About Operators

Short description

Describes the operators that are supported by PowerShell.

Long description

An operator is a language element that you can use in a command or expression. PowerShell supports several types of operators to help you manipulate values.

Arithmetic Operators

Use arithmetic operators (+, -, *, /, %) to calculate values in a command or expression. With these operators, you can add, subtract, multiply, or divide values, and calculate the remainder (modulus) of a division operation.

The addition operator concatenates elements. The multiplication operator returns the specified number of copies of each element. You can use arithmetic operators on any .NET type that implements them, such as: Int, String, DateTime, Hashtable, and Arrays.

For more information, see about_Arithmetic_Operators.

Assignment Operators

Use assignment operators (=, +=, -=, *=, /=, %=) to assign, change, or append values to variables. You can combine arithmetic operators with assignment to assign the result of the arithmetic operation to a variable.

For more information, see about_Assignment_Operators.

Comparison Operators

Use comparison operators (-eq, -ne, -gt, -lt, -le, -ge) to compare values and test conditions. For example, you can compare two string values to determine whether they are equal.

The comparison operators also include operators that find or replace patterns in text. The (-match, -notmatch, -replace) operators use regular expressions, and (-like, -notlike) use wildcards *.

Containment comparison operators determine whether a test value appears in a reference set (-in, -notin, -contains, -notcontains).

Type comparison operators (-is, -isnot) determine whether an object is of a given type.

Bitwise comparison operators (-band, -bor, -bxor, -bnot) manipulate the bit patterns in values.

For more information, see about_Comparison_Operators.

Logical Operators

Use logical operators (-and, -or, -xor, -not, !) to connect conditional statements into a single complex conditional. For example, you can use a logical -and operator to create an object filter with two different conditions.

For more information, see about_Logical_Operators.

Redirection Operators

Use redirection operators (>, >>, 2>, 2>>, and 2>&1) to send the output of a command or expression to a text file. The redirection operators work like the Out-File cmdlet (without parameters) but they also let you redirect error output to specified files. You can also use the Tee-Object cmdlet to redirect output.

For more information, see about_Redirection

Split and Join Operators

The -split and -join operators divide and combine substrings. The -split operator splits a string into substrings. The -join operator concatenates multiple strings into a single string.

For more information, see about_Split and about_Join.

Type Operators

Use the type operators (-is, -isnot, -as) to find or change the .NET Framework type of an object.

For more information, see about_Type_Operators.

Unary Operators

Use unary operators to increment or decrement variables or object properties and to set integers to positive or negative numbers. For example, to increment the variable $a from 9 to 10, you type $a++.

Special Operators

Special operators have specific use-cases that do not fit into any other operator group. For example, special operators allow you to run commands, change a value's data type, or retrieve elements from an array.

Grouping operator ( )

As in other languages, (...) serves to override operator precedence in expressions. For example: (1 + 2) / 3

However, in PowerShell, there are additional behaviors.

  • (...) allows you to let output from a command participate in an expression. For example:

    PS> (Get-Item *.txt).Count -gt 10
  • When used as the first segment of a pipeline, wrapping a command or expression in parentheses invariably causes enumeration of the expression result. If the parentheses wrap a command, it is run to completion with all output collected in memory before the results are sent through the pipeline.


Wrapping a command in parentheses causes the automatic variable $? to be set to $true, even when the enclosed command itself set $? to $false. For example, (Get-Item /Nosuch); $? unexpectedly yields True. For more information about $?, see about_Automatic_Variables.

Subexpression operator $( )

Returns the result of one or more statements. For a single result, returns a scalar. For multiple results, returns an array. Use this when you want to use an expression within another expression. For example, to embed the results of command in a string expression.

PS> "Today is $(Get-Date)"
Today is 12/02/2019 13:15:20

PS> "Folder list: $((dir c:\ -dir).Name -join ', ')"
Folder list: Program Files, Program Files (x86), Users, Windows

Array subexpression operator @( )

Returns the result of one or more statements as an array. If there is only one item, the array has only one member.

@(Get-CimInstance win32_logicalDisk)

Call operator &

Runs a command, script, or script block. The call operator, also known as the "invocation operator", lets you run commands that are stored in variables and represented by strings or script blocks. The call operator executes in a child scope. For more about scopes, see about_Scopes.

This example stores a command in a string and executes it using the call operator.

PS> $c = "get-executionpolicy"
PS> $c
PS> & $c

The call operator does not parse strings. This means that you cannot use command parameters within a string when you use the call operator.

PS> $c = "Get-Service -Name Spooler"
PS> $c
Get-Service -Name Spooler
PS> & $c
& : The term 'Get-Service -Name Spooler' is not recognized as the name of a
cmdlet, function, script file, or operable program. Check the spelling of
the name, or if a path was included, verify that the path is correct and
try again.
At line:1 char:2
+ & $c
+  ~~
    + CategoryInfo          : ObjectNotFound: (Get-Service -Name Spooler:String) [], CommandNotFoundException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : CommandNotFoundException

The Invoke-Expression cmdlet can execute code that causes parsing errors when using the call operator.

PS> & "1+1"
& : The term '1+1' is not recognized as the name of a cmdlet, function, script
file, or operable program. Check the spelling of the name, or if a path was
included, verify that the path is correct and try again.
At line:1 char:2
+ & "1+1"
+  ~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : ObjectNotFound: (1+1:String) [], CommandNotFoundException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : CommandNotFoundException
PS> Invoke-Expression "1+1"

You can use the call operator to execute scripts using their filenames. The example below shows a script filename that contains spaces. When you try to execute the script, PowerShell instead displays the contents of the quoted string containing the filename. The call operator allows you to execute the contents of the string containing the filename.

PS C:\Scripts> Get-ChildItem

    Directory: C:\Scripts

Mode                LastWriteTime         Length Name
----                -------------         ------ ----
-a----        8/28/2018   1:36 PM             58 script name with spaces.ps1

PS C:\Scripts> ".\script name with spaces.ps1"
.\script name with spaces.ps1
PS C:\Scripts> & ".\script name with spaces.ps1"
Hello World!

For more about script blocks, see about_Script_Blocks.

Background operator &

Runs the pipeline before it in the background, in a PowerShell job. This operator acts similarly to the UNIX control operator ampersand (&), which runs the command before it asynchronously in subshell as a job.

This operator is functionally equivalent to Start-Job. The following example demonstrates basic usage of the background job operator.

Get-Process -Name pwsh &

That command is functionally equivalent to the following usage of Start-Job:

Start-Job -ScriptBlock {Get-Process -Name pwsh}

Just like Start-Job, the & background operator returns a Job object. This object can be used with Receive-Job and Remove-Job, just as if you had used Start-Job to start the job.

$job = Get-Process -Name pwsh &
Receive-Job $job -Wait

 NPM(K)    PM(M)      WS(M)     CPU(s)      Id  SI ProcessName
 ------    -----      -----     ------      --  -- -----------
      0     0.00     221.16      25.90    6988 988 pwsh
      0     0.00     140.12      29.87   14845 845 pwsh
      0     0.00      85.51       0.91   19639 988 pwsh

Remove-Job $job

The & background operator is also a statement terminator, just like the UNIX control operator ampersand (&). This allows you to invoke additional commands after the & background operator. The following example demonstrates the invocation of additional commands after the & background operator.

$job = Get-Process -Name pwsh & Receive-Job $job -Wait

 NPM(K)    PM(M)      WS(M)     CPU(s)      Id  SI ProcessName
 ------    -----      -----     ------      --  -- -----------
      0     0.00     221.16      25.90    6988 988 pwsh
      0     0.00     140.12      29.87   14845 845 pwsh
      0     0.00      85.51       0.91   19639 988 pwsh

This is equivalent to the following script:

$job = Start-Job -ScriptBlock {Get-Process -Name pwsh}
Receive-Job $job -Wait

If you want to run multiple commands, each in their own background process but all on one line, simply place & between and after each of the commands.

Get-Process -Name pwsh & Get-Service -Name BITS & Get-CimInstance -ClassName Win32_ComputerSystem &

For more information on PowerShell jobs, see about_Jobs.

Cast operator [ ]

Converts or limits objects to the specified type. If the objects cannot be converted, PowerShell generates an error.

[DateTime]"2/20/88" - [DateTime]"1/20/88"
[Int] (7/2)
[String] 1 + 0
[Int] '1' + 0

A cast can also be performed when a variable is assigned to using cast notation.

Comma operator ,

As a binary operator, the comma creates an array. As a unary operator, the comma creates an array with one member. Place the comma before the member.

$myArray = 1,2,3
$SingleArray = ,1

Dot sourcing operator .

Runs a script in the current scope so that any functions, aliases, and variables that the script creates are added to the current scope.

. c:\scripts\sample.ps1


The dot sourcing operator is followed by a space. Use the space to distinguish the dot from the dot (.) symbol that represents the current directory.

In the following example, the Sample.ps1 script in the current directory is run in the current scope.

. .\sample.ps1

Format operator -f

Formats strings by using the format method of string objects. Enter the format string on the left side of the operator and the objects to be formatted on the right side of the operator.

"{0} {1,-10} {2:N}" -f 1,"hello",[math]::pi
1 hello      3.14

For more information, see the String.Format method and Composite Formatting.

Index operator [ ]

Selects objects from indexed collections, such as arrays and hash tables. Array indexes are zero-based, so the first object is indexed as [0]. For arrays (only), you can also use negative indexes to get the last values. Hash tables are indexed by key value.

PS> $a = 1, 2, 3
PS> $a[0]
PS> $a[-1]
(Get-HotFix | Sort-Object installedOn)[-1]
$h = @{key="value"; name="PowerShell"; version="2.0"}
$x = [xml]"<doc><intro>Once upon a time...</intro></doc>"
Once upon a time...

Pipeline operator |

Sends ("pipes") the output of the command that precedes it to the command that follows it. When the output includes more than one object (a "collection"), the pipeline operator sends the objects one at a time.

Get-Process | Get-Member
Get-Service | Where-Object {$_.StartType -eq 'Automatic'}

Range operator ..

Represents the sequential integers in an integer array, given an upper, and lower boundary.

foreach ($a in 1..$max) {Write-Host $a}

You can also create ranges in reverse order.

5..-5 | ForEach-Object {Write-Output $_}

Beginning in PowerShell 6, the range operator works with Characters as well as Integers.

To create a range of characters, enclose the boundary characters in quotes.

PS> 'a'..'f'
PS> 'F'..'A'

Member access operator .

Accesses the properties and methods of an object. The member name may be an expression.

(Get-Process PowerShell).kill()
'OS', 'Platform' | Foreach-Object { $PSVersionTable. $_ }

Static member operator ::

Calls the static properties and methods of a .NET Framework class. To find the static properties and methods of an object, use the Static parameter of the Get-Member cmdlet. The member name may be an expression.

'MinValue', 'MaxValue' | Foreach-Object { [int]:: $_ }

See also