Archive for the ‘calling by value vs reference’ Category

Arguments passed by value and by reference.

July 28th, 2010 c# No comments

Until now, in all the functions we have seen, the arguments passed to the functions have been passed by value. This means that when calling a function with parameters, what we have passed to the function were copies of their values but never the variables themselves. For example, suppose that we called our first function addition using the following code:

int x=5, y=3, z;
z = addition ( x , y );
What we did in this case was to call to function addition passing the values of x and y, i.e. 5 and 3 respectively, but not the variables x and y themselves.

This way, when the function addition is called, the value of its local variables a and b become 5 and 3 respectively, but any modification to either a or b within the function addition will not have any effect in the values of x and y outside it, because variables x and y were not themselves passed to the function, but only copies of their values at the moment the function was called.

But there might be some cases where you need to manipulate from inside a function the value of an external variable. For that purpose we can use arguments passed by reference, as in the function duplicate of the following example:

// passing parameters by reference
using namespace std;

void duplicate (int& a, int& b, int& c)

int main ()
int x=1, y=3, z=7;
duplicate (x, y, z);
cout << "x=" << x << ", y=" << y << ", z=" << z;
return 0;

x=2, y=6, z=14

Categories: calling by value vs reference Tags: