What Is Character Data Type in C?


Heather Bennett

What Is Character Data Type in C?

In the C programming language, the character data type represents a single character such as a letter, digit, or special symbol. It is denoted by the keyword char. In C, characters are stored as integers in memory, where each character corresponds to a specific integer value.

Character Constants

Character constants are representations of characters enclosed within single quotes. For example:

'A' - represents the character 'A'
'5' - represents the character '5'
'$' - represents the special symbol '$'

You can also use escape sequences to represent special characters. Some commonly used escape sequences include:

  • ‘\n’ – represents a newline character
  • ‘\t’ – represents a tab character
  • ‘\\’ – represents a backslash character
  • ‘\” – represents a single quote character
  • ‘\”‘ – represents a double quote character

Character Variables

To declare and initialize a character variable in C, you can use the following syntax:

char variableName = 'A';

The variableName is the name you choose for your variable. You can assign any valid character or escape sequence to the variable.


A char variable can only store one character at a time. If you want to store multiple characters or strings, you will need to use arrays or strings.

Character Input and Output

You can use the printf() function to output a character to the console:

char myChar = 'A';
printf("The character is: %c", myChar);

This will output:

The character is: A

To read a character from user input, you can use the scanf() function:

char userInput;
printf("Enter a character: ");
scanf("%c", &userInput);
printf("You entered: %c", userInput);

This will prompt the user to enter a character and then display the entered character.

Character Manipulation

In C, you can perform various operations on characters such as comparing, converting case, and performing arithmetic operations.

  • Comparing Characters:
  •   char ch1 = 'A';
      char ch2 = 'B';
      if(ch1 == ch2) {
        printf("Characters are equal");
      } else if(ch1 > ch2) {
        printf("ch1 is greater than ch2");
      } else if(ch1 < ch2) {
        printf("ch1 is less than ch2");
  • Converting Case:
  •   #include <ctype.h>
    // Convert to uppercase

    printf("%c", toupper('a'));

    // Output: 'A'
    // Convert to lowercase

    printf("%c", tolower('B'));

    // Output: 'b'
  • Arithmetic Operations:
  •   char ch = 'A';
      ch++; // Increment character by one
      printf("%c", ch); // Output: 'B'
      ch--; // Decrement character by one
      printf("%c", ch); // Output: 'A'

These are just a few examples of what you can do with character data types in C. Characters play a vital role in many C programs, including string manipulation, file handling, and more.

Now that you understand the basics of the character data type in C, you can start incorporating it into your own programs and explore its wide range of applications.

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