awk / cut: Skip First Two Fields and Print the Rest of Line

by on July 13, 2011 · 7 comments· LAST UPDATED July 13, 2011


I'd like to skip first two or three fields at the the beginning of a line and print the rest of line. Consider the following input:

This is a test
Giving back more than we take

I want my input file with the following output:

a test
more than we take

How do I printing lines from the nth field using awk under UNIX or Linux operating systems?

You can use the awk command as follows:

echo 'This is a test' | awk '{print substr($0, index($0,$3))}'


awk '{print substr($0, index($0,$3))}' <<< 'This is a test'

You can also use the cut command:

echo 'This is a test' | cut -d ' ' -f3-


cut -d ' ' -f3- <<<'This is a test'

Finally, process the file using bash while loop:

while IFS= read -r line
    cut -d ' ' -f3- <<<"$line"
    ### same stuff with awk ###
    ### awk '{print substr($0, index($0,$3))}' <<< "$line" ###
done < "${_input}"

Please note that you can also use Perl, Python or other shell text processing commands to do the same thing.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 daixtr September 1, 2011 at 4:49 pm

thanks.. this is the most elegant, simplest and my preferred way of doing this. The other way of doing this is with awk’s NF variable in a for-loop. This non-trivial situation is best explained in


2 James Valentine January 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Very useful, thanks. I went for the first Awk option to trim the permissions and filesize off the output of ls -l

Didn’t know about cut. Time to read the man page! :-)


3 jfaske October 3, 2012 at 1:44 pm

The awk method works perfectly well if the first three fields are unique. However, if your string was as follows:

“This This This will break the awk method”

…. the output will be unchanged since when it indexes the third field, it finds the first.

The cut method works perfectly well as long as your fields are not separated by more than a single space. It treats multiple spaces as separate fields.


4 John Murray November 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Awk… how I love thee.


5 frhling December 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm

If in 9th field($9) there is sth like: A/B/C and one needs C. how can we extract C and put it in output?


6 danliston April 16, 2014 at 12:08 am

I see this thread is a few years old, but I could not resist adding for the sake of searching the internet for a simple (but less elegant) answer.

awk '{ $1=""; $2=""; print}' filename

The above simply uses the default field separator, replaces the content of the first two fields with “nothing”, and prints the modified line. No need to use redirection, awk expects a file as input.

Note1: The field separators are left in tact, so your output lines begin with two blank spaces. This can be compensated for using substr($0,3) behind the print command.

Note2: The advantage to this syntax, is “any” field(s) may be ommitted, not just the first X number of fields.


7 Sarthak June 4, 2014 at 6:49 pm

sed -n ‘3,$’p infile.txt


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