switch statement

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Transfers control to one of several statements, depending on the value of a condition.


[edit] Syntax

attr (optional) switch ( init-statement (optional) condition ) statement
attr - (since C++11) any number of attributes
init-statement - (since C++17) any of the following:
(since C++23)

Note that any init-statement must end with a semicolon. This is why it is often described informally as an expression or a declaration followed by a semicolon.

condition - a condition
statement - a statement (typically a compound statement)

[edit] Condition

A condition can either be an expression or a simple declaration. If it can be syntactically resolved as either an expression or a declaration, it is interpreted as the latter.

When control reaches condition, the condition will yield a value, which is used to determine which label the control will go to.

[edit] Expression

If condition is an expression, the value it yields is the the value of the expression.

[edit] Declaration

If condition is not an expression, it is a simple declaration with the following restrictions:

In this case, the value which condition yields is the value of the declared variable.

[edit] Type

condition can only yield the following types:

  • integral types
  • enumeration types
  • class types

If the yielded value is of a class type, it is contextually implicitly converted to an integral or enumeration type.

If the (possibly converted) type is subject to integral promotions , the yielded value is converted to the promoted type.

[edit] Labels

Any statement within the switch statement can be labeled with one or more following labels:

attr (optional) case constant-expression : (1)
attr (optional) default: (2)
attr - (since C++11) any number of attributes
constant-expression - a converted constant expression of the adjusted type of the switch condition

A case or default label is associated with the innermost switch statement enclosing it.

If any of the following conditions is satisfied, the program is ill-formed:

  • A switch statement is associated with multiple case labels whose constant-expression s have the same value after conversions.
  • A switch statement is associated with multiple default labels.

[edit] Control flow transfer

When the condition of a switch statement yields a (possibly converted) value:

  • If one of the associated case label constants has the same value, control is passed to the statement labeled by the matched case label.
  • Otherwise, if there is an associated default label, control is passed to the statement labeled by the default label.
  • Otherwise, none of the statements in the switch statement will be executed.

case and default labels in themselves do not alter the flow of control. To exit from a switch statement from the middle, see break statements.

Compilers may issue warnings on fallthrough (reaching the next case or default label without a break) unless the attribute [[fallthrough]] appears immediately before the case label to indicate that the fallthrough is intentional(since C++17).

switch (1)
    case 1:
        std::cout << '1'; // prints "1",
    case 2:
        std::cout << '2'; // then prints "2"
switch (1)
    case 1:
        std::cout << '1'; // prints "1"
        break;            // and exits the switch
    case 2:
        std::cout << '2';

switch statements with initializer

If init-statement is used, the switch statement is equivalent to

switch ( condition ) statement


Except that names declared by the init-statement (if init-statement is a declaration) and names declared by condition (if condition is a declaration) are in the same scope, which is also the scope of statement.

(since C++17)

[edit] Notes

Because transfer of control is not permitted to enter the scope of a variable, if a declaration statement is encountered inside the statement, it has to be scoped in its own compound statement:

switch (1)
    case 1:
        int x = 0; // initialization
        std::cout << x << '\n';
        // compilation error: jump to default:
        // would enter the scope of 'x' without initializing it
        std::cout << "default\n";
switch (1)
    case 1:
            int x = 0;
            std::cout << x << '\n';
        } // scope of 'x' ends here
        std::cout << "default\n"; // no error

[edit] Keywords

switch, case, default

[edit] Example

The following code shows several usage cases of the switch statement:

#include <iostream>
int main()
    const int i = 2;
    switch (i)
        case 1:
            std::cout << '1';
        case 2:              // execution starts at this case label
            std::cout << '2';
        case 3:
            std::cout << '3';
            [[fallthrough]]; // C++17 attribute to silent the warning on fallthrough
        case 5:
            std::cout << "45";
            break;           // execution of subsequent statements is terminated
        case 6:
            std::cout << '6';
    std::cout << '\n';
    switch (i)
        case 4:
            std::cout << 'a';
            std::cout << 'd'; // there are no applicable constant expressions 
                              // therefore default is executed
    std::cout << '\n';
    switch (i)
        case 4:
            std::cout << 'a'; // nothing is executed
    // when enumerations are used in a switch statement, many compilers
    // issue warnings if one of the enumerators is not handled
    enum color { RED, GREEN, BLUE };
    switch (RED)
        case RED:
            std::cout << "red\n";
        case GREEN:
            std::cout << "green\n";
        case BLUE:
            std::cout << "blue\n";
    // the C++17 init-statement syntax can be helpful when there is
    // no implicit conversion to integral or enumeration type
    struct Device
        enum State { SLEEP, READY, BAD };
        auto state() const { return m_state; }
        /* ... */
        State m_state{};
    switch (auto dev = Device{}; dev.state())
        case Device::SLEEP:
            /* ... */
        case Device::READY:
            /* ... */
        case Device::BAD:
            /* ... */
    // pathological examples
    // the statement does not have to be a compound statement
    switch (0)
        std::cout << "this does nothing\n";
    // labels do not require a compound statement either
    switch (int n = 1)
        case 0:
        case 1:
            std::cout << n << '\n';



[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 1767 C++98 condition s of types that are not subject to
integral promotion could not be promoted
do not promote
condition s of these types
CWG 2629 C++98 condition could be a declaration of a floating-point variable prohibited

[edit] See also

C documentation for switch

[edit] External links

1.  Loop unrolling using Duff's Device
2.  Duff's device can be used to implement coroutines in C/C++