Difference between ++*p, *p++ and *++p

Predict the output of following C programs.

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// PROGRAM 1
#include <stdio.h>
int main(void)
{
    int arr[] = {10, 20};
    int *p = arr;
    ++*p;
    printf("arr[0] = %d, arr[1] = %d, *p = %d",
                          arr[0], arr[1], *p);
    return 0;
}

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// PROGRAM 2
#include <stdio.h>
int main(void)
{
    int arr[] = {10, 20};
    int *p = arr;
    *p++;
    printf("arr[0] = %d, arr[1] = %d, *p = %d",
                          arr[0], arr[1], *p);
    return 0;
}

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// PROGRAM 3
#include <stdio.h>
int main(void)
{
    int arr[] = {10, 20};
    int *p = arr;
    *++p;
    printf("arr[0] = %d, arr[1] = %d, *p = %d"
                          arr[0], arr[1], *p);
    return 0;
}

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The output of above programs and all such programs can be easily guessed by remembering following simple rules about postfix ++, prefix ++ and * (dereference) operators
1) Precedence of prefix ++ and * is same. Associativity of both is right to left.
2) Precedence of postfix ++ is higher than both * and prefix ++. Associativity of postfix ++ is left to right.

(Refer: Precedence Table)

The expression ++*p has two operators of same precedence, so compiler looks for assoiativity. Associativity of operators is right to left. Therefore the expression is treated as ++(*p). Therefore the output of first program is “arr[0] = 11, arr[1] = 20, *p = 11“.

The expression *p++ is treated as *(p++) as the precedence of postfix ++ is higher than *. Therefore the output of second program is “arr[0] = 10, arr[1] = 20, *p = 20“.



The expression *++p has two operators of same precedence, so compiler looks for assoiativity. Associativity of operators is right to left. Therefore the expression is treated as *(++p). Therefore the output of third program is “arr[0] = 10, arr[1] = 20, *p = 20“.

Please write comments if you find anything incorrect, or you want to share more information about the topic discussed above.

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Improved By : srinam