C programmers commonly make errors regarding the precedence rules of C operators because of the unintuitive low-precedence levels of &
, |
, ^
, <<
, and >>
. Mistakes regarding precedence rules can be avoided by the suitable use of parentheses. Using parentheses defensively reduces errors and, if not taken to excess, makes the code more readable.
Subclause 6.5 of the C Standard defines the precedence of operation by the order of the subclauses.
The intent of the expression in this noncompliant code example is to test the least significant bit of x
:
x & 1 == 0 |
Because of operator precedence rules, the expression is parsed as
x & (1 == 0) |
which evaluates to
(x & 0) |
and then to 0
.
In this compliant solution, parentheses are used to ensure the expression evaluates as expected:
(x & 1) == 0 |
EXP00-C-EX1: Mathematical expressions that follow algebraic order do not require parentheses. For instance, in the expression
x + y * z |
the multiplication is performed before the addition by mathematical convention. Consequently, parentheses to enforce the algebraic order would be redundant:
x + (y * z) |
Mistakes regarding precedence rules may cause an expression to be evaluated in an unintended way, which can lead to unexpected and abnormal program behavior.
Recommendation | Severity | Likelihood | Remediation Cost | Priority | Level |
---|---|---|---|---|---|
EXP00-C | Low | Probable | Medium | P4 | L3 |
Tool | Version | Checker | Description |
---|---|---|---|
Axivion Bauhaus Suite | CertC-EXP00 | Fully implemented | |
CodeSonar | LANG.STRUCT.PARENS | Missing Parentheses | |
CC2.EXP00 | Fully implemented | ||
Klocwork | MISRA.EXPR.PARENS.2012 | ||
LDRA tool suite | 361 S, 49 S | Fully implemented | |
Parasoft C/C++test | CERT_C-EXP00-a | Use parenthesis to clarify expression order if operators with precedence lower than arithmetic are used | |
Polyspace Bug Finder | Checks for possible unintended evaluation of expression because of operator precedence rules (rec. fully covered) | ||
PRQA QA-C | 3389 | Fully implemented | |
PVS-Studio | V502, V593, V634, V648 | ||
SonarQube C/C++ Plugin | S864 |
Search for vulnerabilities resulting from the violation of this rule on the CERT website.
SEI CERT C++ Coding Standard | VOID EXP00-CPP. Use parentheses for precedence of operation |
ISO/IEC TR 24772:2013 | Operator Precedence/Order of Evaluation [JCW] |
MISRA C:2012 | Rule 12.1 (advisory) |
[Dowd 2006] | Chapter 6, "C Language Issues" ("Precedence," pp. 287–288) |
[Kernighan 1988] | |
[NASA-GB-1740.13] | Section 6.4.3, "C Language" |