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Ternary Operator Java: Uses and Exmaples

13 May 2023
Last updated on: May 23, 2023
Table of Content Know About Ternary Operator Java Ternary operator in Java Why ternary operator is useful? Overview of syntax...
Ternary Operator Java: Uses and Exmaples
Table of Content

As you all know, Java is an increasingly popular and widely used coding language with numerous distinctive characteristics that help streamline and organize the coding process. 

The ternary operator in Java is an illustration of this potential capability. With the help of the Java ternary operator, if-else statements can be written more clearly and quickly. 

This operator is progressively growing in terms of popularity among developers. That’s because it helps them perform coding quickly, and they only have to write a few lines of code. Also read out guide on Polymorphism in Java.

That’s why aspiring developers should learn Java ternary operator by enrolling themselves in a full-stack development course

For now, this article covers a comprehensive guide on Java ternary operators to give a concise idea of what it’s all about. 

Ternary Operator in Java

Ternary Operator Java: Uses and Exmaples

The ternary operator in Java offers a condensed syntax for determining if a condition is true or false and returning a value determined by the outcome of the Boolean test. 

To write extremely condensed and maybe confusing code, if..else expressions can be substituted with the Java ternary operator.

The Java ternary operator adds simplicity and readability to developers’ code, which they adore. But new developers often find difficulty in understanding the syntax and symbols of the Java ternary operator.

Why is Ternary Operator Useful?

Only the Java ternary operator supports three operands in a conditional statement. Java programmers often use the ternary operator in Java as a one-line alternative to the if-then-else expression. 

Developers can use the Java ternary operator as a substitution for if-else statements. Also, they can create switch statements with nested ternary operators. 

The conditional operator utilizes a smaller amount of space and assists in writing if-else statements speedily, even if it adheres to the exact identical algorithm as an if-else statement.

Overview of Syntax and Structure of Java Ternary Operators

The ternary operator in Java comes with the following syntax: 

Under what conditions? (return if true) : (return if false);

The Java ternary operator symbol (?:) is frequently used as an acronym for the construct in publications and courses.

Despite writing this code: 

int time = 20;
if (time < 18) {
  System.out.println("Play Music.");
} else {
  System.out.println("Let’s Dance.");

You can alternatively write: 

int time = 20;
String result = (time < 18) ? "Play Music." : "Let’s Dance.";

Here is a table demonstrating the structure of Ternary Operators in Java: 


                                      ↙         ↘

                     False                                  True

           : Part Gets Execute         ? Part Gets Execute

                       ↓                                         ↓

            Expression1                           Expression2

                       ↓                                         ↓

    Resultant Value of Expression       Variable

Examples to Illustrate the Syntax

Here are some Java ternary operator examples to know about: 

  • Allocating a Value Based on a Condition
    int age = 21;
    String message = (age >= 21) ? "You can legally drink" : "You cannot legally drink";
    System.out.println(message); // "You can legally drink"
  • Returning a Value Depending on a Condition
    int x = 10;
    int y = 20;
    int max = (x > y) ? x : y;
    System.out.println(max); // 20
  • Nesting Ternary Operators
    int a = 10;
    int b = 20;
    int c = (a > b) ? 1 : ((a < b) ? -1 : 0);
    System.out.println(c); // -1

What are Nesting Ternary Operators

A nested Java ternary operator is the method through which developers can use one ternary operator inside another. Here’s how you can use the nested ternary operator in Java to find the smallest of the three numbers. So, check out this nested Java ternary operator example: 

class Main {
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    // create a variable
    int n1 = 4, n2 = 18, n3 = -22;

    // nested ternary operator
    // to find the smallest number
    int largest = (n1 >= n2) ? ((n1 >= n3) ? n1 : n3) : ((n2 >= n3) ? n2 : n3);
    System.out.println("Smallest Number: " + smallest);

Smallest Number: -22

How to use the Ternary Operator for Multiple Conditions

Ternary Operator Java: Uses and Exmaples

Follow these steps when using the ternary operator in Java: 

  • Step 1: Put a condition that can either be true or false in round brackets.
  • Step 2: A question mark should be added after the circular brackets.
  • Step 3: If the condition is true, write the value to return after the question mark.
  • Step 4: Add a colon after the period.
  • Step 5: If the condition is false, indicate the value to return after the colon.

Common Mistakes When Using the Ternary Operator

To date, among the biggest blunders developers make while using the Java ternary operator is substituting it for an if/else statement whenever they don’t wish to return any results. Consider the if/else statement below as an example: 

if (user.valid) {
} else {

In this function, no variables are being set, or anything is returned by the if/else in this function. You must avoid using a Java ternary operator in this code because it is only used to determine the program’s flow. This is how it would seem if you used a ternary:

user.valid ? user.save() : user.printErrors()

This code may appear fine, but it is needlessly complex, making it more challenging to grasp the program’s flow than a conventional if/else. 

What are the Conditions That Require the Java Ternary Operator?

Here are the conditions or situations that call for the use of the Java ternary operator: 

  • The ternary operator in Java is excellent for making basic conditional statements. It can be used, for instance, to give a variable a value depending on a simple condition.
  • The Java ternary operator is excellent for use with inline conditionals. You may use it, for instance, to find out the value of a variable utilized in a more noticeable expression.
  • The ternary operator in Java is most effective when dealing with non-complex conditionals. To make the code simpler to read, add if-else statements. However, do this only for complex conditionals.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Java Ternary Operator

Advantages of Java Ternary Operator Disadvantages of Java Ternary Operator
  • Compactness: The Java ternary operator makes it considerably easier to develop and write simple if-else statements, which makes the code easy to understand and maintain.
  • Performance Gain: The ternary operator in Java may operate quicker than a counterpart if-else statement because it just analyzes one expression as opposed to a whole block of code.
  • Better Readability: When used properly, the ternary operator in Java can enhance readability by ensuring the code’s purpose becomes simpler to comprehend.
  • No Difference in Efficiency: There isn’t any difference in effectiveness because the ternary operator will (must) be handled by the compiler precisely the same way as an explicit if statement. 

Example of Java Ternary Operator

Below is a basic Java ternary operator example in action: 

var result = ( Math.random() < 0 ) ? "negative" : "positive";
System.out.print("The random number is " + result);
// Java ternary example output: The random number is positive

Here’s how the above Java ternary operator example functions: 

  • The ternary operator in Java determines if a number created at random is smaller than zero.
  • The result value returned by the ternary operator in Java is stored in the program’s result variable, which is declared and assigned.
  • The condition is satisfied, and the software returns a text String that is “negative” if the value is less than zero.
  • The condition is false, and the software outputs a “positive” text String if the value exceeds zero.

The outcome of this Java ternary operator example is always “The random number is positive” since Math.random() always produces positive numbers.


Java has a ternary operator tool that enables you to build shorter if statements to manage the coding flow. Since they take three operands, they are known as ternary operators in Java.

We went over the fundamentals of Java ternary operators in this comprehensive guide. We also looked at the differences between Java if statements and ternary operators and saw both instances in operation. 

Do you wish to learn and know more about Java? If so, check this blog post on What is Arrays in Java | Everything You Need to Know!


What is a ternary operator in Java?

The ternary operator is an excellent way to define expressions in Java. It is an abbreviated version of an if-else statement that also yields a value.

How do you create a nested ternary operator in Java?

Place the statement on a true or false condition to make a nested ternary operator in Java. This should be the same statement that is to be evaluated. This will help you create a new, independent Java ternary operator.

When to use the Ternary Operator?

If you’d like your simple and basic “if” statement to look simpler in your code, you must use the ternary operator in Java. Using the Java ternary operator makes the code more understandable.

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