git pull is a Git command used to update the local version of a repository from a remote.

It is one of the four commands that prompts network interaction by Git. By default, git pull does two things.

  1. Updates the current local working branch (currently checked out branch)
  2. Updates the remote tracking branches for all other branches.

git pull fetches (git fetch) the new commits and merges (git merge) these into your local branch.

This command’s syntax is as follows:

# General format

# Pull from specific branch

in which:

  • OPTIONS are the command options, such as --quiet or --verbose. You can read more about the different options in the Git documentation
  • REPOSITORY is the URL to your repo. Example:
  • REFSPEC specifies which refs to fetch and which local refs to update
  • REMOTE-NAME is the name of your remote repository. For example: origin.
  • BRANCH-NAME is the name of your branch. For example: develop.


If you have uncommitted changes, the merge part of the git pull command will fail and your local branch will be untouched.

Thus, you should always commit your changes in a branch before pulling new commits from a remote repository.

Table of Contents

Using git pull

Use git pull to update a local repository from the corresponding remote repository. Ex: While working locally on master, execute git pull to update the local copy of master and update the other remote tracking branches. (More information on remote tracking branches in the next section.)

But, there are a few things to keep in mind for that example to be true:

The local repository has a linked remote repository

  • Check this by executing git remote -v
  • If there are multiple remotes, git pull might not be enough information. You might need to enter git pull origin or git pull upstream.

The branch you are currently checked out to has a corresponding remote tracking branch

  • Check this by executing git status. If there is no remote tracking branch, Git doesn’t know where to pull information from.

Distributed Version Control

Git is a Distributed Version Control System (DVCS). With DVCS, developers can be working on the same file at the same time in separate environments. After pushing code up to the shared remote repository, other developers can pull changed code.

Network interactions in Git

There are only four commands that prompt network interactions in Git. A local repository has no awareness of changes made on the remote repository until there is a request for information. And, a remote repository has no awareness of local changes until commits are pushed.

The four network commands are:

  • git clone
  • git fetch
  • git pull
  • git push

Branches in DVCS

When working with Git, it can feel like there are lots of copies of the same code floating all over the place. There are different versions of the same file on each branch. And, different copies of the same branches on every developer’s computer and on the remote. To keep track of this, Git uses something called remote tracking branches.

If you execute git branch --all within a Git repository, remote tracking branches appear in red. These are read-only copies of the code as it appears on the remote. ( When was the last network interaction that would have brought information locally? Remember when this information was last updated. The information in the remote tracking branches reflects the information from that interaction.)

With remote tracking branches, you can work in Git on several branches without network interaction. Every time you execute git pull or git fetch commands, you update remote tracking branches.

git fetch plus git merge

git pull is a combination command, equal to git fetch + git merge.

git fetch

On its own, git fetch updates all the remote tracking branches in local repository. No changes are actually reflected on any of the local working branches.

git merge

Without any arguments, git merge will merge the corresponding remote tracking branch to the local working branch.

git pull

git fetch updates remote tracking branches. git merge updates the current branch with the corresponding remote tracking branch. Using git pull, you get both parts of these updates. But, this means that if you are checked out to feature branch and you execute git pull, when you checkout to master, any new updates will not be included. Whenever you checkout to another branch that may have new changes, it’s always a good idea to execute git pull.

git pull in IDEs

Common language in other IDES may not include the word pull. If you look out for the words git pull but don’t see them, look for the word sync instead.

fetching a remote PR (Pull Request) in to local repo

For purposes of reviewing and such, PRs in remote should be fetched to the local repo. You can use git fetch command as follows to achieve this.

git fetch origin pull/ID/head:BRANCHNAME

ID is the pull request id and BRANCHNAME is the name of the branch that you want to create. Once the branch has been created you can use git checkout to switch to that brach.

Other Resources on Git you might like: