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Our linter runs ansible-playbook --syntax-check on all playbooks, and if any of these reports a syntax error, this stops any further processing of these files.

This error cannot be disabled due to being a prerequisite for other steps. You can exclude these files from linting, but it is better to make sure they can be loaded by Ansible. This is often achieved by editing the inventory file and/or ansible.cfg so ansible can load required variables.

If undefined variables cause the failure, you can use the Jinja default() filter to provide fallback values, like in the example below.

This rule is among the few unskippable rules that cannot be added to skip_list or warn_list. One possible workaround is to add the entire file to the exclude_paths. This is a valid approach for special cases, like testing fixtures that are invalid on purpose.

One of the most common sources of errors is a failure to assert the presence of various variables at the beginning of the playbook.

This rule can produce messages like:

  • syntax-check[empty-playbook]: Empty playbook, nothing to do
  • syntax-check[malformed]: A malformed block was encountered while loading a block
  • syntax-check[missing-file]: Unable to retrieve file contents ... Could not find or access ...
  • syntax-check[unknown-module]: couldn't resolve module/action
  • syntax-check[specific]: for other errors not mentioned above.


The linter relies on ansible-core code to load the ansible code and it will produce a syntax error if the code refers to ansible content that is not installed. You must ensure that all collections and roles used inside your repository are listed inside a requirements.yml file, so the linter can install them when they are missing.

Problematic code

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

Correct code

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