This is an unofficial snapshot of the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC22 WG21 Core Issues List revision 110b. See for the official list.


689. Maximum values of signed and unsigned integers

Section: 6.8.2  [basic.fundamental]     Status: CD5     Submitter: James Kanze     Date: 30 March, 2008

[Resolved by paper P1236R1, adopted at the November, 2018 meeting.]

The relationship between the values representable by corresponding signed and unsigned integer types is not completely described, but 6.8 [basic.types] paragraph 4 says,

The value representation of an object is the set of bits that hold the value of type T.

and 6.8.2 [basic.fundamental] paragraph 3 says,

The range of nonnegative values of a signed integer type is a subrange of the corresponding unsigned integer type, and the value representation of each corresponding signed/unsigned type shall be the same.

I.e., the maximum value of each unsigned type must be larger than the maximum value of the corresponding signed type.

C90 doesn't have this restriction, and C99 explicitly says (, paragraph 2),

For signed integer types, the bits of the object representation shall be divided into three groups: value bits, padding bits, and the sign bit. There need not be any padding bits; there shall be exactly one sign bit. Each bit that is a value bit shall have the same value as the same bit in the object representation of the corresponding unsigned type (if there are M value bits in the signed type and N in the unsigned type, then M <= N).

Unlike C++, the sign bit is not part of the value, and on an architecture that does not have native support of unsigned types, an implementation can emulate unsigned integers by simply ignoring what would be the sign bit in the signed type and be conforming.

The question is whether we intend to make a conforming implementation on such an architecture impossible. More generally, what range of architectures do we intend to support? And to what degree do we want to follow C99 in its evolution since C89?

(See paper J16/08-0141 = WG21 N2631.)