Member access operators and expressions - the dot, indexer, and invocation operators.

You use several operators and expressions to access a type member. These operators include member access (.), array element or indexer access ([]), index-from-end (^), range (..), null-conditional operators (?. and ?[]), and method invocation (()). These include the null-conditional member access (?.), and indexer access (?[]) operators.

Member access expression .

You use the . token to access a member of a namespace or a type, as the following examples demonstrate:

  • Use . to access a nested namespace within a namespace, as the following example of a using directive shows:
using System.Collections.Generic;
  • Use . to form a qualified name to access a type within a namespace, as the following code shows:
System.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable<int> numbers = new int[] { 1, 2, 3 };

Use a using directive to make the use of qualified names optional.

  • Use . to access type members, static and non-static, as the following code shows:
var constants = new List<double>();
Console.WriteLine($"{constants.Count} values to show:");
Console.WriteLine(string.Join(", ", constants));
// Output:
// 2 values to show:
// 3.14159265358979, 2.71828182845905

You can also use . to access an extension method.

Indexer operator []

Square brackets, [], are typically used for array, indexer, or pointer element access.

Array access

The following example demonstrates how to access array elements:

int[] fib = new int[10];
fib[0] = fib[1] = 1;
for (int i = 2; i < fib.Length; i++)
    fib[i] = fib[i - 1] + fib[i - 2];
Console.WriteLine(fib[fib.Length - 1]);  // output: 55

double[,] matrix = new double[2,2];
matrix[0,0] = 1.0;
matrix[0,1] = 2.0;
matrix[1,0] = matrix[1,1] = 3.0;
var determinant = matrix[0,0] * matrix[1,1] - matrix[1,0] * matrix[0,1];
Console.WriteLine(determinant);  // output: -3

If an array index is outside the bounds of the corresponding dimension of an array, an IndexOutOfRangeException is thrown.

As the preceding example shows, you also use square brackets when you declare an array type or instantiate an array instance.

For more information about arrays, see Arrays.

Indexer access

The following example uses the .NET Dictionary<TKey,TValue> type to demonstrate indexer access:

var dict = new Dictionary<string, double>();
dict["one"] = 1;
dict["pi"] = Math.PI;
Console.WriteLine(dict["one"] + dict["pi"]);  // output: 4.14159265358979

Indexers allow you to index instances of a user-defined type in the similar way as array indexing. Unlike array indices, which must be integer, the indexer parameters can be declared to be of any type.

For more information about indexers, see Indexers.

Other usages of []

For information about pointer element access, see the Pointer element access operator [] section of the Pointer related operators article.

You also use square brackets to specify attributes:

void TraceMethod() {}

Null-conditional operators ?. and ?[]

A null-conditional operator applies a member access (?.) or element access (?[]) operation to its operand only if that operand evaluates to non-null; otherwise, it returns null. That is:

  • If a evaluates to null, the result of a?.x or a?[x] is null.

  • If a evaluates to non-null, the result of a?.x or a?[x] is the same as the result of a.x or a[x], respectively.


    If a.x or a[x] throws an exception, a?.x or a?[x] would throw the same exception for non-null a. For example, if a is a non-null array instance and x is outside the bounds of a, a?[x] would throw an IndexOutOfRangeException.

The null-conditional operators are short-circuiting. That is, if one operation in a chain of conditional member or element access operations returns null, the rest of the chain doesn't execute. In the following example, B isn't evaluated if A evaluates to null and C isn't evaluated if A or B evaluates to null:


If A might be null but B and C wouldn't be null if A isn't null, you only need to apply the null-conditional operator to A:


In the preceding example, B isn't evaluated and C() isn't called if A is null. However, if the chained member access is interrupted, for example by parentheses as in (A?.B).C(), short-circuiting doesn't happen.

The following examples demonstrate the usage of the ?. and ?[] operators:

double SumNumbers(List<double[]> setsOfNumbers, int indexOfSetToSum)
    return setsOfNumbers?[indexOfSetToSum]?.Sum() ?? double.NaN;

var sum1 = SumNumbers(null, 0);
Console.WriteLine(sum1);  // output: NaN

var numberSets = new List<double[]>
    new[] { 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 },

var sum2 = SumNumbers(numberSets, 0);
Console.WriteLine(sum2);  // output: 6

var sum3 = SumNumbers(numberSets, 1);
Console.WriteLine(sum3);  // output: NaN
namespace MemberAccessOperators2;

public static class NullConditionalShortCircuiting
    public static void Main()
        Person person = null;
        person?.Name.Write(); // no output: Write() is not called due to short-circuit.
        catch (NullReferenceException)
        }; // output: NullReferenceException

public class Person
    public FullName Name { get; set; }

public class FullName
    public string FirstName { get; set; }
    public string LastName { get; set; }
    public void Write()
        Console.WriteLine($"{FirstName} {LastName}");

The first of the preceding two examples also uses the null-coalescing operator ?? to specify an alternative expression to evaluate in case the result of a null-conditional operation is null.

If a.x or a[x] is of a non-nullable value type T, a?.x or a?[x] is of the corresponding nullable value type T?. If you need an expression of type T, apply the null-coalescing operator ?? to a null-conditional expression, as the following example shows:

int GetSumOfFirstTwoOrDefault(int[] numbers)
    if ((numbers?.Length ?? 0) < 2)
        return 0;
    return numbers[0] + numbers[1];

Console.WriteLine(GetSumOfFirstTwoOrDefault(null));  // output: 0
Console.WriteLine(GetSumOfFirstTwoOrDefault(new int[0]));  // output: 0
Console.WriteLine(GetSumOfFirstTwoOrDefault(new[] { 3, 4, 5 }));  // output: 7

In the preceding example, if you don't use the ?? operator, numbers?.Length < 2 evaluates to false when numbers is null.


The ?. operator evaluates its left-hand operand no more than once, guaranteeing that it cannot be changed to null after being verified as non-null.

The null-conditional member access operator ?. is also known as the Elvis operator.

Thread-safe delegate invocation

Use the ?. operator to check if a delegate is non-null and invoke it in a thread-safe way (for example, when you raise an event), as the following code shows:


That code is equivalent to the following code:

var handler = this.PropertyChanged;
if (handler != null)

The preceding example is a thread-safe way to ensure that only a non-null handler is invoked. Because delegate instances are immutable, no thread can change the object referenced by the handler local variable. In particular, if the code executed by another thread unsubscribes from the PropertyChanged event and PropertyChanged becomes null before handler is invoked, the object referenced by handler remains unaffected.

Invocation expression ()

Use parentheses, (), to call a method or invoke a delegate.

The following example demonstrates how to call a method, with or without arguments, and invoke a delegate:

Action<int> display = s => Console.WriteLine(s);

var numbers = new List<int>();
display(numbers.Count);   // output: 2

display(numbers.Count);   // output: 0

You also use parentheses when you invoke a constructor with the new operator.

Other usages of ()

You also use parentheses to adjust the order in which to evaluate operations in an expression. For more information, see C# operators.

Cast expressions, which perform explicit type conversions, also use parentheses.

Index from end operator ^

The ^ operator indicates the element position from the end of a sequence. For a sequence of length length, ^n points to the element with offset length - n from the start of a sequence. For example, ^1 points to the last element of a sequence and ^length points to the first element of a sequence.

int[] xs = new[] { 0, 10, 20, 30, 40 };
int last = xs[^1];
Console.WriteLine(last);  // output: 40

var lines = new List<string> { "one", "two", "three", "four" };
string prelast = lines[^2];
Console.WriteLine(prelast);  // output: three

string word = "Twenty";
Index toFirst = ^word.Length;
char first = word[toFirst];
Console.WriteLine(first);  // output: T

As the preceding example shows, expression ^e is of the System.Index type. In expression ^e, the result of e must be implicitly convertible to int.

You can also use the ^ operator with the range operator to create a range of indices. For more information, see Indices and ranges.

Range operator ..

The .. operator specifies the start and end of a range of indices as its operands. The left-hand operand is an inclusive start of a range. The right-hand operand is an exclusive end of a range. Either of operands can be an index from the start or from the end of a sequence, as the following example shows:

int[] numbers = new[] { 0, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 };
int start = 1;
int amountToTake = 3;
int[] subset = numbers[start..(start + amountToTake)];
Display(subset);  // output: 10 20 30

int margin = 1;
int[] inner = numbers[margin..^margin];
Display(inner);  // output: 10 20 30 40

string line = "one two three";
int amountToTakeFromEnd = 5;
Range endIndices = ^amountToTakeFromEnd..^0;
string end = line[endIndices];
Console.WriteLine(end);  // output: three

void Display<T>(IEnumerable<T> xs) => Console.WriteLine(string.Join(" ", xs));

As the preceding example shows, expression a..b is of the System.Range type. In expression a..b, the results of a and b must be implicitly convertible to Int32 or Index.


Implicit conversions from int to Index throw an ArgumentOutOfRangeException when the value is negative.

You can omit any of the operands of the .. operator to obtain an open-ended range:

  • a.. is equivalent to a..^0
  • ..b is equivalent to 0..b
  • .. is equivalent to 0..^0
int[] numbers = new[] { 0, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 };
int amountToDrop = numbers.Length / 2;

int[] rightHalf = numbers[amountToDrop..];
Display(rightHalf);  // output: 30 40 50

int[] leftHalf = numbers[..^amountToDrop];
Display(leftHalf);  // output: 0 10 20

int[] all = numbers[..];
Display(all);  // output: 0 10 20 30 40 50

void Display<T>(IEnumerable<T> xs) => Console.WriteLine(string.Join(" ", xs));

The following table shows various ways to express collection ranges:

Range operator expression Description
.. All values in the collection.
..end Values from the start to the end exclusively.
start.. Values from the start inclusively to the end.
start..end Values from the start inclusively to the end exclusively.
^start.. Values from the start inclusively to the end counting from the end.
..^end Values from the start to the end exclusively counting from the end.
start..^end Values from start inclusively to end exclusively counting from the end.
^start..^end Values from start inclusively to end exclusively both counting from the end.

The following example demonstrates the effect of using all the ranges presented in the preceding table:

int[] oneThroughTen =
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Write(oneThroughTen, ..);
Write(oneThroughTen, ..3);
Write(oneThroughTen, 2..);
Write(oneThroughTen, 3..5);
Write(oneThroughTen, ^2..);
Write(oneThroughTen, ..^3);
Write(oneThroughTen, 3..^4);
Write(oneThroughTen, ^4..^2);

static void Write(int[] values, Range range) =>
    Console.WriteLine($"{range}:\t{string.Join(", ", values[range])}");
// Sample output:
//      0..^0:      1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
//      0..3:       1, 2, 3
//      2..^0:      3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
//      3..5:       4, 5
//      ^2..^0:     9, 10
//      0..^3:      1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
//      3..^4:      4, 5, 6
//      ^4..^2:     7, 8

For more information, see Indices and ranges.

The .. token is also used as the spread operator in a collection expression.

Operator overloadability

The ., (), ^, and .. operators can't be overloaded. The [] operator is also considered a non-overloadable operator. Use indexers to support indexing with user-defined types.

C# language specification

For more information, see the following sections of the C# language specification:

For more information about indices and ranges, see the feature proposal note.

See also