#1,072 – How the Unary Minus Operator Can Fail

There are cases when applying a unary operator to an operand results in a value that does not fit into the data type of the operand. Consider the int type, whose range is -2,147,483,648 to 2,147,483,647.  If we assign the minimum value (largest negative number) and try to negate it with the unary operator, the negation will fail.

By default, arithmetic operations work in an unchecked context.  In this case, the unary operator does nothing, just returning the value of the original operand.

            // int range is -2,147,483,648 to 2,147,483,647
            int n = int.MinValue;
            n = -n;  // n unchanged

If we do the same operation in a checked context, we’ll get an overflow exception.



Note that a cast to a “larger” data type fails if it’s done outside of the unary operator.  But casting before applying the operator does work.

            long l = (long)-n;  // Still fails

            long l2 = -(long)n;  // This works



About Sean
Software developer in the Twin Cities area, passionate about software development and sailing.

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