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6.13 Suppressing Inheritance

As described in previous sections, make variables are inherited by prerequisites. This capability allows you to modify the behavior of a prerequisite based on which targets caused it to be rebuilt. For example, you might set a target-specific variable on a debug target, then running ‘make debug’ will cause that variable to be inherited by all prerequisites of debug, while just running ‘make all’ (for example) would not have that assignment.

Sometimes, however, you may not want a variable to be inherited. For these situations, make provides the private modifier. Although this modifier can be used with any variable assignment, it makes the most sense with target- and pattern-specific variables. Any variable marked private will be visible to its local target but will not be inherited by prerequisites of that target. A global variable marked private will be visible in the global scope but will not be inherited by any target, and hence will not be visible in any recipe.

As an example, consider this makefile:

     prog: private EXTRA_CFLAGS = -L/usr/local/lib
     prog: a.o b.o

Due to the private modifier, a.o and b.o will not inherit the EXTRA_CFLAGS variable assignment from the progs target.