Numeric, boolean, and pointer literals
A literal is a program element that directly represents a value. This article covers literals of type integer, floating-point, boolean, and pointer. For information about string and character literals, see String and Character Literals (C++). You can also define your own literals based on any of these categories. For more information, see User-defined literals (C++).
You can use literals in many contexts, but most commonly to initialize named variables and to pass arguments to functions:
const int answer = 42; // integer literal double d = sin(108.87); // floating point literal passed to sin function bool b = true; // boolean literal MyClass* mc = nullptr; // pointer literal
Sometimes it's important to tell the compiler how to interpret a literal, or what specific type to give to it. It's done by appending prefixes or suffixes to the literal. For example, the prefix
0x tells the compiler to interpret the number that follows it as a hexadecimal value, for example
ULL suffix tells the compiler to treat the value as an
unsigned long long type, as in
5894345ULL. See the following sections for the complete list of prefixes and suffixes for each literal type.
Integer literals begin with a digit and have no fractional parts or exponents. You can specify integer literals in decimal, binary, octal, or hexadecimal form. You can optionally specify an integer literal as unsigned, and as a long or long long type, by using a suffix.
When no prefix or suffix is present, the compiler will give an integral literal value type
int (32 bits), if the value will fit, otherwise it will give it type
long long (64 bits).
To specify a decimal integral literal, begin the specification with a nonzero digit. For example:
int i = 157; // Decimal literal int j = 0198; // Not a decimal number; erroneous octal literal int k = 0365; // Leading zero specifies octal literal, not decimal int m = 36'000'000 // digit separators make large values more readable
To specify an octal integral literal, begin the specification with 0, followed by a sequence of digits in the range 0 through 7. The digits 8 and 9 are errors in specifying an octal literal. For example:
int i = 0377; // Octal literal int j = 0397; // Error: 9 is not an octal digit
To specify a hexadecimal integral literal, begin the specification with
0X (the case of the "x" doesn't matter), followed by a sequence of digits in the range
F). Hexadecimal digits
F) represent values in the range 10 through 15. For example:
int i = 0x3fff; // Hexadecimal literal int j = 0X3FFF; // Equal to i
To specify an unsigned type, use either the
U suffix. To specify a long type, use either the
L suffix. To specify a 64-bit integral type, use the LL, or ll suffix. The i64 suffix is still supported, but we don't recommend it. It's specific to Microsoft and isn't portable. For example:
unsigned val_1 = 328u; // Unsigned value long val_2 = 0x7FFFFFL; // Long value specified // as hex literal unsigned long val_3 = 0776745ul; // Unsigned long value auto val_4 = 108LL; // signed long long auto val_4 = 0x8000000000000000ULL << 16; // unsigned long long
Digit separators: You can use the single-quote character (apostrophe) to separate place values in larger numbers to make them easier for humans to read. Separators have no effect on compilation.
long long i = 24'847'458'121;
Floating point literals
Floating-point literals specify values that must have a fractional part. These values contain decimal points (
.) and can contain exponents.
Floating-point literals have a significand (sometimes called a mantissa), which specifies the value of the number. They have an exponent, which specifies the magnitude of the number. And, they have an optional suffix that specifies the literal's type. The significand is specified as a sequence of digits followed by a period, followed by an optional sequence of digits representing the fractional part of the number. For example:
The exponent, if present, specifies the magnitude of the number as a power of 10, as shown in the following example:
18.46e0 // 18.46 18.46e1 // 184.6
The exponent may be specified using
E, which have the same meaning, followed by an optional sign (+ or -) and a sequence of digits. If an exponent is present, the trailing decimal point is unnecessary in whole numbers such as
Floating-point literals default to type
double. By using the suffixes
L (the suffix isn't case sensitive), the literal can be specified as
long double and
double have the same representation, they're not the same type. For example, you can have overloaded functions such as
void func( double );
void func( long double );
The boolean literals are
Pointer literal (C++11)
C++ introduces the
nullptr literal to specify a zero-initialized pointer. In portable code,
nullptr should be used instead of integral-type zero or macros such as
Binary literals (C++14)
A binary literal can be specified by the use of the
0b prefix, followed by a sequence of 1's and 0's:
auto x = 0B001101 ; // int auto y = 0b000001 ; // int
Avoid using literals as "magic constants"
You can use literals directly in expressions and statements although it's not always good programming practice:
if (num < 100) return "Success";
In the previous example, a better practice is to use a named constant that conveys a clear meaning, for example "MAXIMUM_ERROR_THRESHOLD". And if the return value "Success" is seen by end users, then it might be better to use a named string constant. You can keep string constants in a single location in a file that can be localized into other languages. Using named constants helps both yourself and others to understand the intent of the code.
C++ string literals
C++ user-defined literals
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