Ansible Pilot

Ansible troubleshooting - Error 911: syntax-check

How to Solve the Ansible Error 911 meta-video-links Ensuring Playbook Syntax Correctness

Ansible Rule 911, syntax-check, ensures all playbooks pass a syntax check, critical for accurate task execution and playbook reliability
November 2, 2023
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In the realm of automation and orchestration, Ansible stands as a mighty tool, enabling IT professionals to manage complex tasks efficiently. However, just as a conductor ensures that every instrument in an orchestra plays the right notes, you must ensure that your Ansible playbooks are error-free and follow proper syntax. This brings us to Ansible Rule 911: syntax-check, a crucial rule that ensures your playbooks are free from syntax errors.

The Significance of Correct Syntax

When creating and running Ansible playbooks, correct syntax is of paramount importance. Just as a single wrong note can disrupt the harmony of a musical performance, even a small syntax error can disrupt the execution of your automation tasks. Ansible relies on correct syntax to interpret your intentions and execute tasks accurately.

Understanding Rule 911: syntax-check

Rule 911, “syntax-check,” mandates that all Ansible playbooks must pass a syntax check before further processing. This means that Ansible’s linter verifies the playbook’s syntax using ansible-playbook --syntax-check. If any syntax errors are detected, the linter halts any further processing of the playbook.

This rule serves as a prerequisite for other steps in the Ansible automation process. Therefore, it’s unskippable and cannot be added to the skip_list or warn_list like other rules. If a syntax error occurs, the playbook should be corrected and rechecked.

Here’s an example of what problematic code and correct code might look like:

Problematic Code

- name:
    Bad use of variable inside hosts block (wrong assumption of it being defined)
  hosts: "{{ my_hosts }}"
  tasks: []


WARNING  Listing 1 violation(s) that are fatal
syntax-check[specific]: The field 'hosts' has an invalid value, which includes an undefined variable. The error was: 'my_hosts' is undefined. 'my_hosts' is undefined

                  Rule Violation Summary                   
 count tag                    profile rule associated tags 
     1 syntax-check[specific] min     core, unskippable    

Failed: 1 failure(s), 0 warning(s) on 1 files.

Correct Code

- name: Good use of variable inside hosts, without assumptions
  hosts: "{{ my_hosts | default([]) }}"
  tasks: []

In the correct code, the default filter is applied to the my_hosts variable, ensuring it defaults to an empty list if it’s undefined.

Common Errors and Resolution

One of the most common sources of syntax errors is the failure to assert the presence of various variables at the beginning of the playbook. To avoid such issues, ensure that variables are correctly defined and provide fallback values where necessary.

In cases where undefined variables cause failures, you can use the Jinja default() filter to provide fallback values, as demonstrated in the correct code example above.

A Prerequisite for a Smooth Orchestration

Ansible Rule 911: syntax-check is akin to tuning the instruments before a performance. Without this rule, Ansible may misinterpret your playbooks, leading to unexpected outcomes. Ensuring the correctness of your playbook syntax is crucial for successful orchestration and automation.


In conclusion, while Ansible’s flexibility and power enable the automation of complex tasks, the role of syntax-check is fundamental. Always adhere to Rule 911, ensuring your playbooks are free from syntax errors to orchestrate your automation tasks with precision and finesse.

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