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4.9 Equality Comparison Operators

The equality comparison operators in Java are used for equal-to (==) and not-equal-to (!=) comparison operations. The equality comparison operators may appear in an equality expression:

[Graphic: Figure from the text]

The equality comparison operators are equal in precedence and are evaluated from left to right. The == and != comparison operators can perform numerical comparisons, boolean comparisons, and reference type comparisons. Both of these operators produce boolean values.

References Relational Comparison Operators; Order of Operations

Equal-To Operator ==

The equal-to operator == performs a comparison between its operands and returns a boolean value. It returns the pure value true if the operands are equal to each other; otherwise it returns the pure value false. The == operator may appear as part of an equality expression. The equal-to operator never throws an exception.

The operands of == may be of any type, but they must both be of the same kind of type or a compile-time error occurs. If one operand is of an arithmetic type, the other must also be of an arithmetic type. If one operand is of type boolean, the other must also be of type boolean. If one operand is a reference type, the other must also be a reference type. Note that neither operand can be an expression that invokes a void method.

If both operands are of arithmetic types, then the operator performs an arithmetic equality comparison. The operator may perform type conversions on the operands:

The equality comparison of any two arithmetic values produces true if and only if both operands are the same value; otherwise the comparison produces false. The comparison of floating-point data is governed by the following additional rules:

If both operands are boolean values, the operator performs a Boolean equality comparison. The comparison produces true if both operands are true or both operands are false. Otherwise, the comparison produces false.

If both operands are reference types, the operator performs an object equality comparison. In order to perform this type of comparison, it must be possible to cast the value of one of the operands to the type of the other operand, or a compile-time error occurs. The comparison produces true if both of its operands refer to the same object or if both of its operands are null; otherwise the comparison produces false.

Because the == operator determines if two objects are the same object, it is not appropriate for comparisons that need to determine if two objects have the same contents. For example, if you need to know whether two String objects contain the same sequences of characters, the == operator is inappropriate. You should use the equals() method instead:[4]

[4] This is similar to the difference in C between writing string1==string2 and strcmp(string1, string2)==0.

string1.equals (string2)  // Compares contents of strings
string1 == string2        // Compares actual string objects

References Arithmetic Types; Boolean Type; Reference Types

Not-Equal-To-Operator !=

The not-equal-to operator != performs a comparison between its operands and returns a boolean value. It returns the pure value true if the operands are not equal to each other; otherwise it returns the pure value false. The != operator may appear as part of an equality expression. The not-equal-to operator never throws an exception.

The operands of != may be of any type, but they must both be of the same kind of type or a compile-time error occurs. If one operand is of an arithmetic type, the other must also be of an arithmetic type. If one operand is of type boolean, the other must also be of type boolean. If one operand is a reference type, the other must also be a reference type. Note that neither operand can be an expression that invokes a void method.

If both operands are of arithmetic types, the operator performs an arithmetic inequality comparison. The operator may perform type conversions on the operands:

The inequality comparison of any two arithmetic values produces true if and only if both operands are not the same value; otherwise the comparison produces false. The comparison of floating-point data is governed by the following additional rules:

If both operands are boolean values, the operator performs a Boolean inequality comparison. The comparison produces false if both operands are true or both operands are false. Otherwise, the comparison produces true.

If both operands are reference types, the operator performs an object equality comparison. In order to perform this type of comparison, it must be possible to cast the value of one of the operands to the type of the other operand, or a compile-time error occurs. The comparison produces true if both of its operands refer to different objects and if both of its operands are not null; otherwise the comparison produces false.

Because the != operator determines if two objects are different objects, it is not appropriate for comparisons that need to determine if two objects have different contents. For example, if you need to know whether two String objects contain different sequences of characters, the != operator is inappropriate. You should use the equals() method instead:[5]

[5] This is similar to the difference in C between writing string1!=string2 and strcmp(string1, string2)!=0.

!string1.equals (string2) // Compares contents of strings
string1 != string2        // Compares actual string objects

References Arithmetic Types; Boolean Type; Reference Types


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