5. Basic Syntax of C

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You have seen the basic structure of a C program, so it will be easy to understand other basic building blocks of the C programming language.

Tokens in C

A C program consists of various tokens and a token is either a keyword, an identifier, a constant, a string literal, or a symbol. For example, the following C statement consists of five tokens −

printf("Hello, World! \n");

The individual tokens are −

"Hello, World! \n"


In a C program, the semicolon is a statement terminator. That is, each individual statement must be ended with a semicolon. It indicates the end of one logical entity.

Given below are two different statements −

printf("Hello, World! \n");
return 0;


Comments are like helping text in your C program and they are ignored by the compiler. They start with /* and terminate with the characters */ as shown below −

/* my first program in C */

You cannot have comments within comments and they do not occur within a string or character literals.


A C identifier is a name used to identify a variable, function, or any other user-defined item. An identifier starts with a letter A to Z, a to z, or an underscore ‘_’ followed by zero or more letters, underscores, and digits (0 to 9).

C does not allow punctuation characters such as @, $, and % within identifiers. C is a case-sensitive programming language. Thus, Manpowerand manpower are two different identifiers in C. Here are some examples of acceptable identifiers −

mohd       zara    abc   move_name  a_123
myname50   _temp   j     a23b9      retVal


The following list shows the reserved words in C. These reserved words may not be used as constants or variables or any other identifier names.


Whitespace in C

A line containing only whitespace, possibly with a comment, is known as a blank line, and a C compiler totally ignores it.

Whitespace is the term used in C to describe blanks, tabs, newline characters and comments. Whitespace separates one part of a statement from another and enables the compiler to identify where one element in a statement, such as int, ends and the next element begins. Therefore, in the following statement −

int age;

there must be at least one whitespace character (usually a space) between int and age for the compiler to be able to distinguish them. On the other hand, in the following statement −

fruit = apples + oranges;   // get the total fruit

no whitespace characters are necessary between fruit and =, or between = and apples, although you are free to include some if you wish to increase readability.

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