World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Increment and decrement operators

Article Id: WHEBN0025848376
Reproduction Date:

Title: Increment and decrement operators  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Unary operation, Operator (computer programming), GNU Octave, C (programming language)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Increment and decrement operators

Increment and decrement operators are unary operators that add or subtract one from their operand, respectively. They are commonly implemented in imperative programming languages. C-like languages feature two versions (pre- and post-) of each operator with slightly different semantics.

In languages syntactically derived from B (including C and its various derivatives), the increment operator is written as ++ and the decrement operator is written as --.

The increment operator increases the value of its operand by 1. The operand must have an arithmetic or pointer data type, and must refer to a modifiable data object. Similarly, the decrement operator decreases the value of its modifiable arithmetic operand by 1. Pointers values are increased (or decreased) by an amount that makes them point to the next (or previous) element adjacent in memory.

In languages that support both versions of the operators, the pre-increment and pre-decrement operators increment (or decrement) their operand by 1, and the value of the expression is the resulting incremented (or decremented) value. In contrast, the post-increment and post-decrement operators increase (or decrease) the value of their operand by 1, but the value of the expression is the operand's original value prior to the increment (or decrement) operation. In languages where increment/decrement is not an expression (e.g. Go), only one version is needed (in the case of Go, post operators only).

Since the increment/decrement operator modifies its operand, use of such an operand more than once within the same expression can produce undefined results. For example, in expressions such as x − ++x, it may not be clear to a user in what sequence the subtraction and increment operations should be performed. Such expressions generally invoke undefined behavior, and should be avoided.


The following C code fragment illustrates the difference between the pre and post increment and decrement operators:

int  x;
int  y;

// Increment operators
x = 1;
y = ++x;    // x is now 2, y is also 2
y = x++;    // x is now 3, y is 2

// Decrement operators
x = 3;
y = x--;    // x is now 2, y is 3
y = --x;    // x is now 1, y is also 1

The post-increment operator is commonly used with array subscripts. For example:

// Sum the elements of an array
float sum_elements(float arr[], int n)
    float  sum = 0.0;
    int    i =   0;

    while (i < n)
        sum += arr[i++];    // Post-increment of i, which steps
                            //  through n elements of the array
    return sum;

Likewise, the post-increment operator is commonly used with pointers:

// Copy one array to another
void copy_array(float *src, float *dst, int n)
    while (n-- > 0)        // Loop that counts down from n to zero
        *dst++ = *src++;   // Copies element *(src) to *(dst),
                           //  then increments both pointers

Note that these examples also work in other C-like languages, such as C++, Java, and C#.

Supporting languages

The following list, though not complete or all-inclusive, lists some of the major programming languages that support the ++/-- increment/decrement operators.


  1. ^ "GNU Awk's User Guide". Free Software Foundation. 
  2. ^ "++ Operator (C# Reference)". Microsoft Developer Network. 

See also

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.