Flags such as ‘-s’ and ‘-k’ are passed automatically to the
make through the variable
MAKEFLAGS. This variable is
set up automatically by
make to contain the flag letters that
make received. Thus, if you do ‘make -ks’ then
MAKEFLAGS gets the value ‘ks’.
As a consequence, every sub-
make gets a value for
in its environment. In response, it takes the flags from that value and
processes them as if they had been given as arguments.
See Summary of Options.
Likewise variables defined on the command line are passed to the
MAKEFLAGS. Words in the value of
MAKEFLAGS that contain ‘=’,
make treats as variable
definitions just as if they appeared on the command line.
See Overriding Variables.
The options ‘-C’, ‘-f’, ‘-o’, and ‘-W’ are not put
MAKEFLAGS; these options are not passed down.
The ‘-j’ option is a special case (see Parallel Execution).
If you set it to some numeric value ‘N’ and your operating system
supports it (most any UNIX system will; others typically won't), the
make and all the sub-
makes will communicate to
ensure that there are only ‘N’ jobs running at the same time
between them all. Note that any job that is marked recursive
(see Instead of Executing Recipes)
doesn't count against the total jobs (otherwise we could get ‘N’
makes running and have no slots left over for any real work!)
If your operating system doesn't support the above communication, then
‘-j 1’ is always put into
MAKEFLAGS instead of the value you
specified. This is because if the ‘-j’ option were passed down
makes, you would get many more jobs running in parallel
than you asked for. If you give ‘-j’ with no numeric argument,
meaning to run as many jobs as possible in parallel, this is passed
down, since multiple infinities are no more than one.
If you do not want to pass the other flags down, you must change the
MAKEFLAGS, like this:
subsystem: cd subdir && $(MAKE) MAKEFLAGS=
The command line variable definitions really appear in the variable
MAKEFLAGS contains a reference to this
variable. If you do want to pass flags down normally, but don't want to
pass down the command line variable definitions, you can reset
MAKEOVERRIDES to empty, like this:
This is not usually useful to do. However, some systems have a small
fixed limit on the size of the environment, and putting so much
information into the value of
MAKEFLAGS can exceed it. If you
see the error message ‘Arg list too long’, this may be the problem.
(For strict compliance with POSIX.2, changing
MAKEFLAGS if the special target ‘.POSIX’ appears
in the makefile. You probably do not care about this.)
A similar variable
MFLAGS exists also, for historical
compatibility. It has the same value as
MAKEFLAGS except that it
does not contain the command line variable definitions, and it always
begins with a hyphen unless it is empty (
MAKEFLAGS begins with a
hyphen only when it begins with an option that has no single-letter
version, such as ‘--warn-undefined-variables’).
traditionally used explicitly in the recursive
make command, like
subsystem: cd subdir && $(MAKE) $(MFLAGS)
MAKEFLAGS makes this usage redundant. If you want your
makefiles to be compatible with old
make programs, use this
technique; it will work fine with more modern
make versions too.
MAKEFLAGS variable can also be useful if you want to have
certain options, such as ‘-k’ (see Summary of Options), set each time you run
make. You simply put a value for
MAKEFLAGS in your environment. You can also set
a makefile, to specify additional flags that should also be in effect for
that makefile. (Note that you cannot use
MFLAGS this way. That
variable is set only for compatibility;
make does not interpret a
value you set for it in any way.)
make interprets the value of
MAKEFLAGS (either from the
environment or from a makefile), it first prepends a hyphen if the value
does not already begin with one. Then it chops the value into words
separated by blanks, and parses these words as if they were options given
on the command line (except that ‘-C’, ‘-f’, ‘-h’,
‘-o’, ‘-W’, and their long-named versions are ignored; and there
is no error for an invalid option).
If you do put
MAKEFLAGS in your environment, you should be sure not
to include any options that will drastically affect the actions of
make and undermine the purpose of makefiles and of
itself. For instance, the ‘-t’, ‘-n’, and ‘-q’ options, if
put in one of these variables, could have disastrous consequences and would
certainly have at least surprising and probably annoying effects.