Git Basics


In this lesson, we’ll cover common Git commands used to manage your projects and to upload your work onto GitHub. We refer to these commands as the basic Git workflow. When you’re using Git, these are the commands that you’ll use 70-80% of the time, so if you can get these down, you’ll be more than halfway done mastering Git!

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to do the following:

  • Describe how to copy an existing repository from GitHub onto your local machine.
  • Explain the two-stage system that Git uses to save files.
  • Describe how to upload your work to GitHub using Git.
  • Describe how to check the status of your files and how to view your commit history.


Note: As of October 1st, 2020, all new Git repositories will create a default branch named ‘main’ instead of ‘master’.

  1. Watch this video by Corey Schafer for a great overview of some basic Git commands.


This is a reference list of the most commonly used Git commands. (You might consider bookmarking this handy page.) Try to familiarize yourself with the commands so that you can eventually remember them all:

  • Commands related to a remote repository:
    • git clone or git clone
    • git push origin main
  • Commands related to workflow:
    • git add .
    • git commit -m "A message describing what you have done to make this snapshot different"
  • Commands related to checking status or log history
    • git status
    • git log

The basic Git syntax is program | action | destination.

For example,

  • git add . is read as git | add | ., where the period represents everything in the current directory;
  • git commit -m "message" is read as git | commit -m | "message"; and
  • git status is read as git | status | (no destination).


You may not feel completely comfortable with Git at this point, which is normal. It’s a skill that you will get more comfortable with as you use it. Therefore, we have a project coming right after this lesson where we’ll walk you through the entire Git workflow, which is the exact same process you would use in a real project.

The main thing to take away from this lesson is the basic workflow. The commands you’ve learned here are the ones you will be using the most often with Git.

Don’t worry if you don’t know all the commands yet or if they aren’t quite sticking in your memory yet. They will soon be seared into your brain as you use them over and over in future Odin projects.

Additional Resources

This section contains helpful links to other content. It isn’t required, so consider it supplemental for if you need to dive deeper into something.

Knowledge Check

This section contains questions for you to check your understanding of this lesson. If you’re having trouble answering the questions below on your own, clicking the small arrow to the left of the question will reveal the answers.

What is the Git command used to get a full copy of an existing Git repository from GitHub?
    • Use git clone<your-github-username>/<your-respository-name> to clone a GitHub repository onto your local machine.
What is the Git command used to check the status of your files?
    • Use git status to see any changes made since your last commit.
What is the Git command used to track files with Git?
    • Use git add to track files.
What is the Git command used to remove tracked files with Git?
    • Use git reset to remove track files.
What is the Git command used to commit files?
    • Use git commit to commit tracked files.
What is the Git command used to view your commit history?
    • Use git log to view your commit history.
What is the Git command used to upload projects onto GitHub?
    • Use git push to send your commit to GitHub.
Explain the two-stage system that Git uses to save files.
    • A save in Git is divided into two terminal commands: add and commit. The combination of these two commands gives you control of exactly what you want to be remembered in your snapshot.
    • Staging: Think of add as adjusting the number of people or elements to be included in a photo. With Git, you can select the changes you want to save with git add. Imagine a project that contains multiple files where changes have been made to several files. You want to save some of the changes you have made and leave some other changes to continue working on them.
    • Committing: Think of commit as actually taking a photo, resulting in a snapshot. For example, to commit a file named, type git commit -m "Add". The -m flag stands for "message" and must always be followed by a commit message inside quotation marks. In this example, the commit message was "Add".
Explain what origin is in git push origin main.
    • In Git, origin is a placeholder name for the URL of the remote repository. Git sets up the origin by default when it clones a remote repository. You can use origin to access the remote repository without having to enter a full URL every time. This also means that you can have multiple remotes for a repository by giving each a unique name.
Explain what main is in git push origin main.
    • In Git, main is the branch of the remote repository you want to push your changes to. We will get more into branches in a later lesson, but the main thing to remember is that main is the official branch in your projects where production-ready code lives.
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