Function Call and Function Arguments

Let us examine the concept of functions in programming by looking at an example of a very simple function that is familiar to us all. It is a function for adding up two numbers, defined as follows:

double Add(double a, double b)
    return a+b;

This function, named Add, has two parameters, named a and b. The result of this function is the sum of its parameters. Both parameters are of the type double so that we can use this function to add any two numbers together and the result is of the type double again.

This function is not very useful, as a much more compact operator '+' can be used instead of it, but here we need this function for demonstration purposes. The following piece of code demonstrates how this function might be used:

int main()
    double k = Add(4,3);
    cout << k << endl;
    cout << Add(11,6) << endl;
    cout << Add(5-3,4) << endl;

It outputs:


The first statement demonstrates that a function value can be assigned to a variable, as can the result of any expression of the appropriate type. The function Add returns the value 7.0, and this value gets assigned to the variable k, which gets printed out by the next statement.

The next cout statement prints out the number 17. The expression Add(11,6) is a function call expression and it triggers the execution of the function. The numbers 11 and 6 are called the arguments of a function call, and the number of arguments must match the number of the function's parameters. Upon executing a function call, the values of the arguments get assigned to the function's parameters and the execution of the function proceeds afterwards. We also say the values of arguments in a function call get passed to the function's parameters.

The type of each argument has to match the type of the corresponding parameter. Alternatively, the type of an argument must be convertible to the type of the corresponding parameter, as in our case where the arguments of type int get converted to type double.

The arguments of a function are expressions like any other. The arguments get evaluated before the function is called, which is a feature of C++ and many other languages called eager evaluation. In the final cout statement, the first argument is the expression 5-3 and the second one is 4. The first expression gets evaluated to value 2, and the second one to value 4, and those two values are then assigned to the parameters of a function which then gets executed.

We can use variables as parts of function argument expressions:

    double j = 4;
    cout << Add(j-1, j*j) << endl;

Before the function call is made, the first argument gets evaluated to the value 3, and the second argument gets evaluated to the value 16. The output is 19.