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Microsoft KB Archive/92614

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Knowledge Base

INFO: Initializing const Member Data

Article ID: 92614

Article Last Modified on 12/11/2003


  • Microsoft Visual C++ 1.0 Professional Edition
  • Microsoft Visual C++ 1.5 Professional Edition
  • Microsoft Visual C++ 1.51
  • Microsoft Visual C++ 2.0 Professional Edition
  • Microsoft Visual C++ 2.1
  • Microsoft Visual C++ 4.0 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Visual C++ 5.0 Enterprise Edition
  • Microsoft Visual C++ 5.0 Professional Edition

This article was previously published under Q92614

The sample source code below demonstrates how to initialize a const member of a class. Note that the code uses a member initialization list because a const member may not appear on the left side of the assignment operator. The value must be set when the object is constructed because the value of a const member can be set only at initialization.

If an application attempts to initialize a const member with the assignment operator, the compiler generates the following error messages:

error C2758: 'a' : must be initialized in constructor base/member initializer list

error C2166: lvalue specifies const object

Using Visual C++ 32-bit Edition, version 4.0, this error is reported as:

error C2166: l-value specifies const object

The member initialization list is the preferred method to initialize the members of a class. For example, when initializing an object of a user- defined type, it is more efficient to use a member initialization list to initialize a data member than to perform an assignment in the constructor. The latter approach requires two calls: one to construct the data member and another to the operator=() function to assign a value to the member.

Sample Code

 * Compile options needed: none

#include <iostream.h>

class demo
   const int a;

   demo(int val = 0) : a(val) {}
   int get_a(void) { return a; }

void main()
   demo first;
   demo second(5);

   cout << "First = " << first.get_a() << endl;

   cout << "Second = " << second.get_a() << endl;


First = 0
Second = 5


Keywords: kbinfo kblangcpp KB92614