The ‘char’ Keyword in C Programming

C Programming @

In C programming, the ‘char’ keyword is fundamental, representing characters and serving as the basis for text manipulation. This article provides an in-depth explanation of the ‘char’ keyword, its role in character representation, and includes real-world examples to illustrate its significance.

Understanding the ‘char’ Keyword

The ‘char’ keyword in C is used to declare character variables. Characters are fundamental data types used to represent single characters, such as letters, digits, symbols, and control characters. ‘char’ variables are commonly employed in text processing, input/output operations, and various applications involving character manipulation.

Syntax for ‘char’ Declaration:

char variable_name = 'character';

Example 1: Using ‘char’ to Declare Character Variables

#include <stdio.h>
int main() {
    char grade = 'A';
    printf("My grade is %c\n", grade);
    return 0;


My grade is A

In this example, a ‘char’ variable grade is declared and assigned the value ‘A’. It is then printed using the ‘%c’ format specifier, displaying the character ‘A’ on the screen.

Character Encoding – ASCII

Characters in C are encoded using the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) standard. Each character is represented by a unique numeric value. For instance, ‘A’ is represented as 65, ‘B’ as 66, and so on. Understanding ASCII is crucial when working with ‘char’ variables, as it enables character-to-numeric and numeric-to-character conversions.

Example 2: Using ‘char’ and ASCII Values

#include <stdio.h>
int main() {
    char letter = 'A';
    int ascii_value = letter;
    printf("The ASCII value of %c is %d\n", letter, ascii_value);
    char new_letter = ascii_value + 1;
    printf("The character after %c is %c\n", letter, new_letter);
    return 0;


The ASCII value of A is 65
The character after A is B

In this example, the ‘char’ variable letter is assigned the value ‘A’, and its ASCII value is determined using an ‘int’ variable. You can perform arithmetic operations on ‘char’ variables based on their ASCII values, as shown in the code.

Common Use Cases for ‘char’

  1. Text Processing: ‘char’ variables are essential for string manipulation, parsing, and searching within text data.
  2. Input/Output: ‘char’ is used for reading and writing characters to files and console.
  3. Character Arrays: ‘char’ arrays are the basis for storing and manipulating strings in C.
  4. Control Characters: ‘char’ variables are used to represent control characters like newline (‘\n’) and tab (‘\t’).
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