# Increment/decrement operators

< c‎ | language

Increment/decrement operators are unary operators that increment/decrement the value of a variable by 1.

They can have postfix form:

 expr ++ expr --

As well as the prefix form:

 ++ expr -- expr

The operand expr of both prefix and postfix increment or decrement must be a modifiable lvalue of integer type (including _Bool and enums), real floating type, or a pointer type. It may be cvr-qualified, unqualified, or atomic.

The result of the postfix increment and decrement operators is the value of expr.

The result of the prefix increment operator is the result of adding the value 1 to the value of expr: the expression ++e is equivalent to e+=1. The result of the prefix decrement operator is the result of subtracting the value 1 from the value of expr: the expression --e is equivalent to e-=1.

Increment operators initiate the side-effect of adding the value 1 of appropriate type to the operand. Decrement operators initiate the side-effect of subtracting the value 1 of appropriate type from the operand. As with any other side-effects, these operations complete at or before the next sequence point. int a = 1;
int b = a++; // stores 1+a (which is 2) to a
// returns the value of a (which is 1)
// After this line, b == 1 and a == 2
a = 1;
int c = ++a; // stores 1+a (which is 2) to a
// returns 1+a (which is 2)
// after this line, c == 2 and a == 2

 Post-increment or post-decrement on any atomic variable is an atomic read-modify-write operation with memory order memory_order_seq_cst. (since C11)

See arithmetic operators for limitations on pointer arithmetic, as well as for implicit conversions applied to the operands.

## Contents

### Notes

Because of the side-effects involved, increment and decrement operators must be used with care to avoid undefined behavior due to violations of sequencing rules.

Increment/decrement operators are not defined for complex or imaginary types: the usual definition of adding/subtracting the real number 1 would have no effect on imaginary types, and making it add/subtract i for imaginaries but 1 for complex numbers would have made it handle 0+yi different from yi.

Unlike C++ (and some implementations of C), the increment/decrement expressions are never themselves lvalues: &++a is invalid.

### Example

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>

int main(void) {

int a = 1;
int b = 1;

printf("\n");
printf("original values: a == %d, b == %d\n", a, b);
printf("result of postfix operators: a++ == %d, b-- == %d\n", a++, b--);
printf("after postfix operators applied: a == %d, b == %d\n", a, b);

// Reset a and b.
a = 1;
b = 1;

printf("\n");
printf("original values: a == %d, b == %d\n", a, b);
printf("result of prefix operators: ++a == %d, --b == %d\n", ++a, --b);
printf("after prefix operators applied: a == %d, b == %d\n", a, b);
}

Output:

original values: a == 1, b == 1
result of postfix operators: a++ == 1, b-- == 1
after postfix operators applied: a == 2, b == 0

original values: a == 1, b == 1
result of prefix operators: ++a == 2, --b == 0
after prefix operators applied: a == 2, b == 0

### References

• C11 standard (ISO/IEC 9899:2011):
• 6.5.2.4 Postfix increment and decrement operators (p: 85)
• 6.5.3.1 Prefix increment and decrement operators (p: 88)
• C99 standard (ISO/IEC 9899:1999):
• 6.5.2.4 Postfix increment and decrement operators (p: 75)
• 6.5.3.1 Prefix increment and decrement operators (p: 78)
• C89/C90 standard (ISO/IEC 9899:1990):
• 3.3.2.4 Postfix increment and decrement operators
• 3.3.3.1 Prefix increment and decrement operators

Common operators
assignment increment
decrement
arithmetic logical comparison member
access
other

a = b
a += b
a -= b
a *= b
a /= b
a %= b
a &= b
a |= b
a ^= b
a <<= b
a >>= b

++a
--a
a++
a--

+a
-a
a + b
a - b
a * b
a / b
a % b
~a
a & b
a | b
a ^ b
a << b
a >> b

!a
a && b
a || b

a == b
a != b
a < b
a > b
a <= b
a >= b

a[b]
*a
&a
a->b
a.b

a(...)
a, b
(type) a
? :
sizeof
_Alignof
(since C11)