8.1 Macro Definition (#define and #undef)

The #define directive specifies a macro identifier and a replacement list, and terminates with a new-line character. The replacement list, a sequence of preprocessing tokens, is substituted for every subsequent occurrence of that macro identifier in the program text, unless the identifier occurs inside a character constant, a comment, or a literal string. The #undef directive is used to cancel a definition for a macro.

A macro definition is independent of block structure, and is in effect from the #define directive that defines it until either a corresponding #undef directive or the end of the compilation unit is encountered.

The #define directive has the following syntax:

#define identifier replacement-list newline
#define identifier ( identifier-list(opt) )
replacement-list newline

If the replacement-list is empty, subsequent occurrences of the identifier are deleted from the source file.

The first form of the #define directive is called an object-like macro. The second form is called a function-like macro.

The #undef directive has the following syntax:

#undef identifier newline

This directive cancels a previous definition of the identifier by #define . Redefining a macro previously defined is not legal, unless the new definition is precisely the same as the old.

The replacement list in the macro definition, as well as arguments in a function-like macro reference, can contain other macro references. DEC C does not limit the depth to which such references can be nested.

For a given macro definition, any macro names contained in the replacement list are themselves replaced by their currently specified replacement lists. If a macro name being defined is contained in its own replacement list or in a nested replacement list, it is not replaced. These nonreplaced macro names are then no longer available for further replacement, even if they are later examined in contexts in which they would otherwise be replaced.

The following example shows nested #define directives:

/*  Show multiple substitutions and listing format. */

#define  AUTHOR  james + LAST

   int writer,james,michener,joyce;

   #define LAST michener
   writer = AUTHOR;
   #undef LAST
   #define LAST joyce
   writer = AUTHOR;

After this example is compiled with the appropriate options to show intermediate macro expansions, the following listing results:

    1            /* Show multiple substitutions and listing format. */
    3            #define AUTHOR james + LAST
    5            main()
    6            {
    7              int writer, james, michener, joyce;
    9              #define LAST michener
   10              writer = AUTHOR;
   10.1                     james + LAST
   10.2                     michener

   11              #undef LAST
   12              #define LAST joyce
   13              writer = AUTHOR;
   13.1                     james + LAST
   13.2                     joyce
   14            }

On the first pass, the compiler replaces the identifier AUTHOR with the replacement list james + LAST . On the second pass, the compiler replaces the identifier LAST with its currently defined replacement list value. At line 9, the replacement list value for LAST is the identifier michener , so michener is substituted at line 10. At line 12, the replacement list value for LAST is redefined to be the identifier joyce , so joyce is substituted at line 13.

The #define directive may be continued onto subsequent lines if necessary. To do this, end each line to be continued with a backslash (\) immediately followed by a new-line character. The backslash and new-line characters do not become part of the definition. The first character in the next line is logically adjacent to the character that immediately precedes the backslash. The backslash/newline as a continuation sequence is valid anywhere. However, comments within the definition line can be continued without the backslash/newline.

If you plan to port programs to and from other C implementations, take care in choosing which macro definitions to use within your programs, because some implementations define different macros than others.

8.1.1 Object-Like Form

A preprocessing directive of the following form defines an object- like macro that causes each subsequent occurrence of the macro name to be replaced by the replacement list:

#define identifier replacement-list newline

An object like macro may be redefined by another #define directive provided that the second definition is an object-like macro definition and the two replacement lists are identical. This means that two files, each with a definition of a certain macro, must be consistent in that definition.

The object-like form of macro definition defines a descriptive name for a frequently used token. A common use of the directive is to define the end-of-file (EOF ) indicator as follows:

#define  EOF  (-1)

8.1.2 Function-Like Form

The function-like form of macro definition includes a list of parameters. References to such macros look like function calls. When a function is called, control passes from the program to the function at run time; when a macro is referenced, source code is inserted into the program at compile time. The parameters are replaced by the corresponding arguments, and the text is inserted into the program stream.

If the replacement list is omitted from the macro definition, the entire macro reference disappears from the source text.

The library macro _toupper , available on some systems in the ctype.h header file, is a good example of macro replacement. This macro is defined as follows:

#define  _toupper(c)  ((c) >= 'a'  &&  (c) <= 'z'  ? (c) & 0X5F : (c))

When the macro _toupper is referenced, the compiler replaces the macro and its parameter with the replacement list from the directive, substituting the argument of the macro reference for each occurrence of the parameter (c in this case) in the replacement list.

The replacement list of C source code can be translated in the following manner: if parameter c is a lowercase letter (between 'a' and 'z' ), the expression evaluates to an uppercase letter (c & 0X5F ); otherwise, it evaluates to the character as specified. This replacement list uses the if-then-else conditional operator (?: ). For more information about the conditional operator, see Section 6.6. For more information about the bitwise operators, see Section 6.5.6. Rules for Specifying Macro Definitions

Preprocessor directives and macro references have syntax that is independent of the C language. Follow these rules when specifying macro definitions: Rules for Specifying Macro References

Follow these rules when specifying macro references: Side Effects in Macro Arguments

It is not good programming practice to specify macro arguments that use the increment (++), decrement (- -), and assignment operators (such as +=) or other arguments that can cause side effects. For example, do not pass the following argument to the _toupper macro:


When the argument p++ is substituted in the macro definition, the effect within the program stream is as follows:

((p++) >= 'a' && (p++) <= 'z' ? (p++) & 0X5F : (p++))

Because p is being incremented, it does not have the same value for each occurrence in this macro replacement. Even if you are aware of possible side effects, the replacement lists within macro definitions can be changed, which changes the side effects without warning.

8.1.3 Conversions to String Literals (#)

The # preprocessor operator is used to convert the argument that follows it to a string literal. The preprocessor operator # can be used only in a function-like macro definition. For example:

#include <stdio.h>

#define PR(id) printf("The value of " #id " is %d\n", id)

 int i = 10;


The output produced is:

The value of i is 10

The macro call expands in the following steps:

/*1*/  printf("The value of " #id " is %d\n", id)
/*2*/  printf("The value of " "i" " is %d\n", 10)
/*3*/  printf("The value of i is %d\n", 10)

The unary # operator produces a string from its operand. This example also uses the fact that adjacent string literals are concatenated. If the operand to # contains double quotes or escape sequences, they are also expanded. For example:

#include <stdio.h>

#define M(arg) printf(#arg " is %s\n", arg)


The macro call expands using the following steps:

/*1*/  printf(#arg " is %s\n", arg)
/*2*/  printf("\"a\\nb\\tc\"" " is %s\n", "a\nb\tc");
/*3*/  printf("\"a\\nb\\tc\" is %s\n", "a\nb\tc");

8.1.4 Token Concatenation(##)

The ## preprocessor operator is used to concatenate two tokens into a third valid token, as in the following example:

#define glue(a,b) a ## b

int wholenum = 5000;

printf("%d", glue(whole,num));

The preprocessor converts the line printf("%d", glue(whole,num)); into printf("%d", wholenum); , and when executed, the program prints 5000. If the result is not a valid token, an error occurs when the tokens are concatenated.

In DEC C, the ## operator is evaluated before any # operators on the line. ## and # operators group left-to-right.

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