String Definition

A string can be defined using a character array or a pointer to characters. Although the two definitions look similar, they are actually different.


int main ( )
    char * s1 = "abcd";     // A
    char s2[] = "efgh";      // B
    printf( "%s %16lu \n", s1, s1);   // C
    printf( "%s %16lu \n", s2, s2);    // D
    s1 = s2;                   // E
    printf( "%s %16lu \n", s1, s1);    // F
    printf( "%s %16lu \n", s2, s2);    // G
    return 0;


  1. Statement A declares s1 as a pointer to a character. When this definition is encountered, the compiler allocates space for the string abcd; the base address of the string is assigned to s1, which is the pointer variable.
  2. Statement B declares s2 as a character array. The size of the array is 5 because of an additional null terminator in this case. Also, a space of 5 characters is allocated and the base address is given to s2, which is the pointer constant. During the lifetime of the program, we cannot change the value of s2.
  3. The allocation for s1 is the allocation required by the pointer variable.
  4. Statement C prints s1, using two place holders: %s and %16lu. Using %s, you will print the string as “abcd”. Using %16lu you will print the base address of the string.
  5. Statement E assigns a base address of s2 to s1; that is possible because s1 is a variable.

Point to Remember

  1. When the string is declared as a character pointer, a space is allocated for the pointer variable, which holds the base address of the string.