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C Operator Precedence, Associativity of Operators: Definition and Examples

3 min 30 sec read

Associativity is used when two operators of same precedence appear in an expression. Associativity of operators in C can be either Left to Right or Right to Left. For example ‘*’ and ‘/’ have same precedence and their associativity is Left to Right, so the expression “100 / 10 * 10” is treated as “(100 / 10) * 10”.

Why Associativity is used ?

Example :-

100 / 10 + 10 

Here / has higher precedence or priority than + So compiler here knows how to solve this equation. It will be solved as (100/10) + 10 = 20

Consider this example :-

100 / 10 *10 

Here / and * have same precedence that means both of these operators have same priorities. So how does compiler now know how to solve this ?. Even though order of precedence is important associativity of operators has to be taken into consideration when two operators has same precedence like in this case. Here associativity defines the order to solve this equation from left to right(100/10) * 10 or from right to left 100/ (10*10). And since / * operators have associativity from left to right.

So the equation

100 / 10 *10 
will be solved like this 
(100/10) * 10 = 10


100 / (10 *10)
will be solved like this 
100 / 100 



Since ( ) brackets have higher precedence or priority than any other operators. Always remember this.

Following table list the C operators according to their order of precedence and associativity :-

Operators Description Associativity
( ) Parentheses Left - Right
[ ] Array Subscripts
. Member selection via object name
-> Member selection via pointer
++ — Postfix increment/decrement
++ — Prefix increment/decrement right-to-left
+ – Unary plus/minus
! ~ Logical negation/bitwise complement
(type) Cast (convert value to temporary value of type)
* Dereference
& Address (of operand)
sizeof Determine size in bytes on this implementation
* / % Multiplication/division/modulus left-to-right
+ – Addition/subtraction
<< >> Bitwise shift left, Bitwise shift right
< <= Relational less than/less than or equal to
> >= Relational greater than/greater than or equal to
== != Relational is equal to/is not equal to
& ^ Bitwise AND, Bitwise OR
| Bitwise inclusive OR
&& Logical AND
| | Logical OR
? : Ternary conditional right-to-left
= Assignment
+= -= Addition/subtraction assignment
*= /= Multiplication/division assignment
%= &= Modulus/bitwise AND assignment
^= |= Bitwise exclusive/inclusive OR assignment
<<= >>= Bitwise shift left/right assignment
<<= >>= Bitwise shift left/right assignment
, Comma (separate expressions) left-to-right


So this was all about C Operator Precedence and Associativity of Operators in C language. In next article we will cover different types of operators in C. Happy Learning !


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