The series continues today with our first actual C++ code! Today we’ll start with the absolute fundamentals—primitive types and literals—on which we’ll build through the rest of the series. As basic as this topic sounds, some of it can be pretty shocking when coming from a language like C#.

Table of Contents


Let’s start with integers, which are surprising in two ways: how loosely defined they are and how many types there are. The type name itself is made up of one or more parts:

Part Meaning
signed, unsigned, or none If the type is signed or not. None means signed.
short, long, long long, or none Size classification of the integer. Not an exact size! None means int.
int or none Explicitly state that this is an integer. None states this implicitly.

Here’s all 24 permutations, including the sizes in bits on common platforms:

C# Type C++ Type Windows Size Unix Size
short short 16 16
short short int 16 16
short signed short 16 16
short signed short int 16 16
ushort unsigned short 16 16
ushort unsigned short int 16 16
int int 32 32
int signed 32 32
int signed int 32 32
uint unsigned 32 32
uint unsigned int 32 32
N/A long 32 64
N/A long int 32 64
N/A long int 32 64
N/A signed long 32 64
N/A signed long int 32 64
N/A unsigned long 32 64
N/A unsigned long int 32 64
long long long 64 64
long long long int 64 64
long signed long long 64 64
long signed long long int 64 64
ulong unsigned long long 64 64
ulong unsigned long long int 64 64

There is also a type called size_t which is either a 32-bit or 64-bit unsigned integer, depending on the CPU being compiled for.

There are four 8-bit types:

C# Type C++ Type x86 and x64 ARM
bool bool N/A N/A
sbyte char Signed Unsigned
sbyte signed char Signed Signed
byte unsigned char Signed Signed

The types named with char are due to their original usage for characters in ASCII strings. There are also larger character types:

C# Type C++ Type Windows Size Unix Size
N/A char8_t 8 8
N/A char16_t 16 16
N/A char32_t 32 32
N/A wchar_t 16 32

Next we have floating-point types, including a super high precision long double type:

C# Type C++ Type x86 Size ARM Size
float float 32 32
double double 64 32
N/A long double 80 128

There is no decimal type in C++, but libraries such as GMP provide similar functionality.

Given the uncertainty of size across CPU and OS, it’s a best practice to avoid many of these types and instead use types that have specific sizes. These are found in the Standard Library or in game engine APIs. Here’s how much simpler that makes everything:

Meaning C# Type C++ Type Unreal Type
Boolean bool bool bool
8-bit signed integer sbyte int8_t int8
8-bit unsigned integer byte uint8_t uint8
16-bit signed integer short int16_t int16
16-bit unsigned integer ushort uint16_t uint16
8-bit character N/A char8_t CHAR8
16-bit character char char16_t CHAR16
32-bit character N/A char32_t CHAR32
32-bit signed integer int int32_t int32
32-bit unsigned integer uint uint32_t uint32
64-bit signed integer long int64_t int64
64-bit unsigned integer ulong uint64_t uint64
32-bit floating point number float float float
128-bit floating point number decimal N/A N/A

Now that we know all these types, let’s express them by writing some literals. First, and most obviously, booleans:

Literal Type Value
true bool 1
false bool 0

Next are integers. They are written in four parts:

Part Meaning
0x, 0X, 0, 0b, 0B or none The chosen base: hexadecimal, octal, or binary. None means decimal.
0123456789abcdefABCDEF', 01234567', or 01' Digits of the chosen base. ' characters are optional separators like _ in C#.
u, U, or none If the integer is unsigned. None means signed for decimal and octal, unsigned for hexadecimal and binary.
l, L, ll, LL, or none The size classification. None means “the smallest size that can fit the value” from the int size classification to long then to long long. Note: can be swapped with u or U, if specified

Here are some examples:

Literal Type Base Signed Size
123 int Decimal (default) Signed (default) int (default)
5000000000 long Decimal (default) Signed (default) long (default)
123u unsigned int Decimal (default) Unsigned (explicit) int (default)
123ul unsigned long Decimal (default) Unsigned (explicit) long (explicit)
123lu unsigned long Decimal (default) Unsigned (explicit) long (explicit)
0x123456 int Hexadecimal (explicit) Signed (default) int (default)
0xffffffff unsigned int Hexadecimal (explicit) Unsigned (default) int (default)
0xffffffffff long Hexadecimal (explicit) Signed (default) long (default)
0xFFFFFFFFll long long Hexadecimal (explicit) Signed (default) long long (explicit)
0b10101010'01010101'10101010'01010101 unsigned int Binary (explicit) Unsigned (default) int (default)
0123 int Octal (explicit) Signed (default) int (default)

Next up are floating point literals, which are also written in four parts parts:

Part Meaning
0x, 0X, or none Choose hexadecimal, or none for decimal
0123456789abcdefABCDEF.' Digits of the chosen base. ' characters are optional separators like _ in C#. May end in . for whole numbers.
e, e then +- then 0123456789, p, p then +- then 0123456789, or none Exponent x to multiply digits by 10^x. Always required for hexadecimal and required for decimal if there’s no . in the digits. e for decimal and p for hexadecimal.
f, F, l, L, or none Size classification of float (f) or long double (l). None means double.

Here are some example floating point literals:

Literal Type Base
12.34 double Decimal
12.34f float Decimal
12.34F float Decimal
12.34e2 double Decimal
12.34e-2 double Decimal
12.34e-2f float Decimal
12.e1 double Decimal
12'34.56'78f float Decimal
0x12p2 double Hexadecimal
0x12.p2 double Hexadecimal
0x12'34'56.78p2f float Hexadecimal

Finally, we have character literals which take several forms:

Form Meaning
'c' char type if c fits, otherwise int type, with character c
u8'c' char8_t type with UTF-8 character c
u'c' char16_t type with UTF-16 character c
U'c' char32_t type with UTF-32 character c
L'c' wchar_t type with character c
'abc' int type representing multiple characters abc

Characters can be anything in their set (e.g. UTF-8) except ', \, and the newline character. To get those, and other special characters, use an escape sequence:

Meaning Escape Sequence Note Example
Single quote \'
Double quote \"
Question mark \?
Backslash \\
Bell \a
Backspace \b
Form feed \f
Line feed \n
Carriage return \r
Tab \t
Vertical tab \v
Octal value \ABC \ABC is the octal value \0 is NUL
Hexadecimal value \xAB \AB is the hexadecimal value \x41 is A
16-bit Unicode code point \uABCD \ABCD is the code point \u03b1 is α
32-bit Unicode code point \UABCDEFGH \ABCDEFGH is the code point \U0001F389 is 🎉

Here are some example character literals:

Literal Type Decimal Value
'A' char 65
'?' char 63
u8'A' char8_t 65
u'α' char16_t 945
U'\x1f389' char32_t 127881
'ab' int 127881

C++ literals are similar to C# literals, but different in several ways. You can often write the exact same code in both languages and get the same effect. There are several edge cases though, so it’s important to know some of these details about how the language works.

Next week we’ll dive into variables!