OpenBSD manual page server

Manual Page Search Parameters

STDARG(3) Library Functions Manual STDARG(3)

va_start, va_arg, va_copy, va_endvariable argument lists

#include <stdarg.h>

va_start(va_list ap, last);

va_arg(va_list ap, type);

va_copy(va_list dst, va_list src);

va_end(va_list ap);

A function may be called with a varying number of arguments of varying types. The include file <stdarg.h> declares a type va_list and defines three macros for stepping through a list of arguments whose number and types are not known to the called function.

The called function must declare an object of type va_list which is used by the macros (), va_arg(), va_end(), and, optionally, va_copy().

The () macro initializes ap for subsequent use by va_arg(), va_copy() and va_end(), and must be called first.

The parameter last is the name of the last parameter before the variable argument list, i.e., the last parameter of which the calling function knows the type.

Because the address of this parameter is used in the () macro, it should not be declared as a register variable, nor as a function, nor an array type.

The () macro expands to an expression that has the type and value of the next argument in the call. The parameter ap is the va_list ap initialized by va_start(). Each call to va_arg() modifies ap so that the next call returns the next argument. The parameter type is a type name specified so that the type of a pointer to an object that has the specified type can be obtained simply by adding a ‘*’ to type.

If there is no next argument, or if type is not compatible with the type of the actual next argument (as promoted according to the default argument promotions, see below), random errors will occur.

If the type in question is one that would normally be promoted, the promoted type should be used as the argument to (). The following describes which types should be promoted (and to what):

The same rules apply to unsigned versions of the above types, as well as their bit-type equivalents (e.g. int8_t and int16_t).

The () macro makes dst a copy of src as if the va_start() macro had been applied to it followed by the same sequence of uses of the va_arg() macro as had previously been used to reach the present state of src.

The () macro handles a normal return from the function whose variable argument list was initialized by va_start() or va_copy().

The first use of the va_arg() macro after that of the va_start() macro returns the argument after last. Successive invocations return the values of the remaining arguments.

The va_start(), va_copy() and va_end() macros return no value.

The function foo() takes a string of format characters and prints out the argument associated with each format character based on the type.

foo(char *fmt, ...)
	va_list ap;
	int d, c;
	char *s;
	double f;

	va_start(ap, fmt);
	while (*fmt)
		switch (*fmt++) {
		case 's':			/* string */
			s = va_arg(ap, char *);
			printf("string %s\n", s);
		case 'd':			/* int */
			d = va_arg(ap, int);
			printf("int %d\n", d);
		case 'c':			/* char */
			c = va_arg(ap, int);	/* promoted */
			printf("char %c\n", c);
		case 'f':			/* float */
			f = va_arg(ap, double); /* promoted */
			printf("float %f\n", f);

These macros are compatible with the historic macros they replace. A backward compatible version can be found in the include file <varargs.h>.

The va_start(), va_arg() and va_end() macros conform to ISO/IEC 9899:1999 (“ISO C99”).

The va_start(), va_arg() and va_end() macros were introduced in ANSI X3.159-1989 (“ANSI C89”). The va_copy() macro was introduced in ISO/IEC 9899:1999 (“ISO C99”).

Unlike the varargs macros, the stdarg macros do not permit programmers to code a function with no fixed arguments. This problem generates work mainly when converting varargs code to stdarg code, but it also creates difficulties for variadic functions that wish to pass all of their arguments on to a function that takes an argument of type va_list, such as vfprintf(3).

December 7, 2014 OpenBSD-5.8