Javascript unary operators: Taking advantage using them

May 09, 2020

What’s an operator?

An operator is a symbol that define the operation to do between 1 o more operands.

We use a lot of operators: sum (+), subtraction (-), multiply (*), division (/), logic and (&&), negation (!),…

What’s a unary operator?

A unary operator is an operator that only needs one operand to work.
For example

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i++

In this example we have an operand (i) and an operator (++), we don’t need more to increment the i variable value.

Unary operators in Javascript

here is a list with more common unary operators in Javascript

  • ++ Increment. Increments the value of operand in one unit.
  • -- Decrement. Decrements the value of operand in one unit.
  • ! Logical not. Negate the boolean operand value.
  • - Negation. Negate the numeric operand value.
  • typeof Returns the type of the operand in a string.
  • delete Deletes the index of an array or an object.

Hacking the system

There is another unary operator that I haven’t talked about, the unary addition (+).

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let a = 10
console.log(+a)

What do you think will be the result? You probably right: 10.

So what is this operator for if returns the same value? Here is another example.

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let a = '10'
console.log(+a)

In this one, what do you think will be the result? Yes, it’s 10 but not the same 10 we had. What?

Replay, but now let’s look at the types

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let a = 10
console.log(type +a)

let b = '10'
console.log(type +a)

Both results are number. Here is the point, this operator (tries to) convert the value to number. So we can use it to cast values to number.

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console.log(+'10a') // NaN
console.log(+'0x10') // 16
console.log(+'0o10') // 8
console.log(+'0.1') // 0.1
console.log(+'1e12') // 1000000000000
console.log(+'Infinity') // Infinity
console.log(+undefined) // NaN
console.log(+true) // 1
console.log(+[]) // 0
console.log(+[2]) // 2
console.log(+[2, 3]) // NaN
console.log(+{}) // NaN
console.log(+null) // 0 <= Take care

Take care with the last result because it’s less obvious

Unary minus do the same, but negate the result.

The ! operator behaves similarly: It tries to convert the value to boolean, but negate the result of the cast, but if we double negate the value we found a way to cast values to boolean

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console.log(!!'10a') // true
console.log(!!'') // false
console.log(!!0) // false
console.log(!!0) // false
console.log(!!null) // false
console.log(!!undefined) // false
console.log(!!NaN) // false
console.log(!!Infinity) // true
console.log(!!{}) // true <= Take care
console.log(!![]) // true <= Take care
console.log(!!'0') // false <= Take care

I marked the results that for me are counterintuitive

This two unary operators, + and !, using as !! are very useful to cast to number and boolean respectively.

Enjoy them! 😉

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Front-end and back-end developer.
#formula1, good conversations and small details lover.