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Escape sequences

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Escape sequences are used to represent certain special characters within string literals and character literals.

The following escape sequences are available:

Escape
sequence
Description Representation
Simple escape sequences
\' single quote byte 0x27 in ASCII encoding
\" double quote byte 0x22 in ASCII encoding
\? question mark byte 0x3f in ASCII encoding
\\ backslash byte 0x5c in ASCII encoding
\a audible bell byte 0x07 in ASCII encoding
\b backspace byte 0x08 in ASCII encoding
\f form feed - new page byte 0x0c in ASCII encoding
\n line feed - new line byte 0x0a in ASCII encoding
\r carriage return byte 0x0d in ASCII encoding
\t horizontal tab byte 0x09 in ASCII encoding
\v vertical tab byte 0x0b in ASCII encoding
Numeric escape sequences
\nnn arbitrary octal value byte nnn (1~3 octal digits)
\o{n...} (since C++23) byte n... (arbitrary number of octal digits)
\xn... arbitrary hexadecimal value byte n... (arbitrary number of hexadecimal digits)
\x{n...} (since C++23)
Conditional escape sequences[1]
\c Implementation-defined Implementation-defined
Universal character names
\unnnn arbitrary Unicode value;
may result in several code units
code point U+nnnn (4 hexadecimal digits)
\u{n...} (since C++23) code point U+n... (arbitrary number of hexadecimal digits)
\Unnnnnnnn code point U+nnnnnnnn (8 hexadecimal digits)
  1. Conditional escape sequences are conditionally-supported. The character c in each conditional escape sequence is a member of basic character set that is not the character following the \ in any other escape sequence.

Contents

[edit] Range of universal character names

If a universal character name corresponds to a code point that is not 0x24 ($), 0x40 (@), nor 0x60 (`) and less than 0xA0, the program is ill-formed. In other words, members of basic character set and control characters (in ranges 0x0-0x1F and 0x7F-0x9F) cannot be expressed in universal character names.

(until C++11)

If a universal character name corresponding to a code point of a member of basic character set or control characters appear outside a character or string literal, the program is ill-formed.

If a universal character name corresponds surrogate code point (the range 0xD800-0xDFFF, inclusive), the program is ill-formed.

If a universal character name used in a UTF-16/32 string literal does not correspond to a code point in ISO/IEC 10646 (the range 0x0-0x10FFFF, inclusive), the program is ill-formed.

(since C++11)
(until C++20)

If a universal character name corresponding to a code point of a member of basic character set or control characters appear outside a character or string literal, the program is ill-formed.

If a universal character name does not correspond to a code point in ISO/IEC 10646 (the range 0x0-0x10FFFF, inclusive) or corresponds to a surrogate code point (the range 0xD800-0xDFFF, inclusive), the program is ill-formed.

(since C++20)

[edit] Notes

\0 is the most commonly used octal escape sequence, because it represents the terminating null character in null-terminated strings.

The new-line character \n has special meaning when used in text mode I/O: it is converted to the OS-specific newline representation, usually a byte or byte sequence. Some systems mark their lines with length fields instead.

Octal escape sequences have a limit of three octal digits, but terminate at the first character that is not a valid octal digit if encountered sooner.

Hexadecimal escape sequences have no length limit and terminate at the first character that is not a valid hexadecimal digit. If the value represented by a single hexadecimal escape sequence does not fit the range of values represented by the character type used in this string literal (char, char8_t, (since C++20)char16_t, char32_t, (since C++11)or wchar_t), the result is unspecified.

A universal character name in a narrow string literal or a 16-bit string literal may map to more than one code unit, e.g. \U0001f34c is 4 char code units in UTF-8 (\xF0\x9F\x8D\x8C) and 2 char16_t code units in UTF-16 (\xD83C\xDF4C).

(since C++11)

The question mark escape sequence \? is used to prevent trigraphs from being interpreted inside string literals: a string such as "??/" is compiled as "\", but if the second question mark is escaped, as in "?\?/", it becomes "??/". As trigraphs have been removed from C++, the question mark escape sequence is no longer necessary. It is preserved for compatibility with C++14 (and former revisions) and C. (since C++17)

Feature-test macro Value Std Comment
__cpp_named_character_escapes 202207L (C++23) Named universal character escapes

[edit] Example

#include <iostream>
 
int main()
{
    std::cout << "This\nis\na\ntest\n\n";
    std::cout << "She said, \"Sells she seashells on the seashore?\"\n";
}

Output:

This
is
a
test
 
She said, "Sells she seashells on the seashore?"

[edit] Defect Reports

The following behavior-changing defect reports were applied retroactively to previously published C++ standards.

DR Applied to Behavior as published Correct behavior
CWG 505 C++98 the behavior was undefined if the character following
a backslash was not one of those specified in the table
made conditionally supported
(semantic is implementation-defined)

[edit] See also

C documentation for Escape sequence