# School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh

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1 CS1Ah Lecture Note 5 Java Expressions Many Java statements can contain expressions, which are program phrases that tell how to compute a data value. Expressions can involve arithmetic calculation and method invocation. For example: 1 + (3 * )/7 sum / Math.sqrt(2.1 * 4.3) Expressions are built from variable, method and field names like sum and Math.sqrt, and constants like 3 and 1.2. They are built using operators like + and *, and method calls like Math.sqrt(...) 1. Commonly expressions are used on the right-hand side of a variable assignment statement or an object field assignment statement. For example, when the statement obj.x = y + 1; is executed, the expression y + 1 is first evaluated to produce a number value that is one more than the value stored in variable y, and then this value is stored in the field x of the object obj. 5.1 Literals A literal, or constant, is the simplest kind of expression. Integer Literals Examples are: These integer literals are all of type int (32 bits). For long integers (64 bits), follow the number with a letter l or L. Integer literals can also be expressed in base 8 (octal) and base 16 (hexadecimal). Octal literals always start with a 0 (number zero). For example, the octal literal 0377 is = 255 in decimal. Hexadecimal literals start with 0x and use the letters 1 Math.sqrt is a method which computes the square root of its argument. 1

2 A F, or a f to represent digits with values 10 through 15 respectively. For example, the hexadecimal literal 0xA9 is = 169 in decimal. Octal and hexadecimal literals are useful when we are concerned with how numbers are represented in binary, the conventional representation used inside computers. An octal digit is represented using 3 bits and a hexadecimal digit using 4 bits. Floating-Point Number Literals Examples are: E5 1e-6 The last two floating-point numbers are in scientific format. For example: 1.234E5 is and 1e-6 is All the above floating-point numbers are of type double (double precision). For floating point numbers of type float (single precision), follow the number by a letter f or F. For example, 6.02e23f. String Literals Examples are: "" "abc" "\"cd" The character sequence \" is the way to include a double quote in the middle of a string. All string literals have type String. Boolean Literals The two boolean literals are: true false 5.2 Names Names are built from one or more identifiers separated by full-stop (.) characters. For example x Math.sqrt Identifiers name various entities in Java programs. Class, method, parameter and variable names are all identifiers. Identifiers usually start with a letter and contain only letters, digits and the underscore (_) symbol. They cannot contain any punctuation characters. 2

3 5.3 Arithmetic Operators Common arithmetic operators in Java are: Symbol Example Name - - a unary minus * a * b multiplication / a / b division % a % b remainder (mod) + a + b addition - a - b subtraction All these operators work on both integers and floating point numbers. The use of the - symbol for both the unary minus and subtraction operators doesn t cause confusion in practice. The meaning is always apparent from the immediate context in which it is used. 5.4 Fixedness of Operators Operators are sometimes classified by the position of the operator symbol relative to its arguments. A prefix operator is a unary (one argument) operator positioned before its argument. Unary minus is a prefix operator. An infix operator is a binary (two argument) operator positioned between its arguments. All the above binary operators are infix operators. A postfix operator is a unary (one argument) operator positioned after its argument. The post increment and post decrement operators discussed later are both postfix operators. 5.5 Precedence and Associativity The meaning of an expression built from prefix, infix and postfix operators can often seem ambiguous. Does: mean or a * b + c (a * b) + c a * (b + c)? 3

4 In Java, every expression has a unique meaning which can be determined by considering the precedence and associativity of each of the operators making up the expression. The precedence of an operator specifies how tightly it binds its argument(s). In each section of the above table of arithmetic operators, the operators have equal precedence, and the sections are ordered from higher to lower precedence. Because multiplication has higher precedence than addition, the meaning of a * b + c is: (a * b) + c. Precedence alone is not sufficient to resolve all ambiguities. A conflict occurs when two binary operators with equal precedence compete for the same argument. In the expression: a / b * c the operators / and * are both competing for the expression b. To resolve the conflict, we require that, for each collection of binary operators with equal precedence, either the operator on the left always wins or the operator on the right always wins. If the operator on the left always wins, we say that each binary operator is left associative. If the operator on the right always wins, each binary operator is right associative. All the binary arithmetic operators are left associative. For example, a / b * c should be read as: and read as: (a / b) * c a + b + c (a + b) + c. In Java, most operators are left associative. When programming, it is important that the addition operator have a specified associativity, even though in mathematics we always have that (x + y) + z = x + (y + z). The reason is that the evaluation of the expressions (a + b) + c and a + (b + c) in a program might produce different results because of rounding errors in floating point arithmetic or overflow in integer arithmetic. When operators are assigned precedences in the design of a programming language, all operators with the same precedence have the same fixedness. This avoids having to consider the case of say an infix operator competing with a prefix operator for an argument, or a prefix operator competing with a postfix operator. 4

5 5.6 Parenthesisation When building a larger expression from smaller expressions, it is legitimate to surround any of the smaller expressions with parentheses. This is useful when their absence would result in the Java compiler taking a different reading of the expression. For example, consider the expression (a + b) * c. Once expressions have 4 or more levels of parentheses, they can be become difficult to read. The precedences of operators in Java have been chosen to agree when they can with common mathematical practice, and to reduce the amount of parenthesization needed in common expressions. However, it is also difficult to memorise all the precedence and associativity information of operators. The careful use of parentheses, even when they are not strictly necessary. can improve the readability of expressions. 5.7 Syntax Trees The structure of an expression can most easily be seen if a syntax tree is constructed for it. For example, the syntax tree for the expression is - a * (b + c) * d * / \ * d / \ - + / \ a b c With a syntax tree, we can immediately understand the reading of an expression without having to consider precedences and associativities, and to figure out how parentheses match up. A syntax tree shows us how an expression is evaluated. Learning to draw syntax trees is a useful skill. In fact, one of the first tasks any Java compiler does when compiling a Java program is construct a syntax tree for the whole program. 5.8 Argument and Result Types of Operators Some operators accept just one type of each argument and have one result type. However most of the arithmetic operators correspond to different arithmetic operations, depending on the argument types. For example, if both arguments to + have type int, then the int addition operation is selected which computes an int value result. If both have type float, a float addition operation is chosen which computes a float result. This use of one operator for multiple operations is called overloading. 5

6 5.9 Conversions It is legitimate for each argument of a binary arithmetic operator to have a distinct numeric type. We can have the expression 2.2f + 3 adding a float and an int. What does Java do here? The answer is that it will first convert the int argument to a float and then use the float addition operator. In general Java can automatically change or convert a number from one number type to another when the conversion is possible with little or no loss in accuracy. Consider the list of number types: byte short int long float double Any number of some type in this list can be automatically converted to some type further down the list. The only potential loss in accuracy is when going from one of the integer types to one of the floating point types. Such conversions are sometimes called widening conversions because types further down the list are considered wider; they permit a larger range of values. Narrowing conversions to some type higher in the above list are never automatically supplied, but can be achieved by using casts, the topic of the next section. In general, if an arithmetic operator in Java is presented with arguments of different numeric types, the argument of narrower type is first converted to the type of the widertyped argument. The operation then selected is the one appropriate for the wider type. However Java has no arithmetic operation for adding bytes or shorts. If both arguments are bytes or shorts, Java will convert them both to ints, use an int operation, and return an int result Casts Not infrequently, situations arise when is useful to change the type of an expression when superficially there appears a possibility of the change going radically wrong, but for some reason it is known this will never happen. For example, we might have an int that we want to convert to a short and we know that the int is always between 0 and 100, so the change ought to be always possible. In these cases we can use a cast. The general form of a cast is (type) expression For example, (short) 50 6

7 Remember that integer literals are always ints unless they end in a letter l or L. A common cast is from a float to an int. In this case, Java rounds the float to the nearest integer towards zero. The cast expression (int) -3.2f evaluates to the integer Overflow and Underflow Overflow results when the mathematical result value of an arithmetic operation is too large to fit into the format of the return type. For example, the largest int has value The addition operation in the expression would overflow when evaluated. When overflow occurs in an integer operation, Java doesn t signal the fact in any way, and instead returns a value determined by the way binary arithmetic is implemented. For example, evaluates to , the largest negative int. The programmer is responsible for ensuring that overflow never occurs, or somehow explicitly detecting that it is about to occur. Each format for floating point numbers also has a maximum and minimum bound, and so floating point operations can also overflow. However, overflow of floating point operations results in special floating point values +infinity or -infinity. These usually propagate through further arithmetic operations and so floating point overflow is easier to detect. Floating point operations can also underflow, have a mathematical result value too small to be represented using the result type. In this case Java returns a floating point zero. Underflow is gradual in Java. If possible, a denormalised number (mantissa less than one, exponent set to the minimum exponent) is returned rather than zero Increment and Decrement Operators These unary operators are as follows: Symbol Example Name ++ x ++ post increment -- x -- post decrement x pre increment x pre decrement The post operators have higher precedence than the pre operators, and both have higher precedence than unary minus. The argument of these operators must be an expression that could occur on the left-hand side of an assignment, for example, a local variable of a method, or a field of an object. These are sometimes called assignable expressions. And the argument must be of some integer or floating point type. Both increment operators increase by one the value of the variable or object field they are applied to. The decrement operators decrease the values by one. The return 7

8 value of each of the pre operators is the value of the argument after incrementing or decrementing. The return value of each of the post operators is the value of the argument before incrementing or decrementing. These operators are different from the arithmetic operators considered previously in that they do more than simply calculate a return value from their arguments. This extra amount is often known as a side effect. Operators with side effects can be very useful, but they must be used with care, and can easily be confusing. For example, assume i is a variable of type int and consider the boolean valued expression ++i == ++i At first sight, this expression might seem obviously to have value true. However, Java evaluates operators in an expression one at a time moving left to right through the expression. If i started as 1, the left ++i would have return value 2 and the right one 3. In general the value of == would always be false Other Java Operators Operators not covered in this lecture include: Boolean operators. For example, & (and), (or). Various bit manipulation operators for integer values. Assignment (=). This often comes as a suprise. It is possible in Java to embed assignments within other expressions: for example: x = (y = z + 1) Is a valid expression in Java. However, this usage is seldom advised. Method invocation: method-name(method-args) + for concatenating (joining) strings. Certain expressions are allowable as statements. These include most importantly assignment expressions, but also any includes increment and decrement expressions (expressions in which an increment or decrement operator is outermost). Generally, it is only sensible to have expressions with side effects as statements, since nothing is done with the expression s return value when it is used as a statement Further Reading A summary of all Java s operators can be found in Appendix C of Deitel and Deitel s Java: How to Program (4th Ed) and the early part of Flanagan s Java in a Nutshell. Any decent Java book should have a similar summary. Note by Paul Jackson. David Aspinall, 2002/10/21 16:01:28. 8

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