C Programming

Increment (Decrement) operators require L-value Expression

What will be the output of the following program?

int main()
   int i = 10;
   printf("%d", ++(-i));
   return 0;
A) 11 B) 10 C) -9 D) None

Answer: D, None – Compilation Error.


In C/C++ the pre-increment (decrement) and the post-increment (decrement) operators require an L-value expression as operand. Providing an R-value or a const qualified variable results in compilation error.

In the above program, the expression -i results in R-value which is operand of pre-increment operator. The pre-increment operator requires an L-value as operand, hence the compiler throws an error.

The increment/decrement operators needs to update the operand after the sequence point, so they need an L-value. The unary operators such as -, +, won’t need L-value as operand. The expression -(++i) is valid.

In C++ the rules are little complicated because of references. We can apply these pre/post increment (decrement) operators on references variables that are not qualified by const. References can also be returned from functions.

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