GitHub Actions — Run on Push or Pull Request, but Not Both

We’re using GitHub Actions to run tests when pushing to a given branch. GitHub Actions are a convenient way for testing because the tests can run on the same platform where the code lives.

We also wanted to run the CI pipeline for pull requests. And GitHub Actions come with an on: pull_request trigger. We noticed that GitHub Actions runs all test suites twice when activating the pull request trigger besides the on: push trigger. That’s not what we wanted: we want to run tests only for one trigger, push or pull request.

This tutorial shows you how to run a GitHub Action workflow on push or pull request, but not on both.

GitHub Actions Series Overview

Run GitHub Actions Once for Pushes and Pull Requests

Running tests in GitHub Actions for pushes OR pull requests is doable. We were able to find a configuration that is does it. The trick we use: don’t use the pull_request trigger, only rely on the push trigger.

Here’s our workflow file to run tests:

name: Run tests

      - ''

As you can see we use the push trigger to run the testing workflow. This configuration does the following:

  • run tests for every push, no matter which branch
  • no need to create a pull request to run the tests
  • when creating a pull request for a branch, it’s already tested (or tests are currently running)
  • when updating a pull request the pushed changes trigger a new run
  • when merging a pull request the merge commit triggers a build on your main branch
  • pushing directly to your main branch triggers the workflow as well, because all branches are build on push

If you’re wondering if the path-ignore: option is import: no it’s not. We don’t run the CI pipeline when changing the file because it’s a manually crafted markdown file. Changes in this file have no impact on the actual code and don’t need to trigger any tests. Running tests for changes on the readme would occupy resources and don’t add benefit to the project.

Enjoy running your CI pipeline in GitHub Actions on pushes and pull requests!

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