C Tutorial



C Tutorial

Types of Error in C

Errors in C programming can disrupt the intended functionality of a program, causing issues such as failed compilation, program crashes, or incorrect output. There are several common  types of errors: 

  • Syntax Error

  • Run-Time Error

  • Logical Error

  • Semantic Error

  • Linker Error

Each error type carries its own implications, and understanding them is crucial for effective debugging. 

In this article, we will explore and provide examples for each type of error, shedding light on their significance in the C programming language.

How to Read an Error in C? 

To address an error in our code, it is crucial to understand its cause and occurrence. When encountering an error, the compiler halts the compilation process if it detects a syntax error. The specific line of code responsible for the error is usually highlighted in such cases. The root cause of the error can often be identified on the highlighted line or in the code above it.

The syntax for error in C is - 

#include <stdio.h>

int main() {
    printf("Hello, world!")
    return 0;

In this example, a syntax error occurs due to the missing semicolon (;) at the end of the printf statement. The compiler would highlight the line and display an error message indicating the syntax error.

Run-Time Error example :

#include <stdio.h>

int main() {
    int a = 5;
    int b = 0;
    int result;

    result = a / b;  // Division by zero

    printf("Result: %d", result);
    return 0;

A run-time error occurs in this case because we attempt to divide an integer by zero. During program execution, a run-time error is detected, causing the program to terminate abruptly. The division by zero is not allowed and leads to undefined behaviour.

Logical Error example :

#include <stdio.h>

int main() {
    int radius = 5;
    double pi = 3.14;
    double area;

    area = pi * radius * radius;

    printf("Area: %f", area);
    return 0;

Here, a logical error arises due to an incorrect formula for calculating the area of a circle. The formula should be pi * radius * radius, but the programmer mistakenly uses pi * radius instead. As a result, the program will produce incorrect output for the area.

 Types of Errors in C Programming

Here is a list of types of errors in c with examples - 

Syntax Error in C

Syntax error in C occurs when the code violates the rules and structure of the programming language. These errors prevent the code from being compiled and executed. The compiler identifies syntax errors and displays error messages pointing to the specific line or lines where the error occurred.

Causes of Syntax Errors:

  • Missing or incorrect punctuation marks: Forgetting to include semicolons (;) at the end of statements or using parentheses, brackets, or braces incorrectly.

  • Mismatched parentheses, brackets, or braces: Failing to close or open parentheses, brackets, or braces properly can lead to syntax errors.

  • Misspelt keywords or identifiers: Incorrectly typing keywords, variable names, or function names can result in syntax errors.

  • Improper use of operators: Using operators incorrectly or placing them in the wrong order can cause syntax errors.

Examples - 

Missing Semicolon - 

#include <stdio.h>

int main() {
    printf("Hello, world!")
    return 0;

In this example, a semicolon is missing at the end of the printf statement. The compiler will display an error message indicating the missing semicolon.

Example of semicolon error

Mismatched Bracket:

#include <stdio.h>

int main() {
    if (1 > 0) {
    else {
    return 0;

In this example, there is a mismatched bracket in the if statement. The closing bracket for the if block is missing before the else statement. The compiler will detect this syntax error and provide an error message.

Missing Brackets Error Example

Runtime Error in C

Runtime error in C, also known as exceptions or execution errors, occur during the execution of a program. Unlike syntax errors, runtime errors do not prevent the code from being compiled, but they cause the program to behave unexpectedly, crash, or produce incorrect output. Runtime errors are typically caused by invalid input, zero division, accessing out-of-bounds memory, or incompatible data types.

Causes of Runtime Errors:

  • Poor Programming: Runtime errors can occur due to coding mistakes, memory leaks, or inadequate error handling.

  • Aging/Damaged Hardware: Runtime errors can be caused by deteriorating or faulty hardware components.

  • Software Interference: Conflicting or poorly performing software can trigger runtime errors in other programs.

  • Virus/Malware Infections: Viruses and malware can disrupt software execution and lead to runtime errors.

Examples of Runtime Errors:

Division by Zero:
#include <stdio.h>

int main() {
    int a = 10;
    int b = 0;
    int result;

    result = a / b;  // Division by zero

    printf("Result: %d", result);
    return 0;

In this example, a runtime error occurs because we are attempting to divide an integer by zero. During program execution, a runtime error is detected, and the program terminates abruptly.

Division by Zero Runtime Error

Null Pointer Dereference:

#include <stdio.h>

int main() {
    int* ptr = NULL;
    *ptr = 10;  // Null pointer dereference

    return 0;

Null Pointer Deference Runtime Error Example

Logical Error in C

Logical error in C, also known as semantic errors, occur when the program runs without any syntax or runtime errors but produces incorrect or unexpected results. These errors are caused by flawed logic or incorrect algorithmic implementation in the code. 

Unlike syntax or runtime errors, logical errors do not generate error messages or warnings from the compiler or runtime system. Detecting and fixing logical errors requires careful analysis of the code's logic and understanding of the intended behaviour.

Causes of Logical Errors:

  • Incorrect Sequence: Wrong order of code execution leading to unexpected outcomes.

  • Wrong Boolean Expression: Incorrect evaluation of conditions or incorrect use of Boolean expressions.

  • Incorrect Data Type Usage: Using incompatible or incorrect data types for variables or operations.

  • Missing Logic: Omission of necessary logic or checks in the code.

Examples of Logical Errors - 

Incorrect Sequence:
a = 5
b = 3
c = a + b
a = b

In this example, the sequence of statements is incorrect. The value of a is printed before it is updated to b, resulting in the output being 5 instead of 3.

Wrong Boolean Expression:
x = 10
y = 5

if x < y or x > y:  # Incorrect Boolean expression
    print("x is not equal to y")
    print("x is equal to y")

In this example, the Boolean expression used in the if statement is incorrect. Instead of checking for equality between x and y, it checks for inequality. This leads to the incorrect output "x is not equal to y" even when x and y are equal.

Linker Errors

Linker errors occur during the linking phase of the program's compilation process. The linker resolves external references, combines multiple object files, and generates the final executable file. Linker errors occur when there are issues with linking the object files together to create the executable.

Causes of Linker Errors:

  • Undefined Symbols: When the linker cannot find the definition of a referenced symbol (function, variable, or class) because it is not defined or implemented.

  • Duplicate Definitions: When multiple source files have definitions for the same symbol, causing conflicts during the linking process.

  • Missing Libraries or Dependencies: When required libraries or dependencies are not properly linked or included in the project.

  • Incompatible Architectures or Platforms: Compatibility issues occur when object files or libraries are compiled for different architectures or platforms, are linked together.

Examples of Linker Errors

Undefined Symbol Error:
main.obj : error LNK2019: unresolved external symbol addNumbers referenced in function main

In this example, the linker error indicates that the symbol addNumbers is referenced in the main function but is not defined or implemented in any object files. It suggests that the function addNumbers needs to be defined or adequately linked.

Duplicate Symbol Error:
first.obj : error LNK2005: _variableName already defined in second.obj

This linker error occurs when the symbol _variableName is defined in both first.obj and second.obj. It indicates a conflict due to duplicate definitions and suggests resolving the issue by ensuring unique symbol names.

Preprocessor Errors

Preprocessor errors occur during the preprocessing phase of the compilation process, where the preprocessor directives are processed before the actual compilation begins. These errors are related to the preprocessing directives and can prevent the code from being properly processed and compiled.

Causes of Preprocessor Errors:

  • Missing/incorrect directives: Errors due to missing or incorrect preprocessor directives like forgetting to include necessary headers or using incorrect syntax.

  • Circular dependencies: Errors caused by circular dependencies among header files, leading to an infinite preprocessing loop.

  • Macro-related issues: Errors arising from missing/incorrect macro definitions, improper macro expansions, or conflicts between macros.

  • Conditional compilation issues: Errors resulting from improperly structured or evaluated conditional compilation directives like #ifdef, #ifndef, #if, etc., and mismatched/unbalanced directives.

Examples of Preprocessor Errors:

Missing Header File:

If a required header file is not included or the file path is incorrect, it can cause a preprocessor error. For example,

#include <stdio.h>  // Correct header file inclusion

#include <invalid_header.h>  // Incorrect or missing header file

Missing Header File

Circular Dependency: 

When two header files include each other, it leads to a circular dependency and preprocessor error. For example,

// file1.h
#ifndef FILE1_H
#define FILE1_H

#include "file2.h"  // Including file2.h

// ...


// file2.h
#ifndef FILE2_H
#define FILE2_H

#include "file1.h"  // Including file1.h

// ...


Strategies for Debugging Errors

Using Debugging Tools

Debugging tools are essential for identifying and resolving errors. Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) often provide debugging features such as breakpoints, step-through execution, variable inspection, and call stack tracing. By leveraging these tools, you can 

  • Track the execution flow, 

  • Examine variable values,

  • Identify the source of the error. 

Tracing the Code: 

Tracing the code involves manually examining the code's execution path to identify the point where the error occurs. This can be done by strategically inserting logs or printing statements at different parts of the code to display intermediate values or checkpoints. Observing the output or logs lets you 

  • track the program's flow 

  • identify the error's origin. 

Using Print Statements

Print statements, also known as "printf" statements in languages like C/C++, are simple yet effective for debugging. By selectively adding print statements at key points in the code, you can output variable values or custom messages to the console or log files. This lets you observe the program's state during execution and locate the error.


Understanding the different types of errors in C programming is crucial for developing reliable software. Programmers can create robust and efficient C programs by adopting good coding practices and mastering error handling. As mentioned in the above article, the right guidance and pointers can help any programmer, fresher or seasoned, easily deal with any type of error. 

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1. How many types of syntax errors are there?

There are various syntax errors, such as missing semicolons, mismatched parentheses, and undefined variables.

2. What is a lexical error?

A lexical error occurs when the compiler encounters an illegal sequence of characters or tokens in the source code.

3. Is a syntax error a bug?

Syntax errors are not considered bugs. They are mistakes in the code that violate the language's syntax rules, resulting in compilation failures.

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