What is the “-->” operator in C++?

avatar
45    6 months ago

After reading Hidden Features and Dark Corners of C++/STL on comp.lang.c++.moderated, I was completely surprised that the following snippet compiled and worked in both Visual Studio 2008 and G++ 4.4.

Here's the code:

#include <stdio.h>
int main()
{
    int x = 10;
    while (x --> 0) // x goes to 0
    {
        printf("%d ", x);
    }
}

I'd assume this is C, since it works in GCC as well. Where is this defined in the standard, and where has it come from?

Answers { 5 }
avatar
6 months ago

--> is not an operator. It is in fact two separate operators, -- and >.

The conditional's code decrements x, while returning x's original (not decremented) value, and then compares the original value with 0 using the > operator.

To better understand, the statement could be written as follows:

while( (x--) > 0 )

avatar
6 months ago

Or for something completely different... x slides to 0

while (x --\
            \
             \
              \
               > 0)
     printf("%d ", x);

Not so mathematical, but... every picture paints a thousand words...

avatar
6 months ago

That's a very complicated operator, so even ISO/IEC JTC1 (Joint Technical Committee 1) placed its description in two different parts of the C++ Standard.

Joking aside, they are two different operators: -- and > described respectively in §5.2.6/2 and §5.9 of the C++03 Standard.

avatar
6 months ago

It's equivalent to

while (x-- > 0)

x-- (post decrement) is equivalent to x = x-1 so, the code transforms to:

while(x > 0) {
    x = x-1;
    // logic
}

avatar
6 months ago

x can go to zero even faster in the opposite direction:

int x = 10;

while( 0 <---- x )
{
   printf("%d ", x);
}

8 6 4 2

You can control speed with an arrow!

int x = 100;

while( 0 <-------------------- x )
{
   printf("%d ", x);
}

90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10

;)