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What is control structure in C++?

Control structures are one of the most fundamental concepts in C++ programming. They allow you to control the flow of execution of your code by executing blocks of code only when certain conditions are met. Some common examples of control structures in C++ include if statements, for loops, while loops, switch statements etc.

In this article, we will take a deeper look at control structures in C++. Specifically, we will cover:

  • What are control structures and why are they important?
  • Different types of control structures in C++
  • Syntax and examples of using control structures
  • Nested control structures
  • Guidelines for using control structures effectively

Understanding control structures allows you to write non-linear code that can make decisions and repeat blocks of code. This is essential for writing useful real-world applications in C++.

What are Control Structures?

Control structures or control flow statements provide the basic building blocks for controlling the flow of execution of code in a program.

Some key points about control structures:

  • They allow you to execute code selectively based on specific conditions.
  • They allow you to repeat execution of code (iteration).
  • They allow you to jump the flow of execution (branching).
  • They control the order in which code statements are executed.

Without control structures, code would execute sequentially from top to bottom. Control structures provide the power to truly control the flow of logic in a program.

Some common examples in C++ include:

  • if statements – Execute code if a condition is true
  • else statements – Execute code if the condition is false
  • switch statements – Select one of many code blocks to execute
  • for loops – Repeat code a certain number of times
  • while loops – Repeat code while a condition is true
  • do while loops – Same as while loop but test condition after executing code block

We will explore the syntax and usage of these control structures in detail later in this article.

Why are Control Structures Important?

Control structures are one of the fundamental building blocks of programming. Here are some reasons why they are so important:

  • They allow you to control the flow of your program and make decisions.
  • They enable repeating chunks of code for iteration.
  • They allow you to write non-linear code instead of just sequential steps.
  • Without control structures, programs would be very limited and not very useful.
  • Control structures let you implement complex logic and algorithms.
  • They are present in pretty much every useful programming language.

As a C++ programmer, having a good grasp of control structures is essential to writing efficient and readable code. Mastering control structures takes you from writing simple procedural programs to fully-featured applications.

Types of Control Structures

Let’s take a look at the common types of control structures available in C++:

1. Conditional Statements

These statements allow you to execute code only when certain conditions are met.

Examples include:

  • if statement
  • if..else statement
  • nested if statements
  • switch statement

Conditional statements allow you to implement decision making and branching in code.

2. Loop Statements

Loop statements allow you to repeat blocks of code. Each repetition is called an iteration.

Types of loops in C++:

  • for loop – Repeat code a fixed number of times
  • while loop – Repeat code while condition is true
  • do…while loop – Similar to while but test condition after execution

Loops are used when you need to repeat code execution. Common examples include processing arrays, files, etc.

3. Jump Statements

Jump statements allow you to transfer control unconditionally.

The main jump statements in C++ include:

  • break – Used to exit early from loops or switch statement
  • continue – Skips current iteration and continues next iteration of loop
  • goto – Unconditional jump to a labeled statement

Jump statements should be used sparingly as they can make code harder to understand.

4. Exception Handling Statements

Exception handling allows you to change the normal flow of control when errors or exceptions occur in code.

Main statements for exception handling in C++ include:

  • try – Enclose code that can throw exceptions in try block
  • catch – Handle exception that occurs in try block
  • throw – Manually throw an exception

Exception handling makes programs more robust and fault tolerant.

Now that we have seen a high-level overview of the types of control structures, let’s look at the syntax and example usage of some common ones.

Syntax and Examples of Control Structures

1. if Statement

The if statement conditionally executes code if the test condition is evaluated to true.


if (condition) 
   // code to execute if condition is true


int x = 5;

if (x > 0) {

This will print "x is positive" since the condition x > 0 evaluates to true.

2. if...else Statement

The if...else statement executes one block of code if the condition is true, and another block if the condition is false.


if (condition)
  // code to run when condition is true
  // code to run when condition is false  


int x = -3;

if (x >= 0) {

This prints "x is negative" since -3 is less than 0.

3. switch Statement

The switch statement allows you to execute one block of code from multiple options based on a switch expression.


switch (expression)
  case value1:
    // code 
  case value2:
    // code

   // default code

- The switch expression is evaluated once
- Code execution starts from the case matching the switch expression
- break stops execution from flowing to next case


int day = 2;

switch (day) {
  case 1:

This prints "Tuesday" for the value of day = 2.

4. for Loop

The for loop repeats code execution for a fixed number of iterations.


for (init; condition; increment)
  // code

- init - Initialize loop variable
- condition - Loop execution continues until condition is false
- increment - Execute after every iteration to update loop variable


for (int i=0; i 

This loops prints numbers 0 to 4.

5. while Loop

The while loop repeats code execution as long as the condition is true.


while (condition)
  // code


int i = 0;
while (i 

This is similar to the earlier for loop, printing 0 to 4.

6. do...while Loop

The do...while loop is similar to while loop but guarantees the body is executed at least once.


do {
  // code
} while (condition);


int i = 0;
do {

Nested Control Structures

Control structures can be nested inside one another to implement complex program logic.

For example:

int x = 5;
int y = 3;

if (x > 0) {
  if (y > 0) {
    // Executes when both conditions are true


Here is an example with nested for loops to print a multiplication table:

for (int i=1; i 

Nested loops allow you to implement complex iterations.

Similarly, you can nest other combinations of control structures:

if inside else
while inside for
for inside while

Guidelines for Using Control Structures

Here are some key guidelines for effectively using control structures in C++ programs:

  • Properly indent nested control structures for readability.
  • Avoid very deep nesting levels to keep code simple.
  • Don't reinvent the wheel - use standard algorithms from libraries when possible instead of complex hand-written loops.
  • Use descriptive variable names and comments to document control flow logic.
  • Keep bodies of control structures simple and focused on one task.
  • Use break and continue judiciously in loops.
  • Avoid using goto which can create spaghetti code.
  • Leverage standard loop idioms instead of manual control logic.
  • Test edge cases when using conditionals and loops.

Following these guidelines will help you write clean, readable and maintainable code using control structures.


Control structures are fundamental to C++ programming. They enable you to control the flow of execution and write non-linear programs.

We looked at the major types of control structures in C++ including conditionals, loops, and jump statements. We also looked at the syntax and examples of using common control structures like if, switch, for, while, do while.

Control structures can be nested to implement complex program logic. Guidelines like proper indentation, descriptive names, and leveraging standard idioms help write clean code.

Mastering control structures will take your C++ programming skills to the next level and allow you to implement algorithmic solutions. They form the backbone of writing efficient applications.

Control Structure Description
if Executes code if condition is true
if..else Executes one block if condition true, another if false
switch Execute one block of many based on switch expression
for loop Repeat code fixed number of times
while loop Repeat code while condition is true
do...while Same as while but test condition after execution