Different ways to declare variable as constant in C and C++


There are many different ways to make the variable as constant

  1. Using const keyword: The const keyword specifies that a variable or object value is constant and can’t be modified at the compilation time.

    // C program to demonstrate const specifier
    #include <stdio.h>
    int main()
        const int num = 1;
        num = 5; // Modifying the value
        return 0;
    It will throw as error like:
    error: assignment of read-only variable ‘num’
  2. Using enum keyword: Enumeration (or enum) is a user defined data type in C and C++. It is mainly used to assign names to integral constants, that make a program easy to read and maintain.

    // In C and C++ internally the default
    // type of 'var' is int
    enum VARS { var = 42 };
    // In C++ 11 (can have any integral type):
    enum : type { var = 42; }
    // where mytype = int, char, long etc.
    // but it can't be float, double or
    // user defined data type.

    Note: The data types of enum are of course limited as we can see in above example.

  3. Using constexpr keyword: Using constexpr in C++(not in C) can be used to declare variable as a guaranteed constant. But it would fail to compile if its initializer isn’t a constant expression.
    #include <iostream>
    int main()
        int var = 5;
        constexpr int k = var;
        std::cout << k;
        return 0;

    Above program will throw an error i.e.,

    error: the value of ‘var’ is not usable in a constant expression

    because the variable ‘var’ in not constant expression. Hence in order to make it as constant, we have to declare the variable ‘var’ with const keyword.

  4. Using Macros: We can also use Macros to define constant, but there is a catch,
    #define var 5

    Since Macros are handled by the pre-processor(the pre-processor does text replacement in our source file, replacing all occurrences of ‘var’ with the literal 5) not by the compiler.
    Hence it wouldn’t be recommended because Macros doesn’t carry type checking information and also prone to error. In fact not quite constant as ‘var’ can be redefined like this,

    // C program to demonstrate the problems
    // in 'Macros'
    #include <stdio.h>
    #define var 5
    int main()
        printf("%d ", var);
    #ifdef var
    #undef var
    // redefine var as 10
    #define var 10
        printf("%d", var);
        return 0;
    5 10

Note: preprocessor and enum only works as a literal constant and integers constant respectively. Hence they only define the symbolic name of constant. Therefore if you need a constant variable with a specific memory address use either ‘const’ or ‘constexpr’ according to the requirement.

This article is contributed by Shubham Bansal. If you like GeeksforGeeks and would like to contribute, you can also write an article using contribute.geeksforgeeks.org or mail your article to contribute@geeksforgeeks.org. See your article appearing on the GeeksforGeeks main page and help other Geeks.

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