Alternative operator representations

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Assignment operators: a=b, a+=b, a-=b, a*=b, a/=b, a%=b, a&=b, a|=b, a^=b, a<<=b, a>>=b
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Member access operators: a[b], *a, &a, a->b, a.b, a->*b, a.*b
Other operators: a(...), a,b, a?b:c
Alternative representations of operators
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C++ (and C) source code may be written in any non-ASCII 7-bit character set that includes the ISO 646:1983 invariant character set. However, several C++ operators and punctuators require characters that are outside of the ISO 646 codeset: {, }, [, ], #, \, ^, |, ~. To be able to use character encodings where some or all of these symbols do not exist (such as the German DIN 66003), C++ defines the following alternatives composed of ISO 646 compatible characters.

Alternative tokens

There are alternative spellings for several operators and other tokens that use non-ISO646 characters. In all respects of the language, each alternative token behaves exactly the same as its primary token, except for its spelling (the stringification operator can make the spelling visible). The two-letter alternative tokens are sometimes called "digraphs"

Primary Alternative
&& and
&= and_eq
& bitand
| bitor
~ compl
! not
!= not_eq
|| or
|= or_eq
^ xor
^= xor_eq
{ <%
} %>
[ <:
] :>
# %:
## %:%:

When the parser encounters the character sequence <:: and the subsequent character is neither : nor >, the < is treated as a preprocessing token by itself and not as the first character of the alternative token <:. Thus std::vector<::std::string> won't be wrongly treated as std::vector[:std::string>.

(since C++11)


The characters & and ! are invariant under ISO-646, but alternatives are provided for the tokens that use these characters anyway to accomodate even more restrictive historical charsets.

There is no alternative spelling (such as eq) for the equality operator == because the character = was present in all supported charsets.

Compatibility with C

The same words are defined in the C programming language in the include file <iso646.h> as macros. Because in C++ these are built into the language, the C++ version of <iso646.h>, as well as <ciso646>, does not define anything.

Trigraphs (until C++17)

The following three-character groups (trigraphs) are parsed before comments and string literals are recognized, and each appearance of a trigraph is replaced by the corresponding primary character:

Primary Trigraph
{ ??<
} ??>
[ ??(
] ??)
# ??=
\ ??/
^ ??'
| ??!
~ ??-

Because trigraphs are processed early, a comment such as // Will the next line be executed?????/ will effectively comment out the following line, and the string literal such as "Enter date ??/??/??" is parsed as "Enter date \\??".


and, and_eq, bitand, bitor, compl, not, not_eq, or, or_eq, xor, xor_eq


The following example demonstrates the use of several alternative tokens.

%:include <iostream>
int main(int argc, char *argv<::>) 
    if (argc > 1 and argv<:1:> not_eq NULL) <%
        std::cout << "Hello, " << argv<:1:> << '\n';

See also

C documentation for Alternative operator representations