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Lesson 5 Call-by-reference
Objective Examine C++'s implementation of call-by-reference

C++ Call by Reference

I am working as a C++ programmer using C++ 20. How does C++ implement call-by-reference?
In C++20, as in previous versions of the language, call-by-reference is implemented by defining function parameters as references. A reference in C++ is essentially an alias for another variable. It allows a function to operate directly on the variables passed to it, rather than on copies of those variables. This means that any changes made to reference parameters within the function are reflected in the original arguments passed to it. Two types of references can be used in C++: 1. **L-value References (`Type&`)**: These are the most commonly used references and allow a function to modify the actual argument passed to it. 2. **R-value References (`Type&&`)**: Introduced in C++11 and further utilized in C++20, R-value references are primarily used for implementing move semantics and perfect forwarding. Here's an example demonstrating call-by-reference in C++:

void increment(int& num) { // num is an l-value reference
    num++; // Increment the value of the variable passed

void swap(int& a, int& b) { // a and b are l-value references
    int temp = a;
    a = b;
    b = temp;

int main() {
    int x = 5;
    int y = 10;

    std::cout << "Before increment: x = " << x << std::endl;
    increment(x); // Call by reference, x will be incremented
    std::cout << "After increment: x = " << x << std::endl;

    std::cout << "Before swap: x = " << x << ", y = " << y << std::endl;
    swap(x, y); // Call by reference, x and y will be swapped
    std::cout << "After swap: x = " << x << ", y = " << y << std::endl;

    return 0;

In this example, the `increment` function takes an integer reference as an argument, allowing it to modify the original integer passed to it. Similarly, the `swap` function takes two integer references and swaps their values. This demonstrates the key advantage of call-by-reference: functions can modify the actual arguments, avoiding the need to return values to achieve the same effect. Utilizing call-by-reference in C++ provides efficiency gains, especially when working with large data structures, as it avoids the overhead of copying data. Additionally, it allows for more expressive function interfaces in certain contexts, such as swapping, modifying, or efficiently passing large objects.

The chief use of reference declarations is in formal parameter lists. This allows C++ to have call-by-reference arguments directly, a feature not available in C.


Let uslook at an example program that uses reference declarations and call-by-reference. The function greater exchanges two values if the first is greater than the second.
int greater(int& a, int& b){
 if (a > b) {   //exchange
  int temp = a;
  a = b;
  b = temp;
  return (1);
  return (0);

If i and j are two int variables, then
greater(i, j)

uses the reference to i and the reference to j to exchange, if necessary, their two values. In traditional C, this operation must be accomplished using pointers and dereferencing.

Call-by-reference and const

When function arguments are to remain unmodified, it can be efficient and correct to pass them const call-by-reference. This is the case for types that are structures.

struct large_size{
  int mem[N];
  //...other stuff

void print(const large_size& s){
  //since s will not be modified
  //avoid call-by-value copying

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