An expression is a sequence of operators and their operands, that specifies a computation.
Expression evaluation may produce a result (e.g., evaluation of
2+2 produces the result
4), may generate side-effects (e.g. evaluation of
printf("%d",4) sends the character
'4' to the standard output stream), and may designate objects or functions.
- value categories (lvalue, non-lvalue object, function designator) classify expressions by their values
- order of evaluation of arguments and subexpressions specifies the order in which intermediate results are obtained
| Common operators
| assignment || increment |
| arithmetic || logical || comparison || member |
a = b a += b a -= b a *= b a /= b a %= b a &= b a |= b a ^= b a <<= b a >>= b.
++a --a a++ a--
+a -a a + b a - b a * b a / b a % b ~a a & b a | b a ^ b a << b a >> b.
!a a && b a || b.
a == b a != b a < b a > b a <= b a >= b.
a[b] *a &a a->b a.b.
a(...) a, b (type) a ? : sizeof _Alignof (since C11).
- Implicit conversions take place when types of operands do not match the expectations of operators
- Casts may be used to explicitly convert values from one type to another.
- constant expressions can be evaluated at compile time and used in compile-time context (non-VLA (since C99)array sizes, static initializers, etc)
- generic selections can execute different expressions depending on the types of the arguments
The operands of any operator may be other expressions or they may be primary expressions (e.g. in
1+2*3, the operands of operator+ are the subexpression
2*3 and the primary expression
Primary expressions are any of the following:
1) Constants and literals (e.g.
Any expression in parentheses is also classified as a primary expression: this guarantees that the parentheses have higher precedence than any operator.
Constants and literals
Constant values of certain types may be embedded in the source code of a C program using specialized expressions known as literals (for lvalue expressions) and constants (for non-lvalue expressions).
- integer constants are decimal, octal, or hexadecimal numbers of integer type.
- character constants are individual characters of type
int suitable for conversion to a character type or of type
char32_t, or (since C11)
- floating constants are values of type
- string literals are sequences of characters of type
char32_t, (since C11) or
wchar_t that represent null-terminated strings
- compound literals are values of struct, union, or array type directly embedded in program code
The operands of the
sizeof operator are expressions that are not evaluated (unless they are VLAs) (since C99). Thus,
size_t n = sizeof(printf("%d", 4)); does not perform console output.
The operands of the
_Alignof operator, the controlling expression of a generic selection, and size expressions of VLAs that are operands of
_Alignof are also expressions that are not evaluated.
- C17 standard (ISO/IEC 9899:2018):
- 6.5 Expressions (p: 55-75)
- 6.6 Constant expressions (p: 76-77)
- C11 standard (ISO/IEC 9899:2011):
- 6.5 Expressions (p: 76-105)
- 6.6 Constant expressions (p: 106-107)
- C99 standard (ISO/IEC 9899:1999):
- 6.5 Expressions (p: 67-94)
- 6.6 Constant expressions (p: 95-96)
- C89/C90 standard (ISO/IEC 9899:1990):
- 3.3 EXPRESSIONS
- 3.4 CONSTANT EXPRESSIONS