Friday, 23 April 2021

C Ternary operator gotcha (type conversions)

The C ternary operator expr1 ? expr2 : expr3 has a subtle side note described in K&R 2nd edition, page 52, section 2.11:

"If expr2 and expr3 are of different types, the type of the result is determined by the conversion rules discussed earlier in the chapter".

This refers to page 44, section 2.7 "Type Conversions". It's worth reading a few times along with section A6.5 "Arithmetic Conversions".

Here is an example of a type conversion gotcha:


At a glance one would think the program would print out -1 as the output.  Note that the expr2 is actually type converted to unsigned int so the result is 4294967295 if int types are 32 bits wide.

One solution is to type convert expr2 and/or expr3 to a long int and because that is wider than the unsigned int x this takes precedence. Alternatively just use:

References: soc: aspeed: fix a ternary sign expansion bug

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