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Language Overview

C - Language Overview


C – Language History

·         The C programming language is a structure oriented programming language, developed at Bell Laboratories in 1972 by Dennis Ritchie

·         C programming language features were derived from an earlier language called “B” (Basic Combined Programming Language – BCPL)

·         C language was invented for implementing UNIX operating system

·         In 1978, Dennis Ritchie and Brian Kernighan published the first edition “The C Programming Language” and commonly known as K&R C

·         In 1983, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) established a committee to provide a modern, comprehensive definition of C. The resulting definition, the ANSI standard, or “ANSI C”, was completed late 1988.


·         C89/C90 standard – First standardized specification for C language was developed by the American National Standards Institute in 1989. C89 and C90 standards refer to the same programming language.

·         C99 standard – Next revision was published in 1999 that introduced new features like advanced data types and other changes.


·         C11 standard adds new features to C programming language and library like type generic macros, anonymous structures, improved Unicode support, atomic operations, multi-threading and bounds-checked functions. It also makes some portions of the existing C99 library optional and improves compatibility with C++.

·         Embedded C includes features not available in C like fixed-point arithmetic, named address spaces, and basic I/O hardware addressing.

·         Operating systems, C compiler and all UNIX application programs are written in C language

·         It is also called as procedure oriented programming language. The C language is reliable, simple and easy to use. C has been coded in assembly language.


C language is one of the powerful language. Below are some of the features of C language.

·         Reliability

·         Portability

·         Flexibility

·         Interactivity

·         Modularity

·         Efficiency and Effectiveness


The C programming language is used for developing system applications that forms a major portion of operating systems such as Windows, UNIX and Linux. Below are some examples of C being used.

·         Database systems

·         Graphics packages

·         Word processors

·         Spreadsheets

·         Operating system development

·         Compilers and Assemblers

·         Network drivers

·         Interpreters


There are 3 levels of programming languages. They are,

1.      MiddleLevellanguages:
Middle level languages don’t provide all the built-in functions found in high level languages, but provides all building blocks that we need to produce the result we want. Examples: C, C++

2.      HighLevellanguages:
High level languages provide almost everything that the programmer might need to do as already built into the language. Example: Java, Python

3.      LowLevellanguages:
Low level languages provides nothing other than access to the machines basic instruction set. Example: Assembler


Structure oriented language:

·         In this type of language, large programs are divided into small programs called functions

·         Prime focus is on functions and procedures that operate on the data

·         Data moves freely around the systems from one function to another

·         Program structure follows “Top Down Approach”

·         Examples: C, Pascal, ALGOL and Modula-2

Object oriented language:

·         In this type of language, programs are divided into objects

·         Prime focus is in the data that is being operated and not on the functions or procedures

·         Data is hidden and cannot be accessed by external functions

·         Program structure follows “Bottom UP Approach”

·         Examples: C++, JAVA and C# (C sharp)

Non structure oriented language:


·         There is no specific structure for programming this language. Examples: BASIC, COBOL, FORTRAN


1.      The C language is a structure oriented programming language developed by Dennis Ritchie.

2.      The C language is belonging to middle level programming language.

3.      Operating system programs such as Windows, Unix, Linux are written in C language.

4.      C89/C90 and C99 are two standardized editions of C language.

5.      C has been written in assembly language.


Environment Setup

C - Environment Setup


Try it Option Online

We have set up the C Programming environment on-line, so that you can compile and execute all the available examples on line. It gives you confidence in what you are reading and enables you to verify the programs with different options. Feel free to modify any example and execute it on-line.

Try the following example using our on-line compiler available at CodingGround.



int main(){


/* my first program in C */

printf("Hello, World! \n");




For most of the examples given in this tutorial, you will find a Try it option in our website code sections at the top right corner that will take you to the online compiler. So just make use of it and enjoy your learning.

Local Environment Setup

If you want to set up your environment for C programming language, you need the following two software tools available on your computer, (a) Text Editor and (b) The C Compiler.

Text Editor

This will be used to type your program. Examples of few a editors include Windows Notepad, OS Edit command, Brief, Epsilon, EMACS, and vim or vi.

The name and version of text editors can vary on different operating systems. For example, Notepad will be used on Windows, and vim or vi can be used on windows as well as on Linux or UNIX.

The files you create with your editor are called the source files and they contain the program source codes. The source files for C programs are typically named with the extension ".c".

Before starting your programming, make sure you have one text editor in place and you have enough experience to write a computer program, save it in a file, compile it and finally execute it.

The C Compiler

The source code written in source file is the human readable source for your program. It needs to be "compiled", into machine language so that your CPU can actually execute the program as per the instructions given.

The compiler compiles the source codes into final executable programs. The most frequently used and free available compiler is the GNU C/C++ compiler, otherwise you can have compilers either from HP or Solaris if you have the respective operating systems.

The following section explains how to install GNU C/C++ compiler on various OS. We keep mentioning C/C++ together because GNU gcc compiler works for both C and C++ programming languages.

Installation on UNIX/Linux

If you are using Linux or UNIX, then check whether GCC is installed on your system by entering the following command from the command line −

$ gcc -v

If you have GNU compiler installed on your machine, then it should print a message as follows −

Using built-in specs.

Target: i386-redhat-linux

Configured with: ../configure --prefix=/usr .......

Thread model: posix

gcc version 4.1.2 20080704 (Red Hat 4.1.2-46)

If GCC is not installed, then you will have to install it yourself using the detailed instructions available at

This tutorial has been written based on Linux and all the given examples have been compiled on the Cent OS flavor of the Linux system.

Installation on Mac OS

If you use Mac OS X, the easiest way to obtain GCC is to download the Xcode development environment from Apple's web site and follow the simple installation instructions. Once you have Xcode setup, you will be able to use GNU compiler for C/C++.

Xcode is currently available at

Installation on Windows

To install GCC on Windows, you need to install MinGW. To install MinGW, go to the MinGW homepage,, and follow the link to the MinGW download page. Download the latest version of the MinGW installation program, which should be named MinGW-<version>.exe.

While installing Min GW, at a minimum, you must install gcc-core, gcc-g++, binutils, and the MinGW runtime, but you may wish to install more.

Add the bin subdirectory of your MinGW installation to your PATH environment variable, so that you can specify these tools on the command line by their simple names.

After the installation is complete, you will be able to run gcc, g++, ar, ranlib, dlltool, and several other GNU tools from the Windows command line.


Program Structure

C - Program Structure


Before we study the basic building blocks of the C programming language, let us look at a bare minimum C program structure so that we can take it as a reference in the upcoming chapters.

Hello World Example

A C program basically consists of the following parts −

  • Preprocessor Commands
  • Functions
  • Variables
  • Statements & Expressions
  • Comments

Let us look at a simple code that would print the words "Hello World" −



int main(){

/* my first program in C */

printf("Hello, World! \n");




Let us take a look at the various parts of the above program −

·        The first line of the program #include <stdio.h> is a preprocessor command, which tells a C compiler to include stdio.h file before going to actual compilation.

·        The next line int main() is the main function where the program execution begins.

·        The next line /*...*/ will be ignored by the compiler and it has been put to add additional comments in the program. So such lines are called comments in the program.

·        The next line printf(...) is another function available in C which causes the message "Hello, World!" to be displayed on the screen.

·        The next line return 0; terminates the main() function and returns the value 0.

Compile and Execute C Program

Let us see how to save the source code in a file, and how to compile and run it. Following are the simple steps −

·        Open a text editor and add the above-mentioned code.

·        Save the file as hello.c

·        Open a command prompt and go to the directory where you have saved the file.

·        Type gcc hello.c and press enter to compile your code.

·        If there are no errors in your code, the command prompt will take you to the next line and would generate a.out executable file.

·        Now, type a.out to execute your program.

·        You will see the output "Hello World" printed on the screen.

$ gcc hello.c

$ ./a.out

Hello, World!

Make sure the gcc compiler is in your path and that you are running it in the directory containing the source file hello.c.


Basic Syntax

C - Basic Syntax


You have seen the basic structure of a C program, so it will be easy to understand other basic building blocks of the C programming language.

Tokens in C

A C program consists of various tokens and a token is either a keyword, an identifier, a constant, a string literal, or a symbol. For example, the following C statement consists of five tokens −

printf("Hello, World! \n");

The individual tokens are −



"Hello, World! \n"




In a C program, the semicolon is a statement terminator. That is, each individual statement must be ended with a semicolon. It indicates the end of one logical entity.

Given below are two different statements −

printf("Hello, World! \n");



Comments are like helping text in your C program and they are ignored by the compiler. They start with /* and terminate with the characters */ as shown below −

/* my first program in C */

You cannot have comments within comments and they do not occur within a string or character literals.


A C identifier is a name used to identify a variable, function, or any other user-defined item. An identifier starts with a letter A to Z, a to z, or an underscore '_' followed by zero or more letters, underscores, and digits (0 to 9).

C does not allow punctuation characters such as @, $, and % within identifiers. C is a case-sensitive programming language. Thus, Manpower and manpower are two different identifiers in C. Here are some examples of acceptable identifiers −

mohd       zara    abc   move_name  a_123

myname50   _temp   j     a23b9      retVal


The following list shows the reserved words in C. These reserved words may not be used as constants or variables or any other identifier names.


































Whitespace in C

A line containing only whitespace, possibly with a comment, is known as a blank line, and a C compiler totally ignores it.

Whitespace is the term used in C to describe blanks, tabs, newline characters and comments. Whitespace separates one part of a statement from another and enables the compiler to identify where one element in a statement, such as int, ends and the next element begins. Therefore, in the following statement −

int age;

there must be at least one whitespace character (usually a space) between int and age for the compiler to be able to distinguish them. On the other hand, in the following statement −

fruit= apples + oranges;// get the total fruit

no whitespace characters are necessary between fruit and =, or between = and apples, although you are free to include some if you wish to increase readability.


Data Types

C - Data Types


Data types in c refer to an extensive system used for declaring variables or functions of different types. The type of a variable determines how much space it occupies in storage and how the bit pattern stored is interpreted.

The types in C can be classified as follows −


Types & Description


Basic Types

They are arithmetic types and are further classified into: (a) integer types and (b) floating-point types.


Enumerated types

They are again arithmetic types and they are used to define variables that can only assign certain discrete integer values throughout the program.


The type void

The type specifier void indicates that no value is available.


Derived types

They include (a) Pointer types, (b) Array types, (c) Structure types, (d) Union types and (e) Function types.

The array types and structure types are referred collectively as the aggregate types. The type of a function specifies the type of the function's return value. We will see the basic types in the following section, whereas other types will be covered in the upcoming chapters.

Integer Types

The following table provides the details of standard integer types with their storage sizes and value ranges −


Storage size

Value range


1 byte

-128 to 127 or 0 to 255

unsigned char

1 byte

0 to 255

signed char

1 byte

-128 to 127


2 or 4 bytes

-32,768 to 32,767 or -2,147,483,648 to 2,147,483,647

unsigned int

2 or 4 bytes

0 to 65,535 or 0 to 4,294,967,295


2 bytes

-32,768 to 32,767

unsigned short

2 bytes

0 to 65,535


4 bytes

-2,147,483,648 to 2,147,483,647

unsigned long

4 bytes

0 to 4,294,967,295

To get the exact size of a type or a variable on a particular platform, you can use the sizeof operator. The expressions sizeof(type) yields the storage size of the object or type in bytes. Given below is an example to get the size of int type on any machine −




int main(){


printf("Storage size for int : %d \n",sizeof(int));




When you compile and execute the above program, it produces the following result on Linux −

Storage size for int : 4

Floating-Point Types

The following table provide the details of standard floating-point types with storage sizes and value ranges and their precision −


Storage size

Value range



4 byte

1.2E-38 to 3.4E+38

6 decimal places


8 byte

2.3E-308 to 1.7E+308

15 decimal places

long double

10 byte

3.4E-4932 to 1.1E+4932

19 decimal places

The header file float.h defines macros that allow you to use these values and other details about the binary representation of real numbers in your programs. The following example prints the storage space taken by a float type and its range values −




int main(){


printf("Storage size for float : %d \n",sizeof(float));

printf("Minimum float positive value: %E\n", FLT_MIN );

printf("Maximum float positive value: %E\n", FLT_MAX );

printf("Precision value: %d\n", FLT_DIG );




When you compile and execute the above program, it produces the following result on Linux −

Storage size for float : 4

Minimum float positive value: 1.175494E-38

Maximum float positive value: 3.402823E+38

Precision value: 6

The void Type

The void type specifies that no value is available. It is used in three kinds of situations −


Types & Description


Function returns as void

There are various functions in C which do not return any value or you can say they return void. A function with no return value has the return type as void. For example, void exit (int status);


Function arguments as void

There are various functions in C which do not accept any parameter. A function with no parameter can accept a void. For example, int rand(void);


Pointers to void

A pointer of type void * represents the address of an object, but not its type. For example, a memory allocation function void *malloc( size_t size ); returns a pointer to void which can be casted to any data type.



C – Variables


A variable is nothing but a name given to a storage area that our programs can manipulate. Each variable in C has a specific type, which determines the size and layout of the variable's memory; the range of values that can be stored within that memory; and the set of operations that can be applied to the variable.

The name of a variable can be composed of letters, digits, and the underscore character. It must begin with either a letter or an underscore. Upper and lowercase letters are distinct because C is case-sensitive. Based on the basic types explained in the previous chapter, there will be the following basic variable types −




Typically a single octet(one byte). This is an integer type.


The most natural size of integer for the machine.


A single-precision floating point value.


A double-precision floating point value.


Represents the absence of type.

C programming language also allows to define various other types of variables, which we will cover in subsequent chapters like Enumeration, Pointer, Array, Structure, Union, etc. For this chapter, let us study only basic variable types.

Variable Definition in C

A variable definition tells the compiler where and how much storage to create for the variable. A variable definition specifies a data type and contains a list of one or more variables of that type as follows −

type variable_list;

Here, type must be a valid C data type including char, w_char, int, float, double, bool, or any user-defined object; and variable_list may consist of one or more identifier names separated by commas. Some valid declarations are shown here −

int    i, j, k;

char   c, ch;

float  f, salary;

double d;

The line int i, j, k; declares and defines the variables i, j, and k; which instruct the compiler to create variables named i, j and k of type int.

Variables can be initialized (assigned an initial value) in their declaration. The initializer consists of an equal sign followed by a constant expression as follows −

type variable_name = value;

Some examples are −

extern int d = 3, f = 5;    // declaration of d and f.

int d = 3, f = 5;           // definition and initializing d and f.

byte z = 22;                // definition and initializes z.

char x = 'x';               // the variable x has the value 'x'.

For definition without an initializer: variables with static storage duration are implicitly initialized with NULL (all bytes have the value 0); the initial value of all other variables are undefined.

Variable Declaration in C

A variable declaration provides assurance to the compiler that there exists a variable with the given type and name so that the compiler can proceed for further compilation without requiring the complete detail about the variable. A variable declaration has its meaning at the time of compilation only, the compiler needs actual variable declaration at the time of linking the program.

A variable declaration is useful when you are using multiple files and you define your variable in one of the files which will be available at the time of linking of the program. You will use the keyword extern to declare a variable at any place. Though you can declare a variable multiple times in your C program, it can be defined only once in a file, a function, or a block of code.


Try the following example, where variables have been declared at the top, but they have been defined and initialized inside the main function −



// Variable declaration:

externint a, b;

externint c;

externfloat f;


int main (){


/* variable definition: */

int a, b;

int c;

float f;


/* actual initialization */

   a =10;

   b =20;


   c = a + b;

printf("value of c : %d \n", c);


   f =70.0/3.0;

printf("value of f : %f \n", f);




When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

value of c : 30

value of f : 23.333334

The same concept applies on function declaration where you provide a function name at the time of its declaration and its actual definition can be given anywhere else. For example −

// function declaration

int func();


int main(){


// function call

int i = func();



// function definition

int func(){



Lvalues and Rvalues in C

There are two kinds of expressions in C −

·        lvalue − Expressions that refer to a memory location are called "lvalue" expressions. An lvalue may appear as either the left-hand or right-hand side of an assignment.

·        rvalue − The term rvalue refers to a data value that is stored at some address in memory. An rvalue is an expression that cannot have a value assigned to it which means an rvalue may appear on the right-hand side but not on the left-hand side of an assignment.

Variables are lvalues and so they may appear on the left-hand side of an assignment. Numeric literals are rvalues and so they may not be assigned and cannot appear on the left-hand side. Take a look at the following valid and invalid statements −

int g = 20; // valid statement


10 = 20; // invalid statement; would generate compile-time error


Constants & Literals

C - Constants & Literals


Constants refer to fixed values that the program may not alter during its execution. These fixed values are also called literals.

Constants can be of any of the basic data types like an integer constant, a floating constant, a character constant, or a string literal. There are enumeration constants as well.

Constants are treated just like regular variables except that their values cannot be modified after their definition.

Integer Literals

An integer literal can be a decimal, octal, or hexadecimal constant. A prefix specifies the base or radix: 0x or 0X for hexadecimal, 0 for octal, and nothing for decimal.

An integer literal can also have a suffix that is a combination of U and L, for unsigned and long, respectively. The suffix can be uppercase or lowercase and can be in any order.

Here are some examples of integer literals −

212         /* Legal */

215u        /* Legal */

0xFeeL      /* Legal */

078         /* Illegal: 8 is not an octal digit */

032UU       /* Illegal: cannot repeat a suffix */

Following are other examples of various types of integer literals −

85         /* decimal */

0213       /* octal */

0x4b       /* hexadecimal */

30         /* int */

30u        /* unsigned int */

30l        /* long */

30ul       /* unsigned long */

Floating-point Literals

A floating-point literal has an integer part, a decimal point, a fractional part, and an exponent part. You can represent floating point literals either in decimal form or exponential form.

While representing decimal form, you must include the decimal point, the exponent, or both; and while representing exponential form, you must include the integer part, the fractional part, or both. The signed exponent is introduced by e or E.

Here are some examples of floating-point literals −

3.14159       /* Legal */

314159E-5L    /* Legal */

510E          /* Illegal: incomplete exponent */

210f          /* Illegal: no decimal or exponent */

.e55          /* Illegal: missing integer or fraction */

Character Constants

Character literals are enclosed in single quotes, e.g., 'x' can be stored in a simple variable of char type.

A character literal can be a plain character (e.g., 'x'), an escape sequence (e.g., '\t'), or a universal character (e.g., '\u02C0').

There are certain characters in C that represent special meaning when preceded by a backslash for example, newline (\n) or tab (\t).

Here, you have a list of such escape sequence codes −

Following is the example to show a few escape sequence characters −



int main(){






When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

Hello World

String Literals

String literals or constants are enclosed in double quotes "". A string contains characters that are similar to character literals: plain characters, escape sequences, and universal characters.

You can break a long line into multiple lines using string literals and separating them using white spaces.

Here are some examples of string literals. All the three forms are identical strings.

"hello, dear"


"hello, \




"hello, " "d" "ear"

Defining Constants

There are two simple ways in C to define constants −

·        Using #define preprocessor.

·        Using const keyword.

The #define Preprocessor

Given below is the form to use #define preprocessor to define a constant −

#define identifier value

The following example explains it in detail −



#define LENGTH 10

#defineWIDTH  5

#define NEWLINE '\n'


int main(){


int area;



printf("value of area : %d", area);

printf("%c", NEWLINE);




When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

value of area : 50

The const Keyword

You can use const prefix to declare constants with a specific type as follows −

const type variable = value;

The following example explains it in detail −



int main(){


constint  LENGTH =10;

constint  WIDTH =5;

constchar NEWLINE ='\n';

int area;



printf("value of area : %d", area);

printf("%c", NEWLINE);




When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

value of area : 50

Note that it is a good programming practice to define constants in CAPITALS.


Storage Classes

C - Storage Classes


A storage class defines the scope (visibility) and life-time of variables and/or functions within a C Program. They precede the type that they modify. We have four different storage classes in a C program −

  • auto
  • register
  • static
  • extern

The auto Storage Class

The auto storage class is the default storage class for all local variables.


int mount;

autoint month;


The example above defines two variables with in the same storage class. 'auto' can only be used within functions, i.e., local variables.

The register Storage Class

The register storage class is used to define local variables that should be stored in a register instead of RAM. This means that the variable has a maximum size equal to the register size (usually one word) and can't have the unary '&' operator applied to it (as it does not have a memory location).


registerint  miles;


The register should only be used for variables that require quick access such as counters. It should also be noted that defining 'register' does not mean that the variable will be stored in a register. It means that it MIGHT be stored in a register depending on hardware and implementation restrictions.

The static Storage Class

The static storage class instructs the compiler to keep a local variable in existence during the life-time of the program instead of creating and destroying it each time it comes into and goes out of scope. Therefore, making local variables static allows them to maintain their values between function calls.

The static modifier may also be applied to global variables. When this is done, it causes that variable's scope to be restricted to the file in which it is declared.

In C programming, when static is used on a global variable, it causes only one copy of that member to be shared by all the objects of its class.



/* function declaration */

void func(void);


staticint count =5;/* global variable */











/* function definition */

void func(void){


staticint i =5;/* local static variable */



printf("i is %d and count is %d\n", i, count);


When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

i is 6 and count is 4

i is 7 and count is 3

i is 8 and count is 2

i is 9 and count is 1

i is 10 and count is 0

The extern Storage Class

The extern storage class is used to give a reference of a global variable that is visible to ALL the program files. When you use 'extern', the variable cannot be initialized however, it points the variable name at a storage location that has been previously defined.

When you have multiple files and you define a global variable or function, which will also be used in other files, then extern will be used in another file to provide the reference of defined variable or function. Just for understanding, extern is used to declare a global variable or function in another file.

The extern modifier is most commonly used when there are two or more files sharing the same global variables or functions as explained below.

First File: main.c



int count ;

externvoid write_extern();







Second File: support.c



externint count;


void write_extern(void){

printf("count is %d\n", count);


Here, extern is being used to declare count in the second file, where as it has its definition in the first file, main.c. Now, compile these two files as follows −

$gcc main.c support.c

It will produce the executable program a.out. When this program is executed, it produces the following result −

count is 5



C – Operators


An operator is a symbol that tells the compiler to perform specific mathematical or logical functions. C language is rich in built-in operators and provides the following types of operators −

  • Arithmetic Operators
  • Relational Operators
  • Logical Operators
  • Bitwise Operators
  • Assignment Operators
  • Misc Operators

We will, in this chapter, look into the way each operator works.

Arithmetic Operators

The following table shows all the arithmetic operators supported by the C language. Assume variable A holds 10 and variable B holds 20 then −

Show Examples





Adds two operands.

A + B = 30

Subtracts second operand from the first.

A − B = -10


Multiplies both operands.

A * B = 200


Divides numerator by de-numerator.

B / A = 2


Modulus Operator and remainder of after an integer division.

B % A = 0


Increment operator increases the integer value by one.

A++ = 11


Decrement operator decreases the integer value by one.

A-- = 9

Relational Operators

The following table shows all the relational operators supported by C. Assume variable A holds 10 and variable B holds 20 then −

Show Examples





Checks if the values of two operands are equal or not. If yes, then the condition becomes true.

(A == B) is not true.


Checks if the values of two operands are equal or not. If the values are not equal, then the condition becomes true.

(A != B) is true.

Checks if the value of left operand is greater than the value of right operand. If yes, then the condition becomes true.

(A > B) is not true.

Checks if the value of left operand is less than the value of right operand. If yes, then the condition becomes true.

(A < B) is true.


Checks if the value of left operand is greater than or equal to the value of right operand. If yes, then the condition becomes true.

(A >= B) is not true.


Checks if the value of left operand is less than or equal to the value of right operand. If yes, then the condition becomes true.

(A <= B) is true.

Logical Operators

Following table shows all the logical operators supported by C language. Assume variable A holds 1 and variable B holds 0, then −

Show Examples





Called Logical AND operator. If both the operands are non-zero, then the condition becomes true.

(A && B) is false.


Called Logical OR Operator. If any of the two operands is non-zero, then the condition becomes true.

(A || B) is true.


Called Logical NOT Operator. It is used to reverse the logical state of its operand. If a condition is true, then Logical NOT operator will make it false.

!(A && B) is true.

Bitwise Operators

Bitwise operator works on bits and perform bit-by-bit operation. The truth tables for &, |, and ^ is as follows −



p & q

p | q

p ^ q





















Assume A = 60 and B = 13 in binary format, they will be as follows −

A = 0011 1100

B = 0000 1101


A&B = 0000 1100

A|B = 0011 1101

A^B = 0011 0001

~A = 1100 0011

The following table lists the bitwise operators supported by C. Assume variable 'A' holds 60 and variable 'B' holds 13, then −

Show Examples





Binary AND Operator copies a bit to the result if it exists in both operands.

(A & B) = 12, i.e., 0000 1100


Binary OR Operator copies a bit if it exists in either operand.

(A | B) = 61, i.e., 0011 1101


Binary XOR Operator copies the bit if it is set in one operand but not both.

(A ^ B) = 49, i.e., 0011 0001


Binary Ones Complement Operator is unary and has the effect of 'flipping' bits.

(~A ) = -61, i.e,. 1100 0011 in 2's complement form.


Binary Left Shift Operator. The left operands value is moved left by the number of bits specified by the right operand.

A << 2 = 240 i.e., 1111 0000


Binary Right Shift Operator. The left operands value is moved right by the number of bits specified by the right operand.

A >> 2 = 15 i.e., 0000 1111

Assignment Operators

The following table lists the assignment operators supported by the C language −

Show Examples





Simple assignment operator. Assigns values from right side operands to left side operand

C = A + B will assign the value of A + B to C


Add AND assignment operator. It adds the right operand to the left operand and assign the result to the left operand.

C += A is equivalent to C = C + A


Subtract AND assignment operator. It subtracts the right operand from the left operand and assigns the result to the left operand.

C -= A is equivalent to C = C - A


Multiply AND assignment operator. It multiplies the right operand with the left operand and assigns the result to the left operand.

C *= A is equivalent to C = C * A


Divide AND assignment operator. It divides the left operand with the right operand and assigns the result to the left operand.

C /= A is equivalent to C = C / A


Modulus AND assignment operator. It takes modulus using two operands and assigns the result to the left operand.

C %= A is equivalent to C = C % A


Left shift AND assignment operator.

C <<= 2 is same as C = C << 2


Right shift AND assignment operator.

C >>= 2 is same as C = C >> 2


Bitwise AND assignment operator.

C &= 2 is same as C = C & 2


Bitwise exclusive OR and assignment operator.

C ^= 2 is same as C = C ^ 2


Bitwise inclusive OR and assignment operator.

C |= 2 is same as C = C | 2

Misc Operators  sizeof & ternary

Besides the operators discussed above, there are a few other important operators including sizeof and ? : supported by the C Language.

Show Examples





Returns the size of a variable.

sizeof(a), where a is integer, will return 4.


Returns the address of a variable.

&a; returns the actual address of the variable.


Pointer to a variable.


? :

Conditional Expression.

If Condition is true ? then value X : otherwise value Y

Operators Precedence in C

Operator precedence determines the grouping of terms in an expression and decides how an expression is evaluated. Certain operators have higher precedence than others; for example, the multiplication operator has a higher precedence than the addition operator.

For example, x = 7 + 3 * 2; here, x is assigned 13, not 20 because operator * has a higher precedence than +, so it first gets multiplied with 3*2 and then adds into 7.

Here, operators with the highest precedence appear at the top of the table, those with the lowest appear at the bottom. Within an expression, higher precedence operators will be evaluated first.

Show Examples





() [] -> . ++ - -

Left to right


+ - ! ~ ++ - - (type)* & sizeof

Right to left


* / %

Left to right


+ -

Left to right



Left to right


<<= >>=

Left to right


== !=

Left to right

Bitwise AND


Left to right

Bitwise XOR


Left to right

Bitwise OR


Left to right

Logical AND


Left to right

Logical OR


Left to right



Right to left


= += -= *= /= %=>>= <<= &= ^= |=

Right to left



Left to right


Decision Making

C - Decision Making


Decision making structures require that the programmer specifies one or more conditions to be evaluated or tested by the program, along with a statement or statements to be executed if the condition is determined to be true, and optionally, other statements to be executed if the condition is determined to be false.

Show below is the general form of a typical decision making structure found in most of the programming languages −

C programming language assumes any non-zero and non-null values as true, and if it is either zero or null, then it is assumed as false value.

C programming language provides the following types of decision making statements.


Statement & Description


if statement

An if statement consists of a boolean expression followed by one or more statements.


if...else statement

An if statement can be followed by an optional else statement, which executes when the Boolean expression is false.


nested if statements

You can use one if or else if statement inside another if or else if statement(s).


switch statement

switch statement allows a variable to be tested for equality against a list of values.


nested switch statements

You can use one switch statement inside another switch statement(s).

The ? : Operator

We have covered conditional operator ? : in the previous chapter which can be used to replace if...else statements. It has the following general form −

Exp1 ?Exp2 : Exp3;

Where Exp1, Exp2, and Exp3 are expressions. Notice the use and placement of the colon.

The value of a ?expression is determined like this −

·        Exp1 is evaluated. If it is true, then Exp2 is evaluated and becomes the value of the entire ?expression.

·        If Exp1 is false, then Exp3 is evaluated and its value becomes the value of the expression.



C – Loops


You may encounter situations, when a block of code needs to be executed several number of times. In general, statements are executed sequentially: The first statement in a function is executed first, followed by the second, and so on.

Programming languages provide various control structures that allow for more complicated execution paths.

A loop statement allows us to execute a statement or group of statements multiple times. Given below is the general form of a loop statement in most of the programming languages −

C programming language provides the following types of loops to handle looping requirements.


Loop Type & Description


while loop

Repeats a statement or group of statements while a given condition is true. It tests the condition before executing the loop body.


for loop

Executes a sequence of statements multiple times and abbreviates the code that manages the loop variable.


do...while loop

It is more like a while statement, except that it tests the condition at the end of the loop body.


nested loops

You can use one or more loops inside any other while, for, or do..while loop.

Loop Control Statements

Loop control statements change execution from its normal sequence. When execution leaves a scope, all automatic objects that were created in that scope are destroyed.

C supports the following control statements.


Control Statement & Description


break statement

Terminates the loop or switch statement and transfers execution to the statement immediately following the loop or switch.


continue statement

Causes the loop to skip the remainder of its body and immediately retest its condition prior to reiterating.


goto statement

Transfers control to the labeled statement.

The Infinite Loop

A loop becomes an infinite loop if a condition never becomes false. The for loop is traditionally used for this purpose. Since none of the three expressions that form the 'for' loop are required, you can make an endless loop by leaving the conditional expression empty.



int main (){



printf("This loop will run forever.\n");





When the conditional expression is absent, it is assumed to be true. You may have an initialization and increment expression, but C programmers more commonly use the for(;;) construct to signify an infinite loop.

NOTE − You can terminate an infinite loop by pressing Ctrl + C keys.



C – Functions


A function is a group of statements that together perform a task. Every C program has at least one function, which is main(), and all the most trivial programs can define additional functions.

You can divide up your code into separate functions. How you divide up your code among different functions is up to you, but logically the division is such that each function performs a specific task.

A function declaration tells the compiler about a function's name, return type, and parameters. A function definition provides the actual body of the function.

The C standard library provides numerous built-in functions that your program can call. For example, strcat() to concatenate two strings, memcpy() to copy one memory location to another location, and many more functions.

A function can also be referred as a method or a sub-routine or a procedure, etc.

Defining a Function

The general form of a function definition in C programming language is as follows −

return_type function_name( parameter list ){

body of the function


A function definition in C programming consists of a function header and a function body. Here are all the parts of a function −

·        Return Type − A function may return a value. The return_type is the data type of the value the function returns. Some functions perform the desired operations without returning a value. In this case, the return_type is the keyword void.

·        Function Name − This is the actual name of the function. The function name and the parameter list together constitute the function signature.

·        Parameters − A parameter is like a placeholder. When a function is invoked, you pass a value to the parameter. This value is referred to as actual parameter or argument. The parameter list refers to the type, order, and number of the parameters of a function. Parameters are optional; that is, a function may contain no parameters.

·        Function Body − The function body contains a collection of statements that define what the function does.


Given below is the source code for a function called max(). This function takes two parameters num1 and num2 and returns the maximum value between the two −

/* function returning the max between two numbers */

int max(int num1,int num2){


/* local variable declaration */

int result;


if(num1 > num2)

result= num1;


result= num2;


return result;


Function Declarations

A function declaration tells the compiler about a function name and how to call the function. The actual body of the function can be defined separately.

A function declaration has the following parts −

return_type function_name( parameter list );

For the above defined function max(), the function declaration is as follows −

int max(int num1, int num2);

Parameter names are not important in function declaration only their type is required, so the following is also a valid declaration −

int max(int, int);

Function declaration is required when you define a function in one source file and you call that function in another file. In such case, you should declare the function at the top of the file calling the function.

Calling a Function

While creating a C function, you give a definition of what the function has to do. To use a function, you will have to call that function to perform the defined task.

When a program calls a function, the program control is transferred to the called function. A called function performs a defined task and when its return statement is executed or when its function-ending closing brace is reached, it returns the program control back to the main program.

To call a function, you simply need to pass the required parameters along with the function name, and if the function returns a value, then you can store the returned value. For example −



/* function declaration */

int max(int num1,int num2);


int main (){


/* local variable definition */

int a =100;

int b =200;

int ret;


/* calling a function to get max value */

ret= max(a, b);


printf("Max value is : %d\n", ret );





/* function returning the max between two numbers */

int max(int num1,int num2){


/* local variable declaration */

int result;


if(num1 > num2)

result= num1;


result= num2;


return result;


We have kept max() along with main() and compiled the source code. While running the final executable, it would produce the following result −

Max value is : 200

Function Arguments

If a function is to use arguments, it must declare variables that accept the values of the arguments. These variables are called the formal parameters of the function.

Formal parameters behave like other local variables inside the function and are created upon entry into the function and destroyed upon exit.

While calling a function, there are two ways in which arguments can be passed to a function −


Call Type & Description


Call by value

This method copies the actual value of an argument into the formal parameter of the function. In this case, changes made to the parameter inside the function have no effect on the argument.


Call by reference

This method copies the address of an argument into the formal parameter. Inside the function, the address is used to access the actual argument used in the call. This means that changes made to the parameter affect the argument.

By default, C uses call by value to pass arguments. In general, it means the code within a function cannot alter the arguments used to call the function.


Scope Rules

C - Scope Rules


A scope in any programming is a region of the program where a defined variable can have its existence and beyond that variable it cannot be accessed. There are three places where variables can be declared in C programming language −

·        Inside a function or a block which is called local variables.

·        Outside of all functions which is called global variables.

·        In the definition of function parameters which are called formal parameters.

Let us understand what are local and global variables, and formal parameters.

Local Variables

Variables that are declared inside a function or block are called local variables. They can be used only by statements that are inside that function or block of code. Local variables are not known to functions outside their own. The following example shows how local variables are used. Here all the variables a, b, and c are local to main() function.



int main (){


/* local variable declaration */

int a, b;

int c;


/* actual initialization */

  a =10;

  b =20;

  c = a + b;


printf("value of a = %d, b = %d and c = %d\n", a, b, c);




Global Variables

Global variables are defined outside a function, usually on top of the program. Global variables hold their values throughout the lifetime of your program and they can be accessed inside any of the functions defined for the program.

A global variable can be accessed by any function. That is, a global variable is available for use throughout your entire program after its declaration. The following program show how global variables are used in a program.



/* global variable declaration */

int g;


int main (){


/* local variable declaration */

int a, b;


/* actual initialization */

  a =10;

  b =20;

  g = a + b;


printf("value of a = %d, b = %d and g = %d\n", a, b, g);




A program can have same name for local and global variables but the value of local variable inside a function will take preference. Here is an example −



/* global variable declaration */

int g =20;


int main (){


/* local variable declaration */

int g =10;


printf("value of g = %d\n",  g);




When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

value of g = 10

Formal Parameters

Formal parameters, are treated as local variables with-in a function and they take precedence over global variables. Following is an example −



/* global variable declaration */

int a =20;


int main (){


/* local variable declaration in main function */

int a =10;

int b =20;

int c =0;


printf("value of a in main() = %d\n",  a);

  c =sum( a, b);

printf("value of c in main() = %d\n",  c);





/* function to add two integers */

int sum(int a,int b){


printf("value of a in sum() = %d\n",  a);

printf("value of b in sum() = %d\n",  b);


return a + b;


When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

value of a in main() = 10

value of a in sum() = 10

value of b in sum() = 20

value of c in main() = 30

Initializing Local and Global Variables

When a local variable is defined, it is not initialized by the system, you must initialize it yourself. Global variables are initialized automatically by the system when you define them as follows −

Data Type

Initial Default Value











It is a good programming practice to initialize variables properly, otherwise your program may produce unexpected results, because uninitialized variables will take some garbage value already available at their memory location.



C – Arrays


Arrays a kind of data structure that can store a fixed-size sequential collection of elements of the same type. An array is used to store a collection of data, but it is often more useful to think of an array as a collection of variables of the same type.

Instead of declaring individual variables, such as number0, number1, ..., and number99, you declare one array variable such as numbers and use numbers[0], numbers[1], and ..., numbers[99] to represent individual variables. A specific element in an array is accessed by an index.

All arrays consist of contiguous memory locations. The lowest address corresponds to the first element and the highest address to the last element.

Declaring Arrays

To declare an array in C, a programmer specifies the type of the elements and the number of elements required by an array as follows −

type arrayName [ arraySize ];

This is called a single-dimensional array. The arraySize must be an integer constant greater than zero and type can be any valid C data type. For example, to declare a 10-element array called balance of type double, use this statement −

double balance[10];

Here balance is a variable array which is sufficient to hold up to 10 double numbers.

Initializing Arrays

You can initialize an array in C either one by one or using a single statement as follows −

double balance[5] = {1000.0, 2.0, 3.4, 7.0, 50.0};

The number of values between braces { } cannot be larger than the number of elements that we declare for the array between square brackets [ ].

If you omit the size of the array, an array just big enough to hold the initialization is created. Therefore, if you write −

double balance[] = {1000.0, 2.0, 3.4, 7.0, 50.0};

You will create exactly the same array as you did in the previous example. Following is an example to assign a single element of the array −

balance[4] = 50.0;

The above statement assigns the 5th element in the array with a value of 50.0. All arrays have 0 as the index of their first element which is also called the base index and the last index of an array will be total size of the array minus 1. Shown below is the pictorial representation of the array we discussed above −

Accessing Array Elements

An element is accessed by indexing the array name. This is done by placing the index of the element within square brackets after the name of the array. For example −

double salary = balance[9];

The above statement will take the 10th element from the array and assign the value to salary variable. The following example Shows how to use all the three above mentioned concepts viz. declaration, assignment, and accessing arrays −



int main (){


int n[10];/* n is an array of 10 integers */

int i,j;


/* initialize elements of array n to 0 */

for( i =0; i <10; i++){

n[ i ]= i +100;/* set element at location i to i + 100 */



/* output each array element's value */

for(j =0; j <10; j++){

printf("Element[%d] = %d\n", j, n[j]);





When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

Element[0] = 100

Element[1] = 101

Element[2] = 102

Element[3] = 103

Element[4] = 104

Element[5] = 105

Element[6] = 106

Element[7] = 107

Element[8] = 108

Element[9] = 109

Arrays in Detail

Arrays are important to C and should need a lot more attention. The following important concepts related to array should be clear to a C programmer −


Concept & Description


Multi-dimensional arrays

C supports multidimensional arrays. The simplest form of the multidimensional array is the two-dimensional array.


Passing arrays to functions

You can pass to the function a pointer to an array by specifying the array's name without an index.


Return array from a function

C allows a function to return an array.


Pointer to an array

You can generate a pointer to the first element of an array by simply specifying the array name, without any index.



C – Pointers


Pointers in C are easy and fun to learn. Some C programming tasks are performed more easily with pointers, and other tasks, such as dynamic memory allocation, cannot be performed without using pointers. So it becomes necessary to learn pointers to become a perfect C programmer. Let's start learning them in simple and easy steps.

As you know, every variable is a memory location and every memory location has its address defined which can be accessed using ampersand (&) operator, which denotes an address in memory. Consider the following example, which prints the address of the variables defined −



int main (){


int  var1;

char var2[10];


printf("Address of var1 variable: %x\n",&var1  );

printf("Address of var2 variable: %x\n",&var2  );




When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

Address of var1 variable: bff5a400

Address of var2 variable: bff5a3f6

What are Pointers?

pointer is a variable whose value is the address of another variable, i.e., direct address of the memory location. Like any variable or constant, you must declare a pointer before using it to store any variable address. The general form of a pointer variable declaration is −

type *var-name;

Here, type is the pointer's base type; it must be a valid C data type and var-name is the name of the pointer variable. The asterisk * used to declare a pointer is the same asterisk used for multiplication. However, in this statement the asterisk is being used to designate a variable as a pointer. Take a look at some of the valid pointer declarations −

int    *ip;    /* pointer to an integer */

double *dp;    /* pointer to a double */

float  *fp;    /* pointer to a float */

char   *ch     /* pointer to a character */

The actual data type of the value of all pointers, whether integer, float, character, or otherwise, is the same, a long hexadecimal number that represents a memory address. The only difference between pointers of different data types is the data type of the variable or constant that the pointer points to.

How to Use Pointers?

There are a few important operations, which we will do with the help of pointers very frequently. (a) We define a pointer variable, (b) assign the address of a variable to a pointer and (c) finally access the value at the address available in the pointer variable. This is done by using unary operator * that returns the value of the variable located at the address specified by its operand. The following example makes use of these operations −



int main (){


intvar=20;/* actual variable declaration */

int*ip;/* pointer variable declaration */


ip=&var;/* store address of var in pointer variable*/


printf("Address of var variable: %x\n",&var);


/* address stored in pointer variable */

printf("Address stored in ip variable: %x\n", ip );


/* access the value using the pointer */

printf("Value of *ip variable: %d\n",*ip );




When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

Address of var variable: bffd8b3c

Address stored in ip variable: bffd8b3c

Value of *ip variable: 20

NULL Pointers

It is always a good practice to assign a NULL value to a pointer variable in case you do not have an exact address to be assigned. This is done at the time of variable declaration. A pointer that is assigned NULL is called a null pointer.

The NULL pointer is a constant with a value of zero defined in several standard libraries. Consider the following program −



int main (){


int*ptr = NULL;


printf("The value of ptr is : %x\n", ptr  );




When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

The value of ptr is 0

In most of the operating systems, programs are not permitted to access memory at address 0 because that memory is reserved by the operating system. However, the memory address 0 has special significance; it signals that the pointer is not intended to point to an accessible memory location. But by convention, if a pointer contains the null (zero) value, it is assumed to point to nothing.

To check for a null pointer, you can use an 'if' statement as follows −

if(ptr)     /* succeeds if p is not null */

if(!ptr)    /* succeeds if p is null */

Pointers in Detail

Pointers have many but easy concepts and they are very important to C programming. The following important pointer concepts should be clear to any C programmer −


Concept & Description


Pointer arithmetic

There are four arithmetic operators that can be used in pointers: ++, --, +, -


Array of pointers

You can define arrays to hold a number of pointers.


Pointer to pointer

C allows you to have pointer on a pointer and so on.


Passing pointers to functions in C

Passing an argument by reference or by address enable the passed argument to be changed in the calling function by the called function.


Return pointer from functions in C

C allows a function to return a pointer to the local variable, static variable, and dynamically allocated memory as well.



C – Strings


Strings are actually one-dimensional array of characters terminated by a null character '\0'. Thus a null-terminated string contains the characters that comprise the string followed by a null.

The following declaration and initialization create a string consisting of the word "Hello". To hold the null character at the end of the array, the size of the character array containing the string is one more than the number of characters in the word "Hello."

char greeting[6] = {'H', 'e', 'l', 'l', 'o', '\0'};

If you follow the rule of array initialization then you can write the above statement as follows −

char greeting[] = "Hello";

Following is the memory presentation of the above defined string in C/C++ −

Actually, you do not place the null character at the end of a string constant. The C compiler automatically places the '\0' at the end of the string when it initializes the array. Let us try to print the above mentioned string −



int main (){


char greeting[6]={'H','e','l','l','o','\0'};

printf("Greeting message: %s\n", greeting );



When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

Greeting message: Hello

C supports a wide range of functions that manipulate null-terminated strings −


Function & Purpose


strcpy(s1, s2);

Copies string s2 into string s1.


strcat(s1, s2);

Concatenates string s2 onto the end of string s1.



Returns the length of string s1.


strcmp(s1, s2);

Returns 0 if s1 and s2 are the same; less than 0 if s1<s2; greater than 0 if s1>s2.