to do anything with that file, use the mode below. Other users could still remove the file, if they have write permission on the directory it is in.


Another way to specify the same thing is:


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