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Church Of The
Swimming Elephant

4.1.2. COMMAND SYNTAX Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia

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Up: Requests For Comments
Up: RFC 821



The commands consist of a command code followed by an argument field. Command codes are four alphabetic characters. Upper and lower case alphabetic characters are to be treated identically. Thus, any of the following may represent the mail command:

            MAIL    Mail    mail    MaIl    mAIl

This also applies to any symbols representing parameter values, such as "TO" or "to" for the forward-path. Command codes and the argument fields are separated by one or more spaces. However, within the reverse-path and forward-path arguments case is important. In particular, in some hosts the user "smith" is different from the user "Smith".

The argument field consists of a variable length character string ending with the character sequence <CRLF>. The receiver is to take no action until this sequence is received.

Square brackets denote an optional argument field. If the option is not taken, the appropriate default is implied.

The following are the SMTP commands:

            HELO <SP> <domain> <CRLF>

            MAIL <SP> FROM:<reverse-path> <CRLF>

            RCPT <SP> TO:<forward-path> <CRLF>

            DATA <CRLF>

            RSET <CRLF>

            SEND <SP> FROM:<reverse-path> <CRLF>

            SOML <SP> FROM:<reverse-path> <CRLF>

            SAML <SP> FROM:<reverse-path> <CRLF>

            VRFY <SP> <string> <CRLF>

            EXPN <SP> <string> <CRLF>

            HELP [<SP> <string>] <CRLF>

            NOOP <CRLF>

            QUIT <CRLF>

            TURN <CRLF>

The syntax of the above argument fields (using BNF notation where applicable) is given below. The "..." notation indicates that a field may be repeated one or more times.

            <reverse-path> ::= <path>

            <forward-path> ::= <path>

            <path> ::= "<" [ <a-d-l> ":" ] <mailbox> ">"

            <a-d-l> ::= <at-domain> | <at-domain> "," <a-d-l>

            <at-domain> ::= "@" <domain>

            <domain> ::=  <element> | <element> "." <domain>

            <element> ::= <name> | "#" <number> | "[" <dotnum> "]"

            <mailbox> ::= <local-part> "@" <domain>

            <local-part> ::= <dot-string> | <quoted-string>

            <name> ::= <a> <ldh-str> <let-dig>

            <ldh-str> ::= <let-dig-hyp> | <let-dig-hyp> <ldh-str>

            <let-dig> ::= <a> | <d>

            <let-dig-hyp> ::= <a> | <d> | "-"

            <dot-string> ::= <string> | <string> "." <dot-string>

            <string> ::= <char> | <char> <string>

            <quoted-string> ::=  """ <qtext> """

            <qtext> ::=  "\" <x> | "\" <x> <qtext> | <q> | <q> <qtext>

            <char> ::= <c> | "\" <x>

            <dotnum> ::= <snum> "." <snum> "." <snum> "." <snum>

            <number> ::= <d> | <d> <number>

            <CRLF> ::= <CR> <LF>

            <CR> ::= the carriage return character (ASCII code 13)

            <LF> ::= the line feed character (ASCII code 10)

            <SP> ::= the space character (ASCII code 32)

            <snum> ::= one, two, or three digits representing a decimal
                      integer value in the range 0 through 255

            <a> ::= any one of the 52 alphabetic characters A through Z
                      in upper case and a through z in lower case

            <c> ::= any one of the 128 ASCII characters, but not any
                      <special> or <SP>

            <d> ::= any one of the ten digits 0 through 9

            <q> ::= any one of the 128 ASCII characters except <CR>,
                      <LF>, quote ("), or backslash (\)

            <x> ::= any one of the 128 ASCII characters (no exceptions)

            <special> ::= "<" | ">" | "(" | ")" | "[" | "]" | "\" | "."
                      | "," | ";" | ":" | "@"  """ | the control
                      characters (ASCII codes 0 through 31 inclusive and

Note that the backslash, "\", is a quote character, which is used to indicate that the next character is to be used literally (instead of its normal interpretation). For example, "Joe\,Smith" could be used to indicate a single nine character user field with comma being the fourth character of the field.

Hosts are generally known by names which are translated to addresses in each host. Note that the name elements of domains are the official names -- no use of nicknames or aliases is allowed.

Sometimes a host is not known to the translation function and communication is blocked. To bypass this barrier two numeric forms are also allowed for host "names". One form is a decimal integer prefixed by a pound sign, "#", which indicates the number is the address of the host. Another form is four small decimal integers separated by dots and enclosed by brackets, e.g., "[]", which indicates a 32-bit ARPA Internet Address in four 8-bit fields.

The time stamp line and the return path line are formally defined as follows:

         <return-path-line> ::= "Return-Path:" <SP><reverse-path><CRLF>

         <time-stamp-line> ::= "Received:" <SP> <stamp> <CRLF>

            <stamp> ::= <from-domain> <by-domain> <opt-info> ";"

            <from-domain> ::= "FROM" <SP> <domain> <SP>

            <by-domain> ::= "BY" <SP> <domain> <SP>

            <opt-info> ::= [<via>] [<with>] [<id>] [<for>]

            <via> ::= "VIA" <SP> <link> <SP>

            <with> ::= "WITH" <SP> <protocol> <SP>

            <id> ::= "ID" <SP> <string> <SP>

            <for> ::= "FOR" <SP> <path> <SP>

            <link> ::= The standard names for links are registered with
                      the Network Information Center.

            <protocol> ::= The standard names for protocols are
                      registered with the Network Information Center.

            <daytime> ::= <SP> <date> <SP> <time>

            <date> ::= <dd> <SP> <mon> <SP> <yy>

            <time> ::= <hh> ":" <mm> ":" <ss> <SP> <zone>

            <dd> ::= the one or two decimal integer day of the month in
                      the range 1 to 31.

            <mon> ::= "JAN" | "FEB" | "MAR" | "APR" | "MAY" | "JUN" |
                      "JUL" | "AUG" | "SEP" | "OCT" | "NOV" | "DEC"

            <yy> ::= the two decimal integer year of the century in the
                      range 00 to 99.

            <hh> ::= the two decimal integer hour of the day in the
                      range 00 to 24.

            <mm> ::= the two decimal integer minute of the hour in the
                      range 00 to 59.

            <ss> ::= the two decimal integer second of the minute in the
                      range 00 to 59.

            <zone> ::= "UT" for Universal Time (the default) or other
                      time zone designator (as in [2]).

                          Return Path Example


                               Example 9

                        Time Stamp Line Example

      Received: FROM ABC.ARPA BY XYZ.ARPA ; 22 OCT 81 09:23:59 PDT

         Received: from ABC.ARPA by XYZ.ARPA via TELENET with X25
                   id M12345 for Smith@PDQ.ARPA ; 22 OCT 81 09:23:59 PDT

                               Example 10


Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia


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