Declaration and Declarators

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A declaration is a list of names. The names are sometimes referred to as declarators or identifiers. The declaration begins with optional storage class specifiers, type specifiers, and other modifiers. The identifiers are separated by commas and the list is terminated by a semicolon.

Simple declarations of variable identifiers have the following pattern:

data-type var1 <=init1>, var2 <=init2>, ...;

where var1, var2,... are any sequence of distinct identifiers with optional initializers. Each of the variables is declared to be of type data-type. For example:

int x = 1, y = 2;

creates two integer variables called x and y (and initializes them to the values 1 and 2, respectively).

These are all defining declarations; storage is allocated and any optional initializers are applied.

The initializer for an automatic object can be any legal expression that evaluates to an assignment-compatible value for the type of the variable involved. Initializers for static objects must be constants or constant expressions.

In C++, an initializer for a static object can be any expression involving constants and previously declared variables and functions.

The format of the declarator indicates how the declared name is to be interpreted when used in an expression. If type is any type, and storage-class-specifier is any storage class specifier, and if D1 and D2 are any two declarators, then the declaration:

storage-class-specifier type D1, D2;

indicates that each occurrence of D1 or D2 in an expression will be treated as an object of type type and storage class is storage-class-specifier. The type of the name embedded in the declarator will be some phrase containing type, such as "type", "pointer to type", "array of type", "function returning type", or "pointer to function returning type", and so on.

For example, in the following declaration syntax examples each of the declarators could be used as rvalues (or possibly lvalues in some cases) in expressions where a single int object would be appropriate. The types of the embedded identifiers are derived from their declarators as follows:

Declaration syntax examples

Declarator syntax Implied type of name Example

type name;


int count;

type name[];

(open) array of type

int count[];

type name[3];

Fixed array of three elements, all of type
(name[0], name[1], and name[2])

int count[3];

type *name;

Pointer to type

int *count;

type *name[];

(open) array of pointers to type

int *count[];

type *(name[]);

Same as above

int *(count[]);

type (*name)[];

Pointer to an (open) array of type

int (*count) [];

type &name;

Reference to type (C++ only)

int &count;

type name();

Function returning type

int count();

type *name();

Function returning pointer to type

int *count();

type *(name());

Same as above

int *(count());

type (*name)();

Pointer to function returning type

int (*count) ();

Note the need for parentheses in (*name)[ ] and (*name)( ); this is because the precedence of both the array declarator [ ] and the function declarator ( ) is higher than the pointer declarator *. The parentheses in *(name[ ]) are optional.

Note: See Appmethod C++ declaration syntax for the declarator syntax. The definition covers both identifier and function declarators.

See Also