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C++ - lvalue vs rvalue vs xvalue vs prvalue vs glvalue

Updated: 2022-02-05

lvalue and rvalue

lvalue rvalue
may appear on the left or right hand side of an assignment only on the right hand side of an assignment
refers to a memory location; can take the address of it via the & operator cannot get the address

For example: a, b and c are lvalues, while a * b is an rvalue:

int a = 1; // a is a lvalue
int b = 2; // b is a lvalue

a = b; // ok
b = a; // ok
a = a * b; // ok
int c = a * b; // ok
a * b = 42; // error, rvalue cannot be on the left hand side of assignment

xvalue, glvalue, prvalue

An xvalue (an "eXpiring" value) refers to an object, usually near the end of its lifetime (so that its resources may be moved, for example). An xvalue is the result of certain kinds of expressions involving rvalue references. (e.g. The result of calling a function whose return type is an rvalue reference is an xvalue.)

glvalue, prvalue are rescoping lvalue and rvalue because of the intruducion of xvalue. Basically glvalue expands lvalue to include xvalue, and prvalue shinks rvalue to exclude xvalue.

  • glvalue ("generalized" lvalue) = either lvalue or xvalue.
  • rvalue = either prvalue ("pure" rvalues) or xvalue

To visualize the relationships:

|lvalue | xvalue | prvalue |
|<-- glvalue --> |
        | <--- rvalue ---> |