C – Pointer 2017-08-07T14:13:40+00:00

Pointers :

Pointer is a variable that represents the location of a data item, such as variable or an array element. Within the computer’s memory, every stored data item occupies one or more contiguous memory cells. The number of memory cells required to store a data item depends on the type of the data item. For example, a single character will typically be stored in one byte of memory; an integer usually requires two contiguous bytes, a floating-point number usually requires four contiguous bytes, and a double precision usually requires eight contiguous bytes.

Suppose v is a variable that represents some particular data item. The compiler will automatically assign memory cells to this data item. The data item can then be accessed if we know the address of the first memory cell. The address of v’s memory location can be determined by the expression &v, where & is the unary operator, called the address operator, that evaluates the address of its operand.

Now let us assign the address of v to another variable pv. Thus pv = &v;
This new variable is called pointer to v. since it “points to” the location where v is stored in address, not its value. Thus pv is referred to as a pointer variable. The relationship between pv and v is illustrated in the following figure.

Address of V———–> Value of V

The data item represented by v. (i.e. the data item stored in v’s memory cells) can be accessed by the expression *pv where * is a unary operator called the indication operator, that operates only on a pointer variable. Therefore, *pv and v both represent the same data item.

The address operator (&) and indirection operator(*) are unary operators and they are the members of the same precedence group as the other unary operators. The address operator (&) must act upon operands that associated with unique address, such as ordinary variable or single array element. Thus the address operators cannot act upon arithmetic expressions. The indirection operator can only act upon operands that are pointers (e.g., pointer variables).

Pointer declaration :

Pointer variables, like all other variables, must be declared before, they may be used in C program. When a pointer variable is declared, the variable name must be preceded by an asterisk(*). This identifies the fact that the variable is a pointer. The data type that appears in the declaration refers to the object of the pointer. i.e. the data item that is stored in the address represented by the pointer, rather than the pointer itself. Thus a pointer declaration may be written in general terms as :

Data-type *ptr;

Where ptr is the name of the pointer variable, and data-type refers to the data type of the pointer object.

For example, a C program contains the following declarations.
int i,*ptri;
float f,*ptrf;

The first line declares i to be an integer type variable and ptri to be a pointer variable whose object is an integer quantity. The second line declares f to be a floating-point type variable and ptrf to be a pointer variable whose object is a floating point quantity.

Within a variable declaration, a pointer variable can be initialized by assigning in the address of another variable, remember that the variable whose address is assigned to the pointer variable must have been declared earlier in the program, for example,

int i;
int *ptri=&i;

The first line declares i to be integer type variable and the second line declares ptri to be a pointer variable whose object is an integer point quantity. In addition, the address of i is initially assigned to ptri.


Output :

Enter two numbers



Given numbers are 10 and 20

Address of a is ffee and that of b is fff0

Sum of 10 and 20 is 30

Operation possible with pointers :

C language allows arithmetic operations performed on pointer variables. The arithmetic operations available for use with pointer can be classified as

  • Unary operator: ++ (increment) and —
  • Binary operator; +(addition) and –(subtraction)

The size of pointer variable depends on the data type of the variable pointed to by the pointer.


If the pointer to an integer is incremented using the ++ operator, then the address contained in the pointer is incremented by two and not one, assuming that an integer occupies two bytes in memory. Similarly if the pointer points to a floating point variable the use of ++ operator increments the address by four. In general a pointer to some data type   d_type when incremented by an integer value i then the result will have the following value.

The following program illustrates this.


Output :

Enter the size of array


Enter 5 numbers






(ptr+0)=ffe0         *(ptr+0)=1

(ptr+1)=ffe2         *(ptr+1)=2

(ptr+2)=ffe4         *(ptr+2)=3

(ptr+3)=ffe6         *(ptr+3)=4

(ptr+4)=ffe8         *(ptr+4)=5

I think you have already studied functions, now let’s see how it works with pointers.

Output :

Enter two numbers



Sum of 10 and 20 is 30

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