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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Variable arguments in C

In C language, its possible to write functions with variable arguments.  A function that takes variable number of arguments is also called as variadic function.  Below is an example prototype for a variadic function.

int func_name(int num, ...);
func_name     - name of the function
num               - number of arguments in argument list
...(ellipsis)     - used to denote variable arguments

Below are the list of macros availabe in 'stdarg.h' used to retrieve variable arguments.

void va_start (va_list arg, last_arg)
It initializes argument pointer arg to point to first optional argument and last_arg is the last named argument to a function.

type va_arg (va list arg, type) 
Returns subsequent optional argument and type is data type of the actual argument

void va_end (va list arg)
Ends the use of variable arguments.

Example C program on variable length argument list
  #include <stdio.h>
  #include <stdarg.h>
  int sum(int, ...);  // function prototype

  int sum(int num, ...) {
        int i, val, total = 0;
        va_list arg;
        /* initializes arg pointer to point to 1st optional arg */
        va_start(arg, num);  // num - no of arguments in parameter list
        for (i = 0; i < 5; i++) {
                val = va_arg(arg, int);  // get subsequent argument
                printf("Argument %d: %d\n", i + 1, val);
                total = total + val;
        va_end(arg);  // end the use of variable argument
        return (total);

  int main() {
        int res;
        /* first argument to sum denotes the no of arguments in parameter list */
        res = sum(5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50);
        printf("Resultant sum value is %d\n", res);
        return 0;

  jp@jp-VirtualBox:~/$ ./a.out
  Argument 1: 10
  Argument 2: 20
  Argument 3: 30
  Argument 4: 40
  Argument 5: 50
  Resultant sum value is 150

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