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Nested Structure in C with Examples

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  • Last Updated : 07 Jan, 2022

Pre-requisite: Structures in C

A nested structure in C is a structure within structure. One structure can be declared inside another structure in the same way structure members are declared inside a structure.

Syntax:

struct name_1
{
    member1;
   member2;
   .
   .
   membern;

   struct name_2
   {
       member_1;
       member_2;
       .
       .
      member_n;
   }, var1
} var2;

The member of a nested structure can be accessed using the following syntax:

Variable name of Outer_Structure.Variable name of Nested_Structure.data member to access 

Example:

  • Consider there are two structures Employee (depended structure) and another structure called Organisation(Outer structure).
  • The structure Organisation has the data members like organisation_name,organisation_number.
  • The Employee structure is nested inside the structure Organisation and it has the data members like employee_id, name, salary.

For accessing the members of Organisation and Employee following syntax will be used:

org.emp.employee_id;
org.emp.name;
org.emp.salary;

org.organisation_name;
org.organisation_number;

Here, org is the structure variable of the outer structure Organisation and emp is the structure variable of the inner structure Employee.

Different ways of nesting structure

The structure can be nested in the following different ways:

  1. By separate nested structure
  2. By embedded nested structure.

1. By separate nested structure: In this method, the two structures are created, but the dependent structure(Employee) should be used inside the main structure(Organisation) as a member. Below is the C program to implement the approach:

C




// C program to implement 
// the above approach
#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
  
// Declaration of the 
// dependent structure
struct Employee
{
  int employee_id;
  char name[20];
  int salary;
};
  
// Declaration of the 
// Outer structure
struct Organisation 
{
  char organisation_name[20];
  char org_number[20];
    
  // Dependent structure is used 
  // as a member inside the main
  // structure for implementing 
  // nested structure
  struct Employee emp; 
};
  
// Driver code
int main()
{
  // Structure variable
  struct Organisation org; 
    
  // Print the size of organisation 
  // structure
  printf("The size of structure organisation : %ld\n"
          sizeof(org));
    
  org.emp.employee_id = 101;  
  strcpy(org.emp.name, "Robert");
  org.emp.salary = 400000;
  strcpy(org.organisation_name, 
         "GeeksforGeeks");
  strcpy(org.org_number, "GFG123768");
    
    
  // Printing the details
  printf("Organisation Name : %s\n"
          org.organisation_name);  
  printf("Organisation Number : %s\n"
          org.org_number);  
  printf("Employee id : %d\n"
          org.emp.employee_id);  
  printf("Employee name : %s\n"
          org.emp.name);  
  printf("Employee Salary : %d\n"
          org.emp.salary);  
}

Output:

The size of structure organisation : 68
Organisation Name : GeeksforGeeks
Organisation Number : GFG123768
Employee id : 101
Employee name : Robert
Employee Salary : 400000

2. By Embedded nested structure: Using this method, allows to declare structure inside a structure and it requires fewer lines of code. 

Case 1: Error will occur if the structure is present but the structure variable is missing.

C




// C program to implement 
// the above approach
#include <stdio.h>
  
// Declaration of the outer
// structure
struct Organisation 
{
  char organisation_name[20];
  char org_number[20];
    
  // Declaration of the employee
  // structure
  struct Employee 
  {
    int employee_id;
    char name[20];
    int salary;
      
  // This line will cause error because 
  // datatype struct Employee is present ,
  // but Structure variable is missing.
  }; 
};
  
// Driver code
int main()
{
  // Structure variable of organisation
  struct Organisation org;
  printf("%ld", sizeof(org));
}

Output:

Error

Note:

Whenever an embedded nested structure is created, the variable declaration is compulsory at the end of the inner structure, which acts as a member of the outer structure. It is compulsory that the structure variable is created at the end of the inner structure. 

Case 2: When the structure variable of the inner structure is declared at the end of the inner structure. Below is the C program to implement this approach:

C




// C program to implement
// the above approach
#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
  
// Declaration of the main
// structure
struct Organisation 
{
  char organisation_name[20];
  char org_number[20];
    
  // Declaration of the dependent
  // structure
  struct Employee 
  {
    int employee_id;
    char name[20];
    int salary;
      
  // variable is created which acts 
  // as member to Organisation structure.
  } emp; 
};
  
// Driver code
int main()
{
  struct Organisation org;
    
  // Print the size of organisation 
  // structure
  printf("The size of structure organisation : %ld\n"
          sizeof(org));
    
  org.emp.employee_id = 101;  
  strcpy(org.emp.name, "Robert");
  org.emp.salary = 400000;
  strcpy(org.organisation_name, 
         "GeeksforGeeks");
  strcpy(org.org_number, "GFG123768");
    
    
  // Printing the details
  printf("Organisation Name : %s\n"
          org.organisation_name);  
  printf("Organisation Number : %s\n"
          org.org_number);  
  printf("Employee id : %d\n"
          org.emp.employee_id);  
  printf("Employee name : %s\n"
          org.emp.name);  
  printf("Employee Salary : %d\n"
          org.emp.salary);  
}

Output:

The size of structure organisation : 68
Organisation Name : GeeksforGeeks
Organisation Number : GFG123768
Employee id : 101
Employee name : Robert
Employee Salary : 400000

Drawback of Nested Structure

The drawback in nested structures are:

  • Independent existence not possible: It is important to note that structure Employee doesn’t exist on its own. One can’t declare structure variable of type struct Employee anywhere else in the program.
  • Cannot be used in multiple data structures: The nested structure cannot be used in multiple structures due to the limitation of declaring structure variables within the main structure. So, the most recommended way is to use a separate structure and it can be used in multiple data structures

C Nested Structure Example

Below is another example of a C nested structure.

C




// C program to implement 
// the nested structure
#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
  
// Declaration of Outer structure
struct College 
{
  char college_name[20];
  int ranking;
    
  // Declaration of Inner structure
  struct Student 
  {
    int student_id;
    char name[20];
    int roll_no;
      
  // Inner structure variable
  } student1;
}; 
  
  
// Driver code
int main()
{
  struct College c1 = {"GeeksforGeeks", 7,
                      {111, "Paul", 278}};
  
  printf("College name : %s\n"
          c1.college_name);
  printf("Ranking : %d\n"
          c1.ranking);
  printf("Student id : %d\n"
          c1.student1.student_id);
  printf("Student name : %s\n"
          c1.student1.name);
  printf("Roll no : %d\n"
          c1.student1.roll_no);
  return 0;
}

Output:

College name : GeeksforGeeks
Ranking : 7
Student id : 111
Student name : Paul
Roll no : 278

Note:

Nesting of structure within itself is not allowed. 

Example:

struct student
{

    char name[50];

    char address[100];

    int roll_no;

    struct student geek; // Invalid

}

Passing nested structure to function

A nested structure can be passed into the function in two ways:

  1. Pass the nested structure variable at once.
  2. Pass the nested structure members as an argument into the function.

Let’s discuss each of these ways in detail.

1. Pass the nested structure variable at once: Just like other variables, a nested structure variable can also be passed to the function. Below is the C program to implement this concept:

C




// C program to implement
// the above approach
#include <stdio.h>
  
// Declaration of the inner 
// structure
struct Employee 
{
  int employee_id;
  char name[20];
  int salary;
};
  
// Declaration of the Outer 
// structure
struct Organisation 
{
  char organisation_name[20];
  char org_number[20];
    
  // Nested structure
  struct Employee emp; 
};
  
// Function show is expecting 
// variable of outer structure
void show(struct Organisation);
  
// Driver code
int main()
{
  struct Organisation org = {"GeeksforGeeks", "GFG111",
                            {278, "Paul",5000}};
    
  // Organisation structure variable 
  // is passed to function show
  show(org);
}
  
// Function shoe definition
void show(struct Organisation org )
{
  // Printing the details
  printf("Printing the Details :\n"); 
  printf("Organisation Name : %s\n"
          org.organisation_name);  
  printf("Organisation Number : %s\n"
          org.org_number);  
  printf("Employee id : %d\n"
          org.emp.employee_id);  
  printf("Employee name : %s\n"
          org.emp.name);  
  printf("Employee Salary : %d\n"
          org.emp.salary);  
}

Output:

Printing the Details :
Organisation Name : GeeksforGeeks
Organisation Number : GFG111
Employee id : 278
Employee name : Paul
Employee Salary : 5000

2. Pass the nested structure members as arguments into the function: Consider the following example to pass the structure member of the employee to a function display() which is used to display the details of an employee.

C




// C program to implement
// the above approach
#include <stdio.h>
  
// Declaration of the inner 
// structure
struct Employee 
{
  int employee_id;
  char name[20];
  int salary;
};
  
// Declaration of the Outer 
// structure
struct Organisation 
{
  char organisation_name[20];
  char org_number[20];
    
  // Nested structure
  struct Employee emp; 
};
  
// Function show is expecting 
// members of both structures
void show(char organisation_name[], 
          char org_number[],
          int employee_id, 
          char name[], int salary);
  
// Driver code
int main()
{
  struct Organisation org = {"GeeksforGeeks", "GFG111",
                            {278, "Paul",5000}};
    
  // Data members of both the structures
  // are passed to the function show
  show(org.organisation_name, org.org_number,
       org.emp.employee_id, org.emp.name,
       org.emp.salary);
}
  
// Function show definition
void show(char organisation_name[], 
          char org_number[],
          int employee_id, 
          char name[], int salary)
{
  // Printing the details
  printf("Printing the Details :\n"); 
  printf("Organisation Name : %s\n"
          organisation_name);  
  printf("Organisation Number : %s\n"
          org_number);  
  printf("Employee id : %d\n"
          employee_id);  
  printf("Employee name : %s\n"
          name);  
  printf("Employee Salary : %d\n"
          salary);  
}

Output:

Printing the Details :
Organisation Name : GeeksforGeeks
Organisation Number : GFG111
Employee id : 278
Employee name : Paul
Employee Salary : 5000

Accessing Nested Structure

Nested Structure can be accessed in two ways:

  1. Using Normal variable.
  2. Using Pointer variable.

Let’s discuss each of these methods in detail.

1. Using Normal variable: Outer and inner structure variables are declared as normal variables and the data members of the outer structure are accessed using a single dot(.) and the data members of the inner structure are accessed using the two dots. Below is the C program to implement this concept:

C




// C program to implement
// the above approach
#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
  
// Declaration of inner structure
struct college_details
{
  int college_id;
  char college_name[50];
    
};
  
// Declaration of Outer structure
struct student_detail
{
  int student_id;
  char student_name[20];
  float cgpa;
    
  // Inner structure variable
  struct college_details clg;
} stu;
  
// Driver code
int main()
{
  struct student_detail stu = {12, "Kathy", 7.8, 
                              {14567, "GeeksforGeeks"}};
    
  // Printing the details
  printf("College ID : %d \n", stu.clg.college_id);
  printf("College Name : %s \n", stu.clg.college_name);
  printf("Student ID : %d \n", stu.student_id);
  printf("Student Name : %s \n", stu.student_name);
  printf("Student CGPA : %f \n", stu.cgpa);
  return 0;
}

Output:

College ID : 14567  
College Name : GeeksforGeeks  
Student ID : 12  
Student Name : Kathy  
Student CGPA : 7.800000 

2. Using Pointer variable: One normal variable and one pointer variable of the structure are declared to explain the difference between the two. In the case of the pointer variable, a combination of dot(.) and arrow(->) will be used to access the data members. Below is the C program to implement the above approach:

C




// C program to implement
// the above approach
#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
  
// Declaration of inner structure
struct college_details
{
  int college_id;
  char college_name[50];
    
};
  
// Declaration of Outer structure
struct student_detail
{
  int student_id;
  char student_name[20];
  float cgpa;
    
  // Inner structure variable
  struct college_details clg;
} stu, *stu_ptr;
  
// Driver code
int main()
{
  struct student_detail stu = {12, "Kathy", 7.8, 
                              {14567, "GeeksforGeeks"}};
    
  stu_ptr = &stu;
    
  // Printing the details
  printf("College ID : %d \n", stu_ptr->clg.college_id);
  printf("College Name : %s \n", stu_ptr->clg.college_name);
  printf("Student ID : %d \n", stu_ptr->student_id);
  printf("Student Name : %s \n", stu_ptr->student_name);
  printf("Student CGPA : %f \n", stu_ptr->cgpa);
  return 0;
}

Output:

College ID : 14567  
College Name : GeeksforGeeks  
Student ID : 12  
Student Name : Kathy  
Student CGPA : 7.800000 

A nested structure will allow the creation of complex data types according to the requirements of the program.


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