C++ Programming Series: Pointers (Part 4, Last)

Too busy! Too busy! Don’t expect regular and weekly posts from me. I am studying medicine.

In the previous post, we discussed that pointers are actually arrays! This post is to discuss more about pointers, arrays and the arithmetic that can be done with them.

We can do addition and subtraction with pointers. Multiplication and division is not possible! Here is the code giving an example of pointer arithmetic (try to understand it deeply):

int array[] = {20, 30, 40, 50, 60};
int* pArray = array;

cout << *pArray << endl; //Prints 30, same as array[1]

cout << *pArray << endl; //Prints 40, same as array[2]

cout << pArray[2] << endl; //Prints 60, same as array[4]
//pArray[4] will give error or garbage value!

pArray -= 2;
cout << *pArray << endl; //Prints 20, same as array[0]

cout << pArray[4] << endl; //Prints 60. same as array[4]

When we increment a pointer of type int, the address is actually shifted by the number of bytes that an integer consists of. Similarly, when we increment a pointer of type string, the address is shifted 4 bytes forward. The opposite happens when we decrements a pointer.

Consider the code below:

string words[] = { "First", "Second", "Third", "Fourth", "Fifth" };

string* pWords = words;

Now, pWords is pointing towards the memory address of words[0] or “First”. If we add one into it:

pWords++; //or pWords += 1;

…then it will be shifted 4 bytes forwards to reach the next string of the array, words. Or in other words, pWords is now, equivalent to &words[1]. Now, if we subtract one from it, it will get to the same address as before.

C++ is a very flexible language. We can add the numbers into the pointer temporarily like pWords + 3. Now, if pWords is equivalent to &words[0], then pWords + 3 would give us the address equal to &words[3]. If we dereference this memory address, we will get the proper string value, “Fourth” like this:

string words[] = { "First", "Second", "Third", "Fourth", "Fifth" };
string* pWords = words;

//Adding temporarily for getting the memory address of the
//fourth element of array and dereferencing that memory
//address to get the value from there
cout << *(pWords + 3) << endl; //Prints "Fourth"

Isn’t that similar to that?

cout << pWords[3] << endl; //Prints "Fourth"

Yes, they are completely the same! What is happening with pWords[3] is the same as what is happening with *(pWords + 3).

That’s it! Your exercise is to find out what is the output of the code below (without checking it out in the compiler):

int array[] = { 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 };
int* pArray = array;

pArray += 5;
cout << pArray[3] << endl; //Output 1
pArray -= 3;
cout << pArray[4] << endl; //Output 2
cout << *pArray << endl; //Output 3
pArray + 2;
cout << *pArray << endl; //Output 4
pArray += 1;
cout << *(pArray + 1) << endl; //Output 5

That is all pointers for you. Congratulations! You learned the pointers! Time to step ahead…


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