Swift Operators Precedence and Associativity

This tutorial belongs to the Swift series

Think about this expression:

let amount = 1 + 2 * 3

The value of amount could drastically change depending if 1 + 2 is calculated before 2 * 3.

The order of calculation is determined by the operator precedence. From higher precedence to lower precedence, as for the most popular operators we have:

  • Multiplication (*), division (/), remainder (%)
  • Add (+), subtract (-)
  • Comparisons (==, !=, <, >, <=, >=)
  • Logical AND (&&) and OR (||)
  • Ternary conditional (?:)
  • Assignment and compound assignment operators (=, += and so on)

This means that the above expression is resolved first calculating the multiplication, and then the sum:

let amount = 1 + 2 * 3 // = 7

The full table of precedence, more complicated, is available at https://developer.apple.com/documentation/swift/swift_standard_library/operator_declarations.

When inside an expression you have multiple operators with the same precedence, we make use of the operator associativity. Associativity is a property we use to determine which operation has priority when the precedence is the same.

For example, consider this:

let amount = 4 / 2 * 5

Depending if we first execute 4 / 2 or 2 * 5, the result could be 10 or 0,4.

Associativity solves this. Multiplication is left associative, so we must first execute the expression on the left. Parentheses help us figure this out:

let amount = (4 / 2) * 5

Multiplication (*), division (/), remainder (%), add (+), subtract (-), logical AND (&&), logical OR (||) are left associative

Assignment and compound assignment operators (=, += and so on) and the ternary conditional (?:) are right associative

Comparisons (==, !=, <, >, <=, >=) don’t have associativity.

⭐️ Join the waiting list for the JavaScript Masterclass ⭐️