data types in c programming

In the C programming language, data types refer to an extensive system used for declaring variables or functions of different types. The type of a variable determines how much space it occupies in storage and how the bit pattern stored is interpreted.

The types in C can be classified as follows:

S.N.Types and Description
1Basic Types:They are arithmetic types and consists of the two types: (a) integer types and (b) floating-point types.
2Enumerated types:They are again arithmetic types and they are used to define variables that can only be assigned certain discrete integer values throughout the program.
3The type void:The type specifier void indicates that no value is available.
4Derived types:They include (a) Pointer types, (b) Array types, (c) Structure types, (d) Union types and (e) Function types.

The array types and structure types are referred to collectively as the aggregate types. The type of a function specifies the type of the function’s return value. We will see basic types in the following section, whereas, other types will be covered in the upcoming chapters.

Integer Types

Following table gives you details about standard integer types with its storage sizes and value ranges:

TypeStorage sizeValue range
char1 byte-128 to 127 or 0 to 255
unsigned char1 byte0 to 255
signed char1 byte-128 to 127
int2 or 4 bytes-32,768 to 32,767 or -2,147,483,648 to 2,147,483,647
unsigned int2 or 4 bytes0 to 65,535 or 0 to 4,294,967,295
short2 bytes-32,768 to 32,767
unsigned short2 bytes0 to 65,535
long4 bytes-2,147,483,648 to 2,147,483,647
unsigned long4 bytes0 to 4,294,967,295

To get the exact size of a type or a variable on a particular platform, you can use the sizeofoperator. The expressions sizeof(type) yields the storage size of the object or type in bytes. Following is an example to get the size of int type on any machine:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <limits.h>

int main()
   printf("Storage size for int : %d \n", sizeof(int));
   return 0;

When you compile and execute the above program it produces the following result on Linux:

Storage size for int : 4

Floating-Point Types

Following table gives you details about standard floating-point types with storage sizes and value ranges and their precision:

TypeStorage sizeValue rangePrecision
float4 byte1.2E-38 to 3.4E+386 decimal places
double8 byte2.3E-308 to 1.7E+30815 decimal places
long double10 byte3.4E-4932 to 1.1E+493219 decimal places

The header file float.h defines macros that allow you to use these values and other details about the binary representation of real numbers in your programs. Following example will print storage space taken by a float type and its range values:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <float.h>

int main()
   printf("Storage size for float : %d \n", sizeof(float));
   printf("Minimum float positive value: %E\n", FLT_MIN );
   printf("Maximum float positive value: %E\n", FLT_MAX );
   printf("Precision value: %d\n", FLT_DIG );
   return 0;

When you compile and execute the above program, it produces the following result on Linux:

Storage size for float : 4
Minimum float positive value: 1.175494E-38
Maximum float positive value: 3.402823E+38
Precision value: 6

The void Type

The void type specifies that no value is available. It is used in three kinds of situations:

S.N.Types and Description
1Function returns as voidThere are various functions in C which do not return value or you can say they return void. A function with no return value has the return type as void. For example void exit (int status);
2Function arguments as voidThere are various functions in C which do not accept any parameter. A function with no parameter can accept as a void. For example, int rand(void);
3Pointers to voidA pointer of type void * represents the address of an object, but not its type. For example a memory allocation function void *malloc( size_t size ); returns a pointer to void which can be casted to any data type.

The void type may not be understood to you at this point, so let us proceed and we will cover these concepts in the upcoming chapters.

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