# ?? and ??= operators (C# reference)

The null-coalescing operator ?? returns the value of its left-hand operand if it isn't null; otherwise, it evaluates the right-hand operand and returns its result. The ?? operator doesn't evaluate its right-hand operand if the left-hand operand evaluates to non-null.

Available in C# 8.0 and later, the null-coalescing assignment operator ??= assigns the value of its right-hand operand to its left-hand operand only if the left-hand operand evaluates to null. The ??= operator doesn't evaluate its right-hand operand if the left-hand operand evaluates to non-null.

List<int> numbers = null;
int? a = null;

Console.WriteLine(string.Join(" ", numbers));  // output: 5

Console.WriteLine(string.Join(" ", numbers));  // output: 5 0
Console.WriteLine(a);  // output: 0


The left-hand operand of the ??= operator must be a variable, a property, or an indexer element.

In C# 7.3 and earlier, the type of the left-hand operand of the ?? operator must be either a reference type or a nullable value type. Beginning with C# 8.0, that requirement is replaced with the following: the type of the left-hand operand of the ?? and ??= operators cannot be a non-nullable value type. In particular, beginning with C# 8.0, you can use the null-coalescing operators with unconstrained type parameters:

private static void Display<T>(T a, T backup)
{
Console.WriteLine(a ?? backup);
}


The null-coalescing operators are right-associative. That is, expressions of the form

a ?? b ?? c
d ??= e ??= f


are evaluated as

a ?? (b ?? c)
d ??= (e ??= f)


## Examples

The ?? and ??= operators can be useful in the following scenarios:

• In expressions with the null-conditional operators ?. and ?[], you can use the ?? operator to provide an alternative expression to evaluate in case the result of the expression with null-conditional operations is null:

double SumNumbers(List<double[]> setsOfNumbers, int indexOfSetToSum)
{
return setsOfNumbers?[indexOfSetToSum]?.Sum() ?? double.NaN;
}

var sum = SumNumbers(null, 0);
Console.WriteLine(sum);  // output: NaN

• When you work with nullable value types and need to provide a value of an underlying value type, use the ?? operator to specify the value to provide in case a nullable type value is null:

int? a = null;
int b = a ?? -1;
Console.WriteLine(b);  // output: -1


Use the Nullable<T>.GetValueOrDefault() method if the value to be used when a nullable type value is null should be the default value of the underlying value type.

• Beginning with C# 7.0, you can use a throw expression as the right-hand operand of the ?? operator to make the argument-checking code more concise:

public string Name
{
get => name;
set => name = value ?? throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(value), "Name cannot be null");
}


The preceding example also demonstrates how to use expression-bodied members to define a property.

• Beginning with C# 8.0, you can use the ??= operator to replace the code of the form

if (variable is null)
{
variable = expression;
}


with the following code:

variable ??= expression;


The operators ?? and ??= cannot be overloaded.
For more information about the ?? operator, see The null coalescing operator section of the C# language specification.
For more information about the ??= operator, see the feature proposal note.