Type tar then -option(s)
-c --- create.
-v --- verbose, give more output, show what files are being worked with (extracted or added).
-f --- file (create or extract from file) - should always be the last option otherwise the command will not work.
-z --- put the file though gzip or use gunzip on the file first.
-x --- extract the files from the tarball.
-p --- preserves dates, permissions of the original files.
-j --- send archive through bzip2.
--exclude=pattern --- this will stop certain files from being archived (using a standard wild-card pattern) or a single file name.
tar -cvpf name_of_file.tar files_to_be_backed_up
This would create a tape archive (no compressing).
tar -zxvpf my_tar_file.tar.gz
This would extract files (verbosely) from a gzipped tape archive.