Share via

Built-in types (C++)

Built-in types (also called fundamental types) are specified by the C++ language standard and are built into the compiler. Built-in types aren't defined in any header file. Built-in types are divided into three main categories: integral, floating-point, and void. Integral types represent whole numbers. Floating-point types can specify values that may have fractional parts. Most built-in types are treated as distinct types by the compiler. However, some types are synonyms, or treated as equivalent types by the compiler.

Void type

The void type describes an empty set of values. No variable of type void can be specified. The void type is used primarily to declare functions that return no values or to declare generic pointers to untyped or arbitrarily typed data. Any expression can be explicitly converted or cast to type void. However, such expressions are restricted to the following uses:


The keyword nullptr is a null-pointer constant of type std::nullptr_t, which is convertible to any raw pointer type. For more information, see nullptr.

Boolean type

The bool type can have values true and false. The size of the bool type is implementation-specific. See Sizes of built-in types for Microsoft-specific implementation details.

Character types

The char type is a character representation type that efficiently encodes members of the basic execution character set. The C++ compiler treats variables of type char, signed char, and unsigned char as having different types.

Microsoft-specific: Variables of type char are promoted to int as if from type signed char by default, unless the /J compilation option is used. In this case, they're treated as type unsigned char and are promoted to int without sign extension.

A variable of type wchar_t is a wide-character or multibyte character type. Use the L prefix before a character or string literal to specify the wide-character type.

Microsoft-specific: By default, wchar_t is a native type, but you can use /Zc:wchar_t- to make wchar_t a typedef for unsigned short. The __wchar_t type is a Microsoft-specific synonym for the native wchar_t type.

The char8_t type is used for UTF-8 character representation. It has the same representation as unsigned char, but is treated as a distinct type by the compiler. The char8_t type is new in C++20. Microsoft-specific: use of char8_t requires the /std:c++20 compiler option or later (such as /std:c++latest).

The char16_t type is used for UTF-16 character representation. It must be large enough to represent any UTF-16 code unit. It's treated as a distinct type by the compiler.

The char32_t type is used for UTF-32 character representation. It must be large enough to represent any UTF-32 code unit. It's treated as a distinct type by the compiler.

Floating-point types

Floating-point types use an IEEE-754 representation to provide an approximation of fractional values over a wide range of magnitudes. The following table lists the floating-point types in C++ and the comparative restrictions on floating-point type sizes. These restrictions are mandated by the C++ standard and are independent of the Microsoft implementation. The absolute size of built-in floating-point types isn't specified in the standard.

Type Contents
float Type float is the smallest floating point type in C++.
double Type double is a floating point type that is larger than or equal to type float, but shorter than or equal to the size of type long double.
long double Type long double is a floating point type that is larger than or equal to type double.

Microsoft-specific: The representation of long double and double is identical. However, long double and double are treated as distinct types by the compiler. The Microsoft C++ compiler uses the 4- and 8-byte IEEE-754 floating-point representations. For more information, see IEEE floating-point representation.

Integer types

The int type is the default basic integer type. It can represent all of the whole numbers over an implementation-specific range.

A signed integer representation is one that can hold both positive and negative values. It's used by default, or when the signed modifier keyword is present. The unsigned modifier keyword specifies an unsigned representation that can only hold non-negative values.

A size modifier specifies the width in bits of the integer representation used. The language supports short, long, and long long modifiers. A short type must be at least 16 bits wide. A long type must be at least 32 bits wide. A long long type must be at least 64 bits wide. The standard specifies a size relationship between the integral types:

1 == sizeof(char) <= sizeof(short) <= sizeof(int) <= sizeof(long) <= sizeof(long long)

An implementation must maintain both the minimum size requirements and the size relationship for each type. However, the actual sizes can and do vary between implementations. See Sizes of built-in types for Microsoft-specific implementation details.

The int keyword may be omitted when signed, unsigned, or size modifiers are specified. The modifiers and int type, if present, may appear in any order. For example, short unsigned and unsigned int short refer to the same type.

Integer type synonyms

The following groups of types are considered synonyms by the compiler:

  • short, short int, signed short, signed short int

  • unsigned short, unsigned short int

  • int, signed, signed int

  • unsigned, unsigned int

  • long, long int, signed long, signed long int

  • unsigned long, unsigned long int

  • long long, long long int, signed long long, signed long long int

  • unsigned long long, unsigned long long int

Microsoft-specific integer types include the specific-width __int8, __int16, __int32, and __int64 types. These types may use the signed and unsigned modifiers. The __int8 data type is synonymous with type char, __int16 is synonymous with type short, __int32 is synonymous with type int, and __int64 is synonymous with type long long.

Sizes of built-in types

Most built-in types have implementation-defined sizes. The following table lists the amount of storage required for built-in types in Microsoft C++. In particular, long is 4 bytes even on 64-bit operating systems.

Type Size
bool, char, char8_t, unsigned char, signed char, __int8 1 byte
char16_t, __int16, short, unsigned short, wchar_t, __wchar_t 2 bytes
char32_t, float, __int32, int, unsigned int, long, unsigned long 4 bytes
double, __int64, long double, long long, unsigned long long 8 bytes

See Data type ranges for a summary of the range of values of each type.

For more information about type conversion, see Standard conversions.

See also

Data type ranges