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2.3: References and Pointers

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  • References and Pointers

    There are 3 ways to pass C++ arguments to a function:

    • call-by-value
    • call-by-reference with pointer argument
    • call-by-reference with reference argument


    // C++ program to illustrate call-by-methods in C++ 
    #include <iostream> 
    using namespace std; 
    int square1(int n) 
        //Address of n in square1() is not the same as n1 in main() 
        cout << "address of n1 in square1(): " << &n << "\n";   
        // clone modified inside the function 
        n *= n; 
        return n; 
    //Pass-by-Reference with Pointer Arguments 
    void square2(int *n) 
        //Address of n in square2() is the same as n2 in main() 
        cout << "address of n2 in square2(): " << n << "\n"; 
        // Explicit de-referencing to get the value pointed-to 
        *n *= *n; 
    //Pass-by-Reference with Reference Arguments 
    void square3(int &n) 
        //Address of n in square3() is the same as n3 in main() 
        cout << "address of n3 in square3(): " << &n << "\n"; 
        // Implicit de-referencing (without '*') 
        n *= n; 
    int main() 
        int n1=8; 
        cout << "address of n1 in main(): " << &n1 << "\n"; 
        cout << "Square of n1: " << square1(n1) << "\n"; 
        cout << "No change in n1: " << n1 << "\n"; 
        //Call-by-Reference with Pointer Arguments 
        int n2=8; 
        cout << "address of n2 in main(): " << &n2 << "\n"; 
        cout << "Square of n2: " << n2 << "\n"; 
        cout << "Change reflected in n2: " << n2 << "\n"; 
        //Call-by-Reference with Reference Arguments 
        int n3=8; 
        cout << "address of n3 in main(): " << &n3 << "\n"; 
        cout << "Square of n3: " << n3 << "\n"; 
        cout << "Change reflected in n3: " << n3 << "\n"; 
          return 0;

    address of n1 in main(): 0x7ffcdb2b4a44
    address of n1 in square1(): 0x7ffcdb2b4a2c
    Square of n1: 64
    No change in n1: 8
    address of n2 in main(): 0x7ffcdb2b4a48
    address of n2 in square2(): 0x7ffcdb2b4a48
    Square of n2: 64
    Change reflected in n2: 64
    address of n3 in main(): 0x7ffcdb2b4a4c
    address of n3 in square3(): 0x7ffcdb2b4a4c
    Square of n3: 64
    Change reflected in n3: 64


    In C++, by default arguments are passed by value and the changes made in the called function will not reflect in the passed variable. The changes are made into a clone made by the called function.
    If wish to modify the original copy directly (especially in passing huge object or array) and/or avoid the overhead of cloning, we use pass-by-reference. Pass-by-Reference with Reference Arguments does not require any clumsy syntax for referencing and dereferencing.

    Adapted from:

    "Pointers in C/C++ with Examples" by Abhirav Kariya, Geeks for Geeks is licensed under CC BY 4.0