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C Pointer to Pointer, Pointer to Functions,
Array of Pointers Explained with Examples
by Himanshu Arora on January 27, 2012
In C programming anguage, the concept o! pointers is the most po"er!u concept that makes
C stan# apart !rom other programming anguages$ In the part%I o! this series "e #iscusse# the
!un#amenta concepts aroun# C pointers$
In this artice, "e "i try to #e&eop un#erstan#ing o! some o! the reati&ey compe' concepts$
(he !oo"ing are e'paine# in this artice "ith e'ampes)
1$ Constant pointer an# pointer to constant$
2$ *ointer to pointer "ith an e'ampe
+$ Array o! pointers "ith an e'ampe
,$ *ointer to !unctions "ith an e'ampe
1. C Constant Pointer and Pointer to Constant
As a #e&eoper, you shou# un#erstan# the #i!!erence bet"een constant pointer an# pointer to
constant$
C Constant pointer
A pointer is sai# to be constant pointer "hen the a##ress its pointing to cannot be change#$
-ets take an e'ampe )
char ch, c;
char *ptr = &ch
ptr = &c
In the abo&e e'ampe "e #e!ine# t"o characters ./ch0 an# /c01 an# a character pointer /ptr0$ First,
the pointer /ptr0 containe# the a##ress o! /ch0 an# in the ne't ine it containe# the a##ress o! /c0$
In other "or#s, "e can say that Initiay /ptr0 pointe# to /ch0 an# then it pointe# to /c0$
But in case o! a constant pointer, once a pointer ho#s an a##ress, it cannot change it$ (his
means a constant pointer, i! area#y pointing to an a##ress, cannot point to a ne" a##ress$
I! "e see the e'ampe abo&e, then i! /ptr0 "ou# ha&e been a constant pointer, then the thir# ine
"ou# ha&e not been &ai#$
A constant pointer is #ecare# as )
<type-of-pointer> *const <name-of-pointer>
For e'ampe )
#include<stdio.h>
int main(void)

char ch = !c!;
char c = !a!;
char *const ptr = &ch; "" # constant pointer
ptr = &c; "" $ryin% to assi%n ne& address to a constant pointer. '()*+,,,,
return -;
.
2hen the co#e abo&e is compie#, compier gi&es the !oo"ing error )
/ %cc -'all constptr.c -o constptr
constptr.c0 1n function 2main30
constptr.c040 error0 assi%nment of read-only varia5le 2ptr3
So "e see that, as e'pecte#, compier thro"s an error since "e trie# to change the a##ress he#
by constant pointer$
3o", "e shou# be cear "ith this concept$ -ets mo&e on$
C Pointer to Constant
(his concept is easy to un#erstan# as the name simpi!ies the concept$ 4es, as the name itse!
suggests, this type o! pointer cannot change the &aue at the a##ress pointe# by it$
-ets un#erstan# this through an e'ampe )
char ch = !c!;
char *ptr = &ch
*ptr = !a!;
In the abo&e e'ampe, "e use# a character pointer /ptr0 that points to character /ch0$ In the ast
ine, "e change the &aue at a##ress pointer by /ptr0$ But i! this "ou# ha&e been a pointer to a
constant, then the ast ine "ou# ha&e been in&ai# because a pointer to a constant cannot change
the &aue at the a##ress its pointing to$
A pointer to a constant is #ecare# as )
const <type-of-pointer> *<name-of-pointer>;
For e'ampe )
#include<stdio.h>
int main(void)

char ch = !c!;
const char *ptr = &ch; "" # constant pointer !ptr! pointin% to !ch!
*ptr = !a!;"" '()*+,,, 6annot chan%e the value at address pointed 5y
!ptr!.
return -;
.
2hen the abo&e co#e "as compie#, compier ga&e the !oo"ing error )
/ %cc -'all ptr7const.c -o ptr7const
ptr7const.c0 1n function 2main30
ptr7const.c080 error0 assi%nment of read-only location 2*ptr3
So no" "e kno" the reason behin# the error abo&e ie "e cannot change the &aue pointe# to by
a constant pointer$
2. C Pointer to Pointer
(i no" "e ha&e use# or earne# pointer to a #ata type ike character, integer etc$ But in this
section "e "i earn about pointers pointing to pointers$
As the #e!inition o! pointer says that its a specia &ariabe that can store the a##ress o! an other
&ariabe$ (hen the other &ariabe can &ery "e be a pointer$ (his means that its per!ecty ega !or
a pointer to be pointing to another pointer$
-ets suppose "e ha&e a pointer /p15 that points to yet another pointer /p25 that points to a
character /ch0$ In memory, the three &ariabes can be &isuai6e# as )
So "e can see that in memory, pointer p1 ho#s the a##ress o! pointer p2$ *ointer p2 ho#s the
a##ress o! character /ch0$
So /p25 is pointer to character /ch0, "hie /p15 is pointer to /p25 or "e can aso say that /p25 is a
pointer to pointer to character /ch0$
3o", in co#e /p25 can be #ecare# as )
char *p7 = &ch;
But /p15 is #ecare# as )
char **p9 = &p7;
So "e see that /p15 is a #oube pointer .ie pointer to a pointer to a character1 an# hence the t"o
7s in #ecaration$
3o",
/p15 is the a##ress o! /p25 ie 8000
/7p15 is the &aue he# by /p25 ie 9000
/77p15 is the &aue at 9000 ie /c0
I think that shou# pretty much cear the concept, ets take a sma e'ampe )
#include<stdio.h>
int main(void)

char **ptr = *:;;;


char *p = *:;;;
char c = !d!;
p = &c;
ptr = &p;
printf(<=n c = >?c@=n<,c);
printf(<=n *p = >?c@=n<,*p);
printf(<=n **ptr = >?c@=n<,**ptr);
return -;
.
Here is the output )
/ ."dou5leptr
c = >d@
*p = >d@
**ptr = >d@
3. C Array of Pointers
Just ike array o! integers or characters, there can be array o! pointers too$
An array o! pointers can be #ecare# as )
<type> *<name>><num5er-of-elements@;
For e'ampe )
char *ptr>A@;
(he abo&e ine #ecares an array o! three character pointers$
-ets take a "orking e'ampe )
#include<stdio.h>
int main(void)

char *p9 = <Bimanshu<;


char *p7 = <#rora<;
char *pA = <1ndia<;
char *arr>A@;
arr>-@ = p9;
arr>9@ = p7;
arr>7@ = pA;
printf(<=n p9 = >?s@ =n<,p9);
printf(<=n p7 = >?s@ =n<,p7);
printf(<=n pA = >?s@ =n<,pA);
printf(<=n arr>-@ = >?s@ =n<,arr>-@);
printf(<=n arr>9@ = >?s@ =n<,arr>9@);
printf(<=n arr>7@ = >?s@ =n<,arr>7@);
return -;
.
In the abo&e co#e, "e took three pointers pointing to three strings$ (hen "e #ecare# an array
that can contain three pointers$ 2e assigne# the pointers /p15, /p25 an# /p+5 to the 0,1 an# 2 in#e'
o! array$ -et0s see the output )
/ ."arrayofptr
p9 = >Bimanshu@
p7 = >#rora@
pA = >1ndia@
arr>-@ = >Bimanshu@
arr>9@ = >#rora@
arr>7@ = >1ndia@
So "e see that array no" ho#s the a##ress o! strings$
4. C Function Pointers
Just ike pointer to characters, integers etc, "e can ha&e pointers to !unctions$
A !unction pointer can be #ecare# as )
<return type of function> (*<name of pointer>) (type of function ar%uments)
For e'ampe )
int (*fptr)(int, int)
(he abo&e ine #ecares a !unction pointer /!ptr0 that can point to a !unction "hose return type is
/int0 an# takes t"o integers as arguments$
-ets take a "orking e'ampe )
#include<stdio.h>
int func (int a, int 5)

printf(<=n a = ?d=n<,a);
printf(<=n 5 = ?d=n<,5);
return -;
.
int main(void)

int(*fptr)(int,int); "" Cunction pointer


fptr = func; "" #ssi%n address to function pointer
func(7,A);
fptr(7,A);
return -;
.
In the abo&e e'ampe, "e #e!ine# a !unction /!unc0 that takes t"o integers as inputs an# returns
an integer$ In the main.1 !unction, "e #ecare a !unction pointer /!ptr0 an# then assign &aue to it$
3ote that, name o! the !unction can be treate# as starting a##ress o! the !unction so "e can assign
the a##ress o! !unction to !unction pointer using !unction0s name$ -ets see the output )
/ ."fptr
a = 7
5 = A
a = 7
5 = A
So !rom the output "e see that caing the !unction through !unction pointer pro#uces the same
output as caing the !unction !rom its name$
(o concu#e, in this artice "e touche# some o! the a#&ance# concepts reate# to pointers$ (here
can be some interesting probems reate# to pointers, "hich "e might co&er in some !uture
artice$
: A## your comment
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A##%Ens
F 91 commentsG rea# them beo" or a## one H
1 cee January 27, 2012 at +),+ am
Hi,
(his artice is so goo#, I "i print it out !or my apprentice .an# myse!1$
It "ou# be nice i! this bog ha# a /print this site "ith a pictures an# the "hoe
!ormatting0 option$
Best Degar#s,
cee
2 Himanshu January 27, 2012 at ,)19 am
Icee
(hanks<<<
+ =akis January 27, 2012 at J),0 am
Cery nice e'ampes$ ;oo# "ork< I beie&e it "ou# aso be nice to co&er some #ynamic
memory !un#amentas using pointers .ie #ynamic singe an# t"o%#imensiona arrays1$
Aso consi#er the possibiity o! co&ering this #ynamic memory tutoria not ony !or C but
aso !or the CKK anguage$
, apo January 27, 2012 at 12)12 pm
4eah < you0&e "rote it as you sai# be!ore the en# o! Lanuary (hanks a ot !or this artice
an# your site in genera$
8 Jay January 2M, 2012 at ,)20 am
(he artice is &ery nice$$an# use!u as "e$
I! the uses mentione# then it "ou# be more an# more hep!u$
J Baakrishnan = February J, 2012 at 12),, am
Ceary e'paine#$$ ?se!u one <<
7 #i&ya =arch 29, 2012 at 9)+8 am
e'panation an# artice both are &ery nice GG$$)1
9 priya Apri 18, 2012 at 2),8 am
thnk u so much$$i!or gi&ing such #i!!icut concept in a nice mannerG
M raL =ay 1M, 2012 at 12)27 pm
goo# e'panation "ith e'ampesGGGGG$$<<<thanks
10 Ae& June +, 2012 at 7),+ am
A"esome artice $ hope "i get a#&ance artice aso $$
(hanks a ot$ Deay appreciate ur e!!ort
11 =a' stee June 9, 2012 at 12),9 pm
A"esome "ork manG<<< I be gaine# my com!ort e&e "i# ptr by ur articeGthanks$$
12 Anonymous June 1,, 2012 at ,)8+ pm
;reat artice, it containe# great #etai an# simpe e'panations o! pointers$
(hanks$
1+ sama#han Juy 8, 2012 at 7)87 am
u ha&e e'pain the concept in nicey in manner,
easy to un#erstan#
1, 6ah Juy 2,, 2012 at ,)12 am
(hanks !or this artice mayn<< reay use!u< I think I got "hat i nee#e# !or my inter&ie"<<
(hanks,
Best regar#s<<
18 sony Juy 2J, 2012 at +)28 am
hiiiiiiii
this artice is reay goo# it heps us ot in un#erstna#ing pointer an# its "orking
(hanks$
1J shari Juy 2J, 2012 at 8)+7 am
simpe an# cean<
17 BB Juy +0, 2012 at 12)+J am
?se!u peace o! in!o
19 3agaraLan August 1, 2012 at 10),9 am
I ha&e earnt so much !rom geekstu!! especiay this ma#e pointer concepts &ery cear<<
(hank you
1M Sye# Sharee! Ai August 10, 2012 at 1)18 am
A"esome<<<GCery goo# artice "ith cear in!ormation$
-ike to kno" !e" more a#&ance# topics$<<*ease point the simiar inks$
20 Nrishnakumar gupta August 17, 2012 at ,)22 am
Hi
(his Artica is &ery goo# an# easy to un#erstan#
i "ant to kno" more a#&ance concepts o! pointer
i! you ha&e pease sen# me on my emaii#
21 =ayank August 22, 2012 at 11)+J pm
Can you pease suggest some goo# book to go into more #etai o! un#erstan#ing an#
"orking on pointersO
22 aa August +0, 2012 at 12)12 am
concept is #escribe#n in &ery simpe "ay i ike it
2+ =ihai bairac September 8, 2012 at 8)20 am
;reat artice< (hank you<
2, kapana b September 1,, 2012 at J)0J am
(his artice is easy to un#erstan# an# &ery hep!uG
(hanks a ot<<
28 DanLith Numar September 21, 2012 at 7)++ am
Pincu#e
int main.&oi#1
F
char 77ptrQ3?--R
char 7pQ3?--R
char cQS#SR
pQTcR
ptrQTpR
print!.UVn cQWXcY VnS,c1R
print!.UVn 7pQWXcY VnS,7p1R
print!.U77ptrQWXcY VnS,77ptr1R
return.01R
H
2J Damesh September 22, 2012 at +)01 am
3ice e'panationG
27 raLu September 22, 2012 at 8)+0 am
char ch, cR
char 7ptr Q Tch
ptr Q Tc
29 3iranLan September 2J, 2012 at 10),8 pm
Hi e&erybo#y i "ant 8%10 >uestions an# soutions in%#epth on pointers pease hep me
2M Anonymous Ectober 1, 2012 at 2)29 pm
US
So "e can see that in memory, pointer p1 ho#s the a##ress o! pointer p2$ *ointer p2
ho#s the a##ress o! character /ch0$
So /p25 is pointer to character /ch0, "hie /p15 is pointer to /p25 or "e can aso say that
/p25 is a pointer to pointer to character /ch0$
US
4ou ha&e a typo in this paragraph$
its p1 "ith is pointer to pointer to character ch not p2
+0 pari Ectober +, 2012 at 2),1 pm
Brie!
An# use!u ,thanks aot<
+1 sibusiso Ectober 10, 2012 at 8),2 am
Brie! , to the point an# &ery use!u$ thanks a =iion$
+2 S?DBHI JAI3 Ectober 1J, 2012 at +)00 am
@asy to un#erstan# pointers through this artice$
++ *ranoti Ectober 21, 2012 at 2),+ am
(hank you &ery much !or gi&ing concepts o! pointer that to in easy "ay$ I ike the "ay to
put the e'ampe to un#er each concept o! pointer,pointer to array,!unction pointers$
(hanksG)1
+, sarita Ectober 21, 2012 at M)22 am
thanks<
+8 Aeepika Ectober +0, 2012 at 1)8+ am
@'ampe an# e'panation both are gooo#G
+J ashutosh 3o&ember 1, 2012 at M)29 am
i! int &ariabe ho#s 2 bytes than "hat shou# pointer int occupyOOOOOOOOOO i$e int aQ8
means a occupy 2 bytes an# int 7a "here aQTaR than "hat shou# 7a occupy in
memoryOOOOOOOOOOO
+7 3eeti 3o&ember J, 2012 at M)0+ am
(hanks
+9 pa&ithra 3o&ember J, 2012 at 10)8, am
(hank youGa &ery neat e'panation
"hat #oes this statement mean
int .7ptr1W+Y Q TaW0YR
+M Harsha * = 3o&ember 1+, 2012 at 8)07 am
can u te about pointer to an array i$e int .7p1W10YR$an# aso per!ormance bet"een
array o! pointers n pointer to an array
,0 A$ Aas 3o&ember 1M, 2012 at M)2+ am
(his artice reay hepe#$ (hank 4ou$
,1 Nush Sahni 3o&ember 2+, 2012 at 9)0M am
3ice an# easy "ay to e'pain pointers$$<< goo# Lob
,2 Aok 3o&ember 29, 2012 at 11)1M am
Cery nicey e'paine#$ (his reay hepe#$
,+ Anonymous 3o&ember 2M, 2012 at 1)18 am
int .7p1W10YR can u te about pointer to an array in the same site$ ur #oing a goo# LobG
hatso!!G
,, San#ip pa"ar Aecember 1, 2012 at M)17 pm
Ek,i can ustan#
,8 Anoop Aecember 1+, 2012 at 11)0, pm
Can you pease impement the Inheritance concept in C using !unction pointerO
,J ?LL"a Aecember 2M, 2012 at 8),0 am
Abo&e #eceeration o! e&ery #e!inition is &ery easy to un#erstan#GG
nice Lob bu##yGGG$
,7 6ubair January 29, 201+ at 12)21 pm
this is &ery gu# can you te me the other e'ampe more
,9 Bharath January +1, 201+ at 11)8, am
abo&e #escribe# e' are nice$but i a#&ice you to pro&i#e much more e'ampes$
,M saLan paakka# February 2,, 201+ at 9)++ am
yes it0s reay hp!u
thnks
80 Lignesh =arch 8, 201+ at 1)2J am
reay it0s &ery niceGGGG$
81 =anikan#an =arch 21, 201+ at 11)07 pm
;oo# to begin "ith
82 raL =arch +1, 201+ at 9)21 am
simpe an# &ery easy to un#erstan#
8+ &iLay chauhan Apri J, 201+ at 11)+2 am
superb<<< @asy to un#erstan# an# &ery hep!u as "e$$keep it up<
8, Dohit Apri 2M, 201+ at J)00 am
(hank you so much$ Finay got a hang o! the #i!!erence bet"een the 7ptr an# the 77ptr
an# the 777ptr$
(hank you &ery much
88 karan pate =ay ,, 201+ at J)82 am
Pincu#e
int !unc .int a, int b1
F
print!.UVn a Q X#VnS,a1R
print!.UVn b Q X#VnS,b1R
return 0R
H
int main.&oi#1
F
int.7!ptr1.int,int1R ZZ Function pointer
!ptr Q !uncR ZZ Assign a##ress to !unction pointer
!unc.2,+1R
!ptr.2,+1R
return 0R
H
you e'pain this concept $ i am not un#erstan# "hat is the nee# o! pointer to this !unction
"hen !unc.2,+1 #oes "hate&er "e "ant to #o GGG$
can you gi&e such e'ampe "hich e'pain in "hat setutation "e shou# use pointer to
!unctionOOOOO
8J prasa# =ay 27, 201+ at 12)1, am
it is goo#
87 sara June 1+, 201+ at 2)8+ pm
a2smGgr9Gi got the i#ea abt pointer in Lust 18 minsG)1
89 amit June 1M, 201+ at 9)+8 pm
nice e'panationGo! key points in pointersGG
8M satyaLit Juy 12, 201+ at 1)07 am
(hanks !or such a"esome e'panationG
J0 gaura& bansa Juy 1J, 201+ at 11)0M pm
&ery nice e'ampe pointer programs $
J1 san#eep Juy +0, 201+ at ,)21 am
niceeG&ery easy to un#erstan#
J2 yogesh August 11, 201+ at ,)82 am
"hen i run !unction pointer e'ampe on my system it taks ateast 18s to e'ecute,
"hy so an# pease gi&e me ink o! your !urther artices on pointer
J+ suren#ra August 21, 201+ at 10)10 pm
pease make me un#erstan# about the output o! program$
Pincu#e
&oi# main.1
F
static int aW+YQF0,1,2HR
int 7 pWYQFa,aK1,aK2HR
print!.UXuVnXuVnX#S,p,7p,7.7p11R
getch.1R
H
J, paya September ,, 201+ at 9)22 am
&ry goo# e'panation about pointer to pointet
J8 Bi#yut$ September J, 201+ at 9),, am
;oo# e'paination $
JJ tarun sharma Ectober 1, 201+ at 10)8J am
nice e'panation,GGG$$you reai ma#e it ook easyG$$
(hank you
J7 Anonymous Ectober 12, 201+ at 2)8, am
&ery goo# e'panation about pointers
J9 Shoaib Ectober 22, 201+ at 12)+0 am
@'ampes are goo#G$
nee# more e'ampe "hich returns pointersG$$
*ease
JM ae' mcen 3o&ember 8, 201+ at J)20 am
(hanks a ot man<<<
these "ere some o! the concepts "hich ne&er get ceare#Gby my boring course book
70 muhamma# ari! 3o&ember 11, 201+ at J)8J am
i nee# more hep on pointer $ can you pease a#&ise me any goo# books on pointer
thanks a otG$
71 Carun 3o&ember 27, 201+ at J)09 pm
int ro"s Q 2, co Q ,8R
ptr Q .char 771maoc.si6eo! .char1 7 ro"s1R
int iR
!or .i Q 0R i [ ro"sR iKK1
F
ptrWiY Q .char 71maoc.co7 si6eo! .char11R
H
!or .i Q 0R i [ ro"sR iKK1
F
print!.\A##ress o! ro"%X# is XpVn\, i, ptrKi1R
H
!or .i Q 0R i [ ro"sR iKK1
F
print!.\@nter 3amesVn\1R
scan!.\Xs\, ptrWiY1R
H
!or .i Q 0R i [ ro"sR iKK1
F
print!.\@ntere# 3ames) XsVn\, ptrWiY1R
print!.\A##ress.ptrWiY1) XpVn\, ptrWiY1R
print!.\A##ress.ptrKi1) XpVn\, ptrKi1R
H
print!.\ptrW1Y B ptrW0Y Q XpVn\, ptrW1Y B ptrW0Y1R
Eutput)
A##ress o! ro"%0 is 0]M1+2009
A##ress o! ro"%1 is 0'M1+200c
@nter 3ames
sa#
@nter 3ames
c
@ntere# 3ames) sa#
A##ress.ptrWiY1) 0]M1+2019
A##ress.ptrKi1) 0]M1+2009
@ntere# 3ames) c
A##ress.ptrWiY1) 0]M1+2080
A##ress.ptrKi1) 0'M1+200c
ptrW1Y B ptrW0Y Q 0]+9 ZZHere e'pecting 0'2# .Co Q ,81 but "hy 0]+9OO
3ot getting pease et me kno"$
(hanks in a#&ance
72 NIDA3 SE-A3NI Aecember 20, 201+ at +)07 am
4our ans"er is goo#$ I nee# e'ampe o! pointer ho" is "ork an# ho" point to one or
moreG$
7+ (i(o Aecember 2J, 201+ at M)82 pm
4ou !orgot pointer to array$$ Dest are &ery goo# e'paine#G
7, John 2aker January ,, 201, at 8)80 am
;reat$ A!ter strugging "ith the #etais arrays o! !unctions I sorte#
it out in a coupe o! hours,
A the best
(hankyou
John 2aker
78 B$=A(HA3;I January 17, 201, at M)+8 am
e'cusi&e an# crispy in!ormations about c it0s !abuus<<<
7J Aarren B January +0, 201, at M)+1 am
@'ceent artice$ Ene o! the best an# cearest e'panations o! pointers I ha&e seen$
Ho"e&er, I may be mistaken but I think there is a typo in section U2$ C *ointer to *interS$
I think the comment
USo /p25 is pointer to character /ch0, "hie /p15 is pointer to /p25 or "e can aso say that
/p25 is a pointer to pointer to character /ch0$S
shou# be
USo /p25 is pointer to character /ch0, "hie /p15 is pointer to /p25 or "e can aso say that
/p15 is a pointer to pointer to character /ch0$S OOO
(hanks
77 tp February 20, 201, at 7)28 am
@minent artice$
It cears my #oubts about pointer to pointer
but "i u #escribe "hat0s the #i!!erence bet"een
const int 7p an# int const 7p
(hanks
79 Sony =arch 11, 201, at M)82 am
It is a hep!u artice to cear the basic concept on pointer$$thanks
7M Ae!initionE!Scum =ay 2, 201, at 2)+0 pm
(his artice an# the one be!ore it on pointer "as ama6ing$ (hank you &ery much, ceare#
up e&erything I e&er "ante# to kno" about pointers$
90 pe##araLu =ay 8, 201, at 7)++ pm
its goo# e'panationG$ can you pro&i#e me "here this pointer to !unctions are use#O
91 A#iti Juy 2J, 201, at 12)+1 am
a"esome e'panation o! pointers
thanke"<<<<
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