The C++Course provides a general introduction to programming in C++. It is based on A.B. Downey's book, How to Think Like a Computer Scientist. Click here for details.

The "Address Of" Operator

Although declaring pointers and references look similar, assigning them is a whole different story. In C++, there is another operator that you'll get to know intimately, the "address of" operator, which is denoted by the ampersand & symbol. The "address of" operator does exactly what it says, it returns the "address of" a variable, a symbolic constant, or a element in an array, in the form of a pointer of the corresponding type. To use the "address of" operator, you tack it on in front of the variable that you wish to have the address of returned.

SOMETYPE* x = &sometype; // must be used as rvalue

Now, do not confuse the "address of" operator with the declaration of a reference. Because use of operators is restricted to rvalues, or to the right hand side of the equation, the compiler knows that &SOMETYPE is the "address of" operator being used to denote the return of the address of SOMETYPE as a pointer.

Furthermore, if you have a function which has a pointer as an argument, you may use the "address of" operator on a variable to which you have not already set a pointer to point. By doing this, you do not necessarily have to declare a pointer just so that it is used as an argument in a function, the "address of" operator returns a pointer and thus can be used in that case too.

  cout << *x << endl;

int main()


  return 0;

Last Update: 2005-12-05