Is array a pointer to the first element, if yes & hellip;


...then why is the code below give same value (meatballs) for address and the actual content? And how to make sense of %d value of meatballs, is it random?

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <math.h>
#include <string.h>

int main()
    int i;
    int meatballs[5]= {1,2,3,4,5};

    printf("\nmeatsballs %p %p %d \t \n",meatballs, &meatballs,

    return 0;


  1. meatballs is an array, and it has type int[5]. However C doesn't allow passing arrays by value, so array decays into pointer for function call. This is equivalent of pointer to first element of array &meatballs[0], and it has type int*.

  2. &meatballs is a pointer to an array, and it has type int(*)[5]. Since it's a pointer it can be passed to a function.

As you can see, both 1. and 2. return same address, but they have different types: pointer to integer array vs pointer to single integer.

Note: Types void* and int* don't necessarily have the same representation(1), and for %p only valid type is void*(2) or you will get undefined behaviour(3). Always convert pointer to void* when printing addresses:

printf("%p %p", (void*)meatballs, (void*)&meatballs);

  1. Last situation is same as first, but you are using wrong type specifier %d. Resulting type is again int* as in case 1, but it is interpreted as int. This is clear undefined behaviour, and output is garbage.

To print integer array element, use any of the following methods:

printf("%d %d %d", meatballs[i], *(meatballs + i), *meatballs);

First two will print array element at index i, and last will print first element. I recommend using the meatballs[i] in most cases, as it's most clear.

References to C standard (draft):

  1. N1570, 6.2.5 paragraph 28

    A pointer to void shall have the same representation and alignment requirements as a pointer to a character type.48)... ...Pointers to other types need not have the same representation or alignment requirements.

  2. N1570, 7.21.6 paragraph 8

    p The argument shall be a pointer to void. ...

  3. N1570, 7.21.6 paragraph 9

    ... If any argument is not the correct type for the corresponding conversion specification, the behavior is undefined.