C Operator Precedence

The following table lists the precedence and associativity of C operators. Operators are listed top to bottom, in descending precedence.

Precedence Operator Description Associativity
1 ++ -- Suffix/postfix increment and decrement Left-to-right
() Function call
[] Array subscripting
. Structure and union member access
-> Structure and union member access through pointer
(type){list} Compound literal(C99)
2 ++ -- Prefix increment and decrement Right-to-left
+ - Unary plus and minus
! ~ Logical NOT and bitwise NOT
(type) Type cast
* Indirection (dereference)
& Address-of
sizeof Size-of
_Alignof Alignment requirement(C11)
3 * / % Multiplication, division, and remainder Left-to-right
4 + - Addition and subtraction
5 << >> Bitwise left shift and right shift
6 < <= For relational operators < and ≤ respectively
> >= For relational operators > and ≥ respectively
7 == != For relational = and ≠ respectively
8 & Bitwise AND
9 ^ Bitwise XOR (exclusive or)
10 | Bitwise OR (inclusive or)
11 && Logical AND
12 || Logical OR
13[note 1] ?: Ternary conditional[note 2] Right-to-Left
14 = Simple assignment
+= -= Assignment by sum and difference
*= /= %= Assignment by product, quotient, and remainder
<<= >>= Assignment by bitwise left shift and right shift
&= ^= |= Assignment by bitwise AND, XOR, and OR
15 , Comma Left-to-right
  1. Fictional precedence level, see Notes below
  2. The expression in the middle of the conditional operator (between ? and :) is parsed as if parenthesized: its precedence relative to ?: is ignored.

When parsing an expression, an operator which is listed on some row will be bound tighter (as if by parentheses) to its arguments than any operator that is listed on a row further below it. For example, the expression *p++ is parsed as *(p++), and not as (*p)++.

Operators that are in the same cell (there may be several rows of operators listed in a cell) are evaluated with the same precedence, in the given direction. For example, the expression a=b=c is parsed as a=(b=c), and not as (a=b)=c because of right-to-left associativity.


Precedence and associativity are independent from order of evaluation.

The C language standard doesn't specify operator precedence. It specifies the language grammar, and the precedence table is derived from it to simplify understanding. There is a part of the grammar that cannot be represented by a precedence table: an assignment-expression is not allowed as the right hand operand of a conditional operator, so e = a < d ? a++ : a = d is an expression that cannot be parsed, and therefore relative precedence of conditional and assignment operators cannot be described easily.

However, many C compilers use non-standard expression grammar where ?: is designated higher precedence than =, which parses that expression as e = ( ((a < d) ? (a++) : a) = d ), which then fails to compile due to semantic constraints: ?: is never lvalue and = requires a modifiable lvalue on the left. This is the table presented on this page.

Note that this is different in C++, where the conditional operator has the same precedence as assignment.

Associativity specification is redundant for unary operators and is only shown for completeness: unary prefix operators always associate right-to-left (sizeof ++*p is sizeof(++(*p))) and unary postfix operators always associate left-to-right (a[1][2]++ is ((a[1])[2])++). Note that the associativity is meaningful for member access operators, even though they are grouped with unary postfix operators: a.b++ is parsed (a.b)++ and not a.(b++).


  • C11 standard (ISO/IEC 9899:2011):
    • A.2.1 Expressions
  • C99 standard (ISO/IEC 9899:1999):
    • A.2.1 Expressions
  • C89/C90 standard (ISO/IEC 9899:1990):
    • A.1.2.1 Expressions

See Also

Order of evaluation of operator arguments at run time.

Common operators
assignment increment
arithmetic logical comparison member

a = b a += b a -= b a *= b a /= b a %= b a &= b a |= b a ^= b a <<= b a >>= b.

++a --a a++ a--

+a -a a + b a - b a * b a / b a % b ~a a & b a | b a ^ b a << b a >> b.

!a a && b a || b.

a == b a != b a < b a > b a <= b a >= b.

a[b] *a &a a->b a.b.

a(...) a, b (type) a ? : sizeof _Alignof (since C11).

C++ documentation for C++ operator precedence

© cppreference.com
Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike Unported License v3.0.