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const (C++)

When it modifies a data declaration, the const keyword specifies that the object or variable isn't modifiable.


noptr-declarator parameters-and-qualifiers trailing-return-type
ptr-operator ptr-declarator
declarator-id attribute-specifier-seqopt
noptr-declarator parameters-and-qualifiers
noptr-declarator [ constant-expressionopt ] attribute-specifier-seqopt
( ptr-declarator )
( parameter-declaration-clause ) cv-qualifier-seqopt
ref-qualifieropt noexcept-specifieropt attribute-specifier-seqopt
-> type-id
* attribute-specifier-seqopt cv-qualifier-seqopt
& attribute-specifier-seqopt
&& attribute-specifier-seqopt
nested-name-specifier * attribute-specifier-seqopt cv-qualifier-seqopt
cv-qualifier cv-qualifier-seqopt
...opt id-expression

const values

The const keyword specifies that a variable's value is constant and tells the compiler to prevent the programmer from modifying it.

// constant_values1.cpp
int main() {
   const int i = 5;
   i = 10;   // C3892
   i++;   // C2105

In C++, you can use the const keyword instead of the #define preprocessor directive to define constant values. Values defined with const are subject to type checking, and can be used in place of constant expressions. In C++, you can specify the size of an array with a const variable as follows:

// constant_values2.cpp
// compile with: /c
const int maxarray = 255;
char store_char[maxarray];  // allowed in C++; not allowed in C

In C, constant values default to external linkage, so they can appear only in source files. In C++, constant values default to internal linkage, which allows them to appear in header files.

The const keyword can also be used in pointer declarations.

// constant_values3.cpp
int main() {
   char this_char{'a'}, that_char{'b'};
   char *mybuf = &this_char, *yourbuf = &that_char;
   char *const aptr = mybuf;
   *aptr = 'c';   // OK
   aptr = yourbuf;   // C3892

A pointer to a variable declared as const can be assigned only to a pointer that is also declared as const.

// constant_values4.cpp
#include <stdio.h>
int main() {
   const char *mybuf = "test";
   char *yourbuf = "test2";
   printf_s("%s\n", mybuf);

   const char *bptr = mybuf;   // Pointer to constant data
   printf_s("%s\n", bptr);

   // *bptr = 'a';   // Error

You can use pointers to constant data as function parameters to prevent the function from modifying a parameter passed through a pointer.

For objects that are declared as const, you can only call constant member functions. The compiler ensures that the constant object is never modified.

birthday.getMonth();    // Okay
birthday.setMonth( 4 ); // Error

You can call either constant or non-constant member functions for a non-constant object. You can also overload a member function using the const keyword; this feature allows a different version of the function to be called for constant and non-constant objects.

You can't declare constructors or destructors with the const keyword.

const member functions

Declaring a member function with the const keyword specifies that the function is a "read-only" function that doesn't modify the object for which it's called. A constant member function can't modify any non-static data members or call any member functions that aren't constant. To declare a constant member function, place the const keyword after the closing parenthesis of the argument list. The const keyword is required in both the declaration and the definition.

// constant_member_function.cpp
class Date
   Date( int mn, int dy, int yr );
   int getMonth() const;     // A read-only function
   void setMonth( int mn );   // A write function; can't be const
   int month;

int Date::getMonth() const
   return month;        // Doesn't modify anything
void Date::setMonth( int mn )
   month = mn;          // Modifies data member
int main()
   Date MyDate( 7, 4, 1998 );
   const Date BirthDate( 1, 18, 1953 );
   MyDate.setMonth( 4 );    // Okay
   BirthDate.getMonth();    // Okay
   BirthDate.setMonth( 4 ); // C2662 Error

C and C++ const differences

When you define a const variable in a C source code file, you do so as:

const int i = 2;

You can then use this variable in another module as follows:

extern const int i;

But to get the same behavior in C++, you must define your const variable as:

extern const int i = 2;

Similar to C, you can then use this variable in another module as follows:

extern const int i;

If you wish to define an extern variable in a C++ source code file for use in a C source code file, use:

extern "C" const int x=10;

to prevent name mangling by the C++ compiler.


When following a member function's parameter list, the const keyword specifies that the function doesn't modify the object for which it's invoked.

For more information on const, see the following articles:

See also