C# Variables and (Primitive) Data Types

In this tutorial, we will learn about variables, how to create variables in C# and different data types that C# programming language supports.

A variable is a symbolic name given to a memory location. Variables are used to store data in a computer program.


How to declare variables in C#?

Here's an example to declare a variable in C#.

int age;

In this example, a variable age of type int (integer) is declared and it can only store integer values.

We can assign a value to the variable later in our program like such:

int age;
... ... ...
age = 24;

However, the variable can also be initialized to some value during declaration. For example,

int age = 24;

Here, a variable age of type int is declared and initialized to 24 at the same time.

Since, it’s a variable, we can change the value of variables as well. For example,

int age = 24;
age = 35;

Here, the value of age is changed to 35 from 24.


Variables in C# must be declared before they can be used. This means, the name and type of variable must be known before they can be assigned a value. This is why C# is called a statically-typed language.

Once declared, the datatype of a variable can not be changed within a scope. A scope can be thought as a block of code where the variable is visible or available to use. If you don’t understand the previous statement, don’t worry we’ll learn about scopes in the later chapters.

For now remember,we can not do the following in C#:

int age;
age = 24;
... ... ...
float age;

Implicitly typed variables

Alternatively in C#, we can declare a variable without knowing its type using var keyword. Such variables are called implicitly typed local variables.

Variables declared using var keyword must be initialized at the time of declaration.

var value = 5;

The compiler determines the type of variable from the value that is assigned to the variable. In the above example, value is of type int. This is equivalent to:

int value;
value = 5;

You can learn more about implicitly typed local variables.


Rules for Naming Variables in C#

There are certain rules we need to follow while naming a variable. The rules for naming a variable in C# are:

  1. The variable name can contain letters (uppercase and lowercase), underscore( _ ) and digits only.
  2. The variable name must start with either letter, underscore or @ symbol. For example,
    Rules for naming variables in C#
    Variable Names Remarks
    name Valid
    subject101 Valid
    _age Valid (Best practice for naming private member variables)
    @break Valid (Used if name is a reserved keyword)
    101subject Invalid (Starts with digit)
    your_name Valid
    your name Invalid (Contains whitespace)
  3. C# is case sensitive. It means age and Age refers to 2 different variables.
  4. A variable name must not be a C# keyword. For example, if, for, using can not be a variable name. We will be discussing more about C# keywords in the next tutorial.

Best Practices for Naming a Variable

  1. Choose a variable name that make sense. For example, name, age, subject makes more sense than n, a and s.
  2. Use camelCase notation (starts with lowercase letter) for naming local variables. For example, numberOfStudents, age, etc.
  3. Use PascalCase or CamelCase (starts with uppercase letter) for naming public member variables. For example, FirstName, Price, etc.
  4. Use a leading underscore (_) followed by camelCase notation for naming private member variables. For example, _bankBalance, _emailAddress, etc.

You can learn more about naming conventions in C# here.

Don't worry about public and private member variables. We will learn about them in later chapters.


C# Primitive Data Types

Variables in C# are broadly classified into two types: Value types and Reference types. In this tutorial we will be discussing about primitive (simple) data types which is a subclass of Value types.

Reference types will be covered in later tutorials. However, if you want to know more about variable types, visit C# Types and variables (official C# docs).

Boolean (bool)

  • Boolean data type has two possible values: true or false
  • Default value: false
  • Boolean variables are generally used to check conditions such as in if statements, loops, etc.

For Example:

using System;
namespace DataType
{
    class BooleanExample
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            bool isValid = true;
            Console.WriteLine(isValid);
        }
    }
}

When we run the program, the output will be:

True

Signed Integral

These data types hold integer values (both positive and negative). Out of the total available bits, one bit is used for sign.

1. sbyte

  • Size: 8 bits
  • Range: -128 to 127.
  • Default value: 0

For example:

using System;
namespace DataType
{
    class SByteExample
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            sbyte level = 23;
            Console.WriteLine(level);
        }
    }
}

When we run the program, the output will be:

23

Try assigning values out of range i.e. less than -128 or greater than 127 and see what happens.


2. short

  • Size: 16 bits
  • Range: -32,768 to 32,767
  • Default value: 0

For example:

using System;
namespace DataType
{
    class ShortExample
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            short value = -1109;
            Console.WriteLine(value);
        }
    }
}

When we run the program, the output will be:

-1109

3. int

  • Size: 32 bits
  • Range: -231 to 231-1
  • Default value: 0

For example:

using System;
namespace DataType
{
    class IntExample
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            int score = 51092;
            Console.WriteLine(score);
        }
    }
}

When we run the program, the output will be:

51092

4. long

  • Size: 64 bits
  • Range: -263 to 263-1
  • Default value: 0L [L at the end represent the value is of long type]

For example:

using System;
namespace DataType
{
    class LongExample
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            long range = -7091821871L;
            Console.WriteLine(range);
        }
    }
}

When we run the program, the output will be:

-7091821871

Unsigned Integral

These data types only hold values equal to or greater than 0. We generally use these data types to store values when we are sure, we won't have negative values.

1. byte

  • Size: 8 bits
  • Range: 0 to 255.
  • Default value: 0

For example:

using System;
namespace DataType
{
    class ByteExample
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            byte age = 62;
            Console.WriteLine(level);
        }
    }
}

When we run the program, the output will be:

62

2. ushort

  • Size: 16 bits
  • Range: 0 to 65,535
  • Default value: 0

For example:

using System;
namespace DataType
{
    class UShortExample
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            ushort value = 42019;
            Console.WriteLine(value);
        }
    }
}

When we run the program, the output will be:

42019

3. uint

  • Size: 32 bits
  • Range: 0 to 232-1
  • Default value: 0

For example:

using System;
namespace DataType
{
    class UIntExample
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            uint totalScore = 1151092;
            Console.WriteLine(totalScore);
        }
    }
}

When we run the program, the output will be:

1151092

4. ulong

  • Size: 64 bits
  • Range: 0 to 264-1
  • Default value: 0

For example:

using System;
namespace DataType
{
    class ULongExample
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            ulong range = 17091821871L;
            Console.WriteLine(range);
        }
    }
}

When we run the program, the output will be:

17091821871

Floating Point

These data types hold floating point values i.e. numbers containing decimal values. For example, 12.36, -92.17, etc.

1. float

  • Single-precision floating point type
  • Size: 32 bits
  • Range: 1.5 × 10−45 to 3.4 × 1038
  • Default value: 0.0F [F at the end represent the value is of float type]

For example:

using System;
namespace DataType
{
    class FloatExample
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            float number = 43.27F;
            Console.WriteLine(number);
        }
    }
}

When we run the program, the output will be:

43.27

2. double

For example:

using System;
namespace DataType
{
    class DoubleExample
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            double value = -11092.53D;
            Console.WriteLine(value);
        }
    }
}

When we run the program, the output will be:

-11092.53

Character (char)

  • It represents a 16 bit unicode character.
  • Size: 16 bits
  • Default value: '\0'
  • Range: U+0000 ('\u0000') to U+FFFF ('\uffff')

For example:

using System;
namespace DataType
{
    class CharExample
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            char ch1 ='\u0042';
            char ch2 = 'x';
            Console.WriteLine(ch1);
            Console.WriteLine(ch2);
        }
    }
}

When we run the program, the output will be:

B
x

The unicode value of 'B' is '\u0042', hence printing ch1 will print 'B'.


Decimal

  • Decimal type has more precision and a smaller range as compared to floating point types (double and float). So it is appropriate for monetary calculations.
  • Size: 128 bits
  • Default value: 0.0M [M at the end represent the value is of decimal type]
  • Range: (-7.9 x 1028 to 7.9 x 1028) / (100 to 28)

For example:

using System;
namespace DataType
{
    class DecimalExample
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
         decimal bankBalance = 53005.25M;
            Console.WriteLine(bankBalance);
        }
    }
}

When we run the program, the output will be:

53005.25

The suffix M or m must be added at the end otherwise the value will be treated as a double and an error will be generated.


C# Literals

Let's look at the following statement:

int number = 41;

Here,

  • int is a data type
  • number is a variable and
  • 41 is a literal

Literals are fixed values that appear in the program. They do not require any computation. For example, 5, false, 'w' are literals that appear in a program directly without any computation.


Boolean Literals

  • true and false are the available boolean literals.
  • They are used to initialize boolean variables.

For example:

bool isValid = true;
bool isPresent = false;

Integer Literals

  • Integer literals are used to initialize variables of integer data types i.e. sbyte, short, int, long, byte, ushort, uint and ulong.
  • If an integer literal ends with L or l, it is of type long. For best practice use L (not l).
    long value1 = 4200910L;
    long value2 = -10928190L;
  • If an integer literal starts with a 0x, it represents hexadecimal value. Number with no prefixes are treated as decimal value. Octal and binary representation are not allowed in C#.
    int decimalValue = 25;
    int hexValue = 0x11c;// decimal value 284

Floating Point Literals

  • Floating point literals are used to initialize variables of float and double data types.
  • If a floating point literal ends with a suffix f or F, it is of type float. Similarly, if it ends with d or D, it is of type double. If neither of the suffix is present, it is of type double by default.
  • These literals contains e or E when expressed in scientific notation.
    double number = 24.67;// double by default
    float value = -12.29F;
    double scientificNotation = 6.21e2;// equivalent to 6.21 x 102 i.e. 621

Character and String Literals

  • Character literals are used to initialize variables of char data types.
  • Character literals are enclosed in single quotes. For example, 'x', 'p', etc.
  • They can be represented as character, hexadecimal escape sequence, unicode representation or integral values casted to char.
    char ch1 = 'R';// character
    char ch2 = '\x0072';// hexadecimal
    char ch3 = '\u0059';// unicode
    char ch4 = (char)107;// casted from integer
  • String literals are the collection of character literals.
  • They are enclosed in double quotes. For example, "Hello", "Easy Programming", etc.
    string firstName = "Richard";
    string lastName = " Feynman";
  • C# also supports escape sequence characters such as:
     
    Character Meaning
    \' Single quote
    \" Double quote
    \\ Backslash
    \n Newline
    \r Carriage return
    \t Horizontal Tab
    \a Alert
    \b Backspace