Unary integer operators

February 2, 2024

We have a quick one today to finish up integer operators, before diving into a semi-hairy topic next…

Integer operators

For integer operands, the unary operators +, -, and ^ are defined as follows:

+x                          is 0 + x
-x    negation              is 0 - x
^x    bitwise complement    is m ^ x  with m = "all bits set to 1" for unsigned x
                                      and  m = -1 for signed x

So the first two are pretty obvious… + and - just allow you to specify the sign of a thing. + is rarely used, because it does, well… nothing. LOL.

+x is always equal to x.

- on the other hand, is how you specify a literal negative number. Actually, you can’t express a literal negative number in Go… you can only apply the - operator to a positive number!

But that third one… ^… that’s a little more archaic, and requires some explanation. It’s a bitwise operation, so I’ll demonstrate using binary representations of data:

x := uint(0b101010)    // decimal 42 in binary
fmt.Printf("%b\n", ^x) // 1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111010101

As you can see, this just flips the bits:


I chose uint to demonstrate with an unsinged integer, because the binary is easier to reason about, but it does the same with signed ints (i.e. int), but two’s compliment math makes it a bit tricker to reason about. Let’s leave it at: it does the same thing at the bit level.

Quotes from The Go Programming Language Specification Version of August 2, 2023

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