C Programming

Scope Rules

Scope of an identifier is the part of the program where the identifier may directly be accessible. In C, all identifiers are lexically (or statically) scoped. C scope rules can be covered under following two categories.

Global Scope: Can be accessed anywhere in a program.

// filename: file1.c
int a;
int main(void)
{
   a = 2;
}
// filename: file2.c
// When this file is linked with file1.c, functions of this file can access a
extern int a;
int myfun()
{
   a = 2;
}

To restrict access to current file only, global variables can be marked as static.

Block Scope: A Block is a set of statements enclosed within left and right braces ({ and } respectively). Blocks may be nested in C (a block may contain other blocks inside it). A variable declared in a block is accessible in the block and all inner blocks of that block, but not accessible outside the block.

What if the inner block itself has one variable with the same name?
If an inner block declares a variable with the same name as the variable declared by the outer block, then the visibility of the outer block variable ends at the pint of declaration by inner block.

#include<stdio.h>
int main()
{
  {
      int x = 10, y  = 20;
      {
          // The outer block contains declaration of x and y, so 
          // following statement is valid and prints 10 and 20
          printf("x = %d, y = %d\n", x, y);
          {
              // y is declared again, so outer block y is not accessible 
              // in this block
              int y = 40;

              x++;  // Changes the outer block variable x to 11
              y++;  // Changes this block's variable y to 41

              printf("x = %d, y = %d\n", x, y);
          }

          // This statement accesses only outer block's variables
          printf("x = %d, y = %d\n", x, y);
      }
  }
  return 0;
}

Output:

x = 10, y = 20
x = 11, y = 41
x = 11, y = 20

What about functions and parameters passed to functions?
A function itself is a block. Parameters and other local variables of a function follow the same block scope rules.

Can variables of block be accessed in another subsequent block?*
No, a variabled declared in a block can only be accessed inside the block and all inner blocks of this block. For example, following program produces compiler error.

#include<stdio.h>
int main()
{
  {
      int x = 10;
  }
  {
      printf("%d", x);  // Error: x is not accessible here
  }
  return 0;
}

Output:

error: 'x' undeclared (first use in this function)

As an exercise, predict the output of following program.

#include<stdio.h>
int main()
{
  int x = 1, y = 2, z = 3;
  printf(" x = %d, y = %d, z = %d \n", x, y, z);
  {
       int x = 10;
       float y = 20;
       printf(" x = %d, y = %f, z = %d \n", x, y, z);
       {
             int z = 100;
             printf(" x = %d, y = %f, z = %d \n", x, y, z);
       }
  }
  return 0;
}

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