Data Types in C and C++ Explained for Beginners

Data type in a programming language is a classification of variables as values, which determine the right set of logical, relational or mathematical operations to be applied to it for practical solutions. In plain words, a data type is an attribute of data that tells the interpreter its intended usage and role in a programming language. The C and C++ programming languages include different data types, and it is up to you to determine which data type would be the most befitting one for your program. Hence, it is crucial to understand the intricacies of data types and how they guide the different variables to follow the appropriate format. 

Every program constitutes a combination of diverse variables for different values, tasks and formats. Data type formats each value using specific characters and numeric values to assign their roles in the programming project. Data collection allows for seamless program presentation as the values follow and function under specified logical syntax.

The best example to understand data type is comparing it with forms. Surveys and registrations often demand form submission to deliver expected results. The details you fill in forms explains the diverse data types. For instance, the age column requires one to input a numerical value, but the name, address, or education detail columns demand information in textual format. As the value variables keep changing in the same document, these varying value formats can be considered as data types.

Data types vary with the type of programming language being used. Today, we’ll focus on the different data types in the C and C++ programming language. 

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Data Types in C

In every programming language, data types are crucial for declaring variables. Similarly, the C language includes several data types to identify the type of data and how it is stored. There are mainly two data types:

Primary Data Type

A primary or primitive data type is built-in data provided by the programming language to use as building blocks to create more complex data structures. Primitive data types include 4 data types participating with different formats of data. 


An integer data type represents variables containing numeric values or which do not contain any value. According to the program requirements, such data types without value may have their range defined as ‘short’ or ‘long’. An integer data type is recognised by the keyword ‘int’. 


Character data type contains characters in a limited length. It can be anything ranging from letters, numbers to symbols. Char contains integral-type value and is restricted to a memory size of 1 byte. Char data type is used to contain the requirement of limited characters and not a string.


The float data type is composed of numbers represented in fraction or decimal format. The float data type helps to create more precise programming decisions. In addition, the float is helpful to increase processing power for calculations and is frequently opted over double data type. 


Double is a double-precision data type storing high-precision float data for a variable. Double data type allows variables to range to their smallest and largest values for a number. The double data type has a size of 8 bytes.


Void data type does not contain any value. It is used in blueprints or prototypes to explain a function that does not return or pass any data value. There are various functions in C that do not return any value or accept any values. A void data type can be used to declare variables for such operations.

Secondary Data Type

Secondary data type or Derived data type is obtained from the built-in collection data type. The derived data type is collected through the main data source for researchers and programmers to utilise. Derived data type improves performance, using derived data types that are most responsive and catalyse the programming process. 


An array is a group of similar data types stored at contiguous memory locations, extending an easier calculation for the system. These values are declared under the same variable yet index different values in the memory.


A variable that contains the address of another variable. Contrary to other data types containing values of a variable, a pointer stores the address of a variable. Pointers can be used in functions to point to other variables as a reference.  

Data Types in C++

C and C++ programming languages highly differ in functionality, one being procedural while the other being object-oriented. While primitive data type is fundamental in both languages, C++ widely varies in terms of user-defined data types in C. 

User-Defined Data Type

As the name suggests, a user-defined data type is created out of pre-existing data types. It is created by analysing the behaviour of other data types to create one relevant for the user’s requirement and convenience. User-defined data types are of three kinds:


Structure data type contains a collection of different data items. The entire group of data is recognised by a single name but contains varying elements. These data elements range from being integer, character, or string value. The included data is relevant to each other but differs in format, hence performing as an updated variant of an array.  


Union data type is closely related to structure as it also contains similar data elements in various formats, yet enclosed by a single variable. The only difference between these two is that union allocates the same memory location for all accommodating elements, while structure assigns separate ones for the task.


This user-defined data type, also known as enum, assigns a numeric value to the including elements. In addition, it lists the containing values for better accessibility to each variable of the group. This data type negates chances of error while allowing quick access to change the value in future.

Importance of Data Types

The data type is a significant aspect of any programming language, granting a programmer or interpreter the ability to interpret and apply data for relevant usage. Different programming languages demand varying types of data to process programs, ranging from character to integer and strings. Data type helps add an attribute to any element explaining its value to the machine for accurate implementation.

Understanding the data type allows programmers to use the most appropriate variant according to the programming conditions. Programs are bound to deliver expected results using consistent data types. The process of data collection and implementation becomes much easier to understand using data types, following which no programming language can run without a variety of data types. 

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Data types are the base of all programming languages, enabling valid operations meant for the accurate structure of a program. It allows a convenient method to store, analyse, interpret and apply lengthy data values through a simple set of variables. The basic structure of data types is compatible with all programming languages though secondary and user-defined data types keep changing with a switch in a programming language. 

Q 1: What are the main objectives of data types?

The main objective of data type is to constrain the interpretation of variables and function in a process. It manages interpretation, representation, application of researched data, real and imaginary data stored in memory. This process intends on creating complex data structures in contained data values.

Q 2: Are data types the same in all programming languages?

All programming languages support different data types, except primitive data type, which is similar in all the programming languages. Various programming languages do not support secondary and user-defined data types. Primitive data types can be found in every programming language as the default data type.

Q3: What is the difference between C and C++?

Answer: C and C++ are both programming languages with major differences that set them apart. C is one of the oldest programming languages, following an easy-to-understand format. C++, on the other hand, offers a compiler-based programming language created to structure and deal with complex programs.

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