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Last modified: Sunday, September 01, 1996 

In programming, an expression is any legal combination of symbols that represents a value. Each programming language and application has its own rules for what is legal and illegal. For example, in the C language x+5 is an expression, as is the character string "MONKEYS."

Every expression consists of at least one operand and can have one or more operators. Operands are values, whereas operators are symbols that represent particular actions. In the expression

x + 5

x and 5 are operands, and + is an operator.

Expressions are used in programming languages, database systems, and spreadsheet applications. For example, in database systems, you use expressions to specify which information you want to see. These types of expressions are called queries.

Expressions are often classified by the type of value that they represent. For example:

  • Boolean expressions : Evaluate to either TRUE or FALSE
  • integer expressions: Evaluate to whole numbers, like 3 or 100
  • Floating-point expressions: Evaluate to real numbers, like 3.141 or -0.005
  • String expressions: Evaluate to character strings
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    related categories


    related terms

    arithmetic expression

    Boolean expression

    character string

    data type

    floating-point number






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