What Is Char Data Type in C?


Heather Bennett

The char data type in C is used to store a single character. It is one of the basic data types available in the C programming language. In this tutorial, we will explore the char data type and its usage.

Declaration and Initialization

To declare a variable of type char, you can use the following syntax:

char variable_name;

For example, to declare a variable named myChar, you can write:

char myChar;

You can also initialize a char variable at the time of declaration. Here’s an example:

char myChar = 'A';

Character Literals

In C, characters are represented using character literals. A character literal is enclosed within single quotes (”).

For example, ‘A’ represents the character A. Character literals can be assigned directly to a char variable.

You can also use escape sequences to represent special characters within character literals. Some commonly used escape sequences are:

  • \n: New line character
  • \t: Horizontal tab character
  • \r: Carriage return character
  • \\': Single quote character (‘)
  • \\": Double quote character (“)
  • \\?: Question mark character (?) – useful for representing characters not on the keyboard
  • \\xhh: Hexadecimal representation of a character (where hh is a two-digit hexadecimal number)

Here’s an example that demonstrates the usage of character literals:

char myChar = 'A';
char newLineChar = '\n';
char tabChar = '\t';
char questionMarkChar = '\\?';
char hexChar = '\x41'; // 'A' in hexadecimal representation

Printing Characters

You can use the %c format specifier in the printf() function to print a character. Here’s an example:

#include <stdio.h>

int main()
    char myChar = 'A';
    printf("The character is %c\n", myChar);
    return 0;

This program will output:

The character is A

The ASCII Table and Character Codes

In C, characters are internally represented using ASCII codes. The ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) table assigns a unique numeric code to each character. For example, the ASCII code for the uppercase letter A is 65.

You can perform arithmetic operations on char variables, as they are treated as integers behind the scenes. This allows you to manipulate characters by adding or subtracting numeric values.


In C, a char is actually an integer type with a size of 1 byte.

The sizeof Operator with Char Variables

The sizeof() operator can be used to find the size of a char variable in bytes. Here’s an example:

int main()
char myChar;
printf(“The size of char is %lu bytes\n”, sizeof(myChar));
return 0;

The size of char is 1 byte


The char data type in C is used to store single characters. It is represented using character literals and can be manipulated using arithmetic operations. Understanding the char data type is essential for working with characters and strings in C programming.

I hope this tutorial has provided you with a comprehensive understanding of the char data type in C. Happy coding!

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