How do I use the ternary operator?

The ternary operator or conditional operator can be use as a short version of the if-then-else statement. When you have a simple if-then-else statement in your code that return a value you might use the ternary operator, it can make your code easier to read.

The ternary operator is written using the symbol of ?: and it has the following syntax:

result = testCondition ? value1 : value2;

When the test condition evaluates to true the expression value1 will be returned else the expression value2 will be returned. The value1 or value2 is not only for a simple field or variable, it can be a call to a method for example. But it is advisable to use the ternary operator for a simple thing, because if you over do it, it will make your code harder to read.

Let’s see the following code:

package org.kodejava.basic;

public class TernaryOperatorDemo {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        int a = 10;
        int b = 20;

        // Get the maximum value
        int min = a < b ? a : b;

        // The use of ternary operator above is an alternative
        // of the following if-then-else statement.
        int minValue;
        if (a < b) {
            minValue = a;
        } else {
            minValue = b;

        // Get the maximum value.
        int max = a > b ? a : b;

        // Get the absolute value.
        int abs = a < 0 ? -a : a;

        System.out.println("min      = " + min);
        System.out.println("minValue = " + minValue);
        System.out.println("max      = " + max);
        System.out.println("abs      = " + abs);

The output of the code snippet above:

min      = 10
minValue = 10
max      = 20
abs      = 10

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