In this article, I introduce you to Boolean algebra, a branch of algebra that evaluates the value of a condition to true
or false
. This is a fundamental part of programming that you can't escape, and you will use this until the end of your programmer career and maybe even beyond that point.
The article is not focusing on mathematical applications and representations but on programming. The objective is to give you the knowledge you need for the next article of the series.
This article is part of a learn programming series where you need no prior knowledge of programming. If you want to learn how to program and want to learn it using .NET/C#, this is the right place. I suggest reading the whole series in order, starting with Creating your first .NET/C# program, but that's not mandatory.
This article is the first part of a subseries showcasing the following articles:
 Introduction to Boolean algebra and logical operators (you are here)
 Writing conditional code blocks with ifelse selection statements
 Advanced logical operators and common Boolean algebra laws
Boolean type
In C#, bool
is the type that represents a boolean value. A bool
can have a value of true
or false
. A bool
is the memory representation of a bit. A bit is a base 2 digit that is either 0
or 1
. The value 0
means false
, and the value 1
means true
.
Want to know more? The mathematic that we learn at school is base10; a.k.a., there are 10 numbers: 0 to 9.
On the other hand, computers use base2, or a binary numeral system, that includes only two numbers: 0 and 1.
Chances are, this is not something that you need to know right away, but I recommend learning this concept one day.
Knowing base2 (binary), base8 (octal), and base16 (hexadecimal) can only help you (yes, there are more than just base2 and base10).
The following code shows the two possibilities, written in C#:
// Using var
var thisIsTrue = true;
var thisIsFalse = false;
// Using the type name
bool thisIsAlsoTrue = true;
bool thisIsAlsoFalse = false;
Now that we covered how to declare a variable of type bool
, let's look at the basic operations of Boolean algebra.
Basic operations
There are three basic operations in boolean algebra:
Name  Knownas  C# 

Conjunction  AND  && 
Disjunction  OR   
Negation  NOT  ! 
With AND
, OR
, and NOT
, we can create most logical conditions that a program requires to run. Let's start by exploring the NOT
logical operator.
Logical operator NOT
The NOT
operator is a unary prefix operator and is different from AND
and OR
, which are binary operators. It prefixes a boolean value and inverts it. In C# (and many other languages), the NOT
symbol is !
.
More info: C# 8.0 introduced the
!
as a suffix operator, a.k.a. the nullforgiving operator, which is a totally different thing.
The following table lists the two possible use of the negation operator and their outcome:
Expression (C#)  English  Result 

!true 
NOT true

false 
!false 
NOT false

true 
The following code uses the preceding grid to explore the possibilities using C#, outputting the values in the console:
var value1 = true;
var value2 = false;
var value3 = !value1; // false
var value4 = !value2; // true
Console.WriteLine($"value1: {value1}");
Console.WriteLine($"value2: {value2}");
Console.WriteLine($"value3: {value3}");
Console.WriteLine($"value4: {value4}");
When running the program, we obtain the following output:
value1: True
value2: False
value3: False
value4: True
As we can observe here, the value of the value3
and value4
variables are the opposite of their negated source. This is the main takeaway here: the NOT operator, in !variable
, flips the original value of variable
.
One last bit: as an analogy, you could see a boolean as a light switch and the negation as the action of flipping the switch on/off.
For example, when you flip the lightswitch from off (false
) to on (true
); on is the equivalent of not off (!false
) while off is the equivalent of not on (!true
).
Next, let's jump into the AND logical operator.
Conditional logical operator AND
In C#, the conditional logical AND
operator is represented by &&
.
Important: It is essential to double the symbol, otherwise
&
(single) is a binary operator (acting on bits), and it is different.
The &&
operator is a binary operator that acts on two operands, like result = operand1 && operand2
.
Here is an example of using the &&
operator:
var leftOperand = true;
var rightOperand = true;
var result = leftOperand && rightOperand; // true
Console.WriteLine($"Result: {result}");
The preceding code outputs Result: True
to the console.
Now that you may be wondering why true && true
returns true
, let's have a look at the logical table of the AND
operator:
Left  Right  C#  English  Result 

true 
true 
true && true 
true AND true

true 
true 
false 
true && false 
true AND false

false 
false 
true 
false && true 
false AND true

false 
false 
false 
false && false 
false AND false

false 
As you may have noticed from the preceding table, all combinations result in false
except when both operands are true
; that's how the AND operator works. Let's update the preceding code to cover the true && false
scenario:
var leftOperand = true;
var rightOperand = false;
var result = leftOperand && rightOperand; // false
Console.WriteLine($"Result: {result}");
This updated code outputs Result: False
to the console, precisely like the table predicted.
Ok, we are not done yet. Next, we look at the OR
operator, which has a similar syntax but a different logical outcome.
Conditional logical operator OR
In C#, the conditional logical OR
operator is represented by 
.
Important: It is essential to double the symbol, otherwise

(single) is a binary operator (acting on bits), and it is different.
The 
operator, same as the &&
operator, is a binary operator that acts on two operands, like result = operand1  operand2
.
Here is a C# example of using the 
operator:
var leftOperand = true;
var rightOperand = true;
var result = leftOperand  rightOperand; // true
Console.WriteLine($"Result: {result}");
The preceding code outputs Result: True
to the console. Like the AND operator, the OR operator also has a logical table that comes with it. Let's have a look:
Left  Right  C#  English  Result 

true 
true 
true  true

true OR true

true 
true 
false 
true  false

true OR false

true 
false 
true 
false  true

false OR true

true 
false 
false 
false  false

false OR false

false 
An interesting observation is how the 
operator returns true
whenever there is at least one operand that is equal to true
. In other words, the 
operator returns false
only when there is no true
(when both operands are false
). In code, the only way to have a result of false
would be the following code:
var result = false  false; // false
Console.WriteLine($"Result: {result}");
The preceding code outputs Result: False
to the console.
Now that we covered the basic operators, it is time to look at the logical exclusive OR
operator, which is closer to the spoken OR
than the logical OR
that we just learned about.
Logical exclusive OR operator (XOR)
In spoken languages, we usually use OR
as an exclusive OR. For example, when we say, « do you prefer blue or green? » we expect a response about one of the two but not both. That type of OR is called the exclusive OR
, also known as XOR
. In C#, the XOR operator is ^
.
Advanced information: the
XOR
operator is a compound operator, or shortcut if you which.
We can compose the equivalent of theXOR
operator using basic operators likeNOT
,AND
, andOR
.
In C#, theXOR
operator can be expressed as one of the following expressions:(left  right) && (!left && !right)
or(left && !right)  (!left && right)
.
In the preceding two code snippets, the parenthesis change the priority of the operations.
The parenthesis play the same concept than in the following elementary mathematic equations(1 + 2) * 3 = 3 * 3 = 9
but1 + 2 * 3 = 1 + 6 = 7
.
Let's start by exploring the XOR
logic table:
Left  Right  C#  English  Result 

true 
true 
true ^ true 
true OR true

false 
true 
false 
true ^ false 
true OR false

true 
false 
true 
false ^ true 
false OR true

true 
false 
false 
false ^ false 
false OR false

false 
As you may have noticed, the XOR
logic table is the same as the OR
table, but the result is false
when both operands are true
(first row). This is what differentiates OR and XOR: the result is true
if one operand is true
but not both.
In code, XOR looks like this:
var leftOperand = true;
var rightOperand = false;
var result = leftOperand ^ rightOperand; // true
Console.WriteLine($"Result: {result}");
When executing the preceding code, we get Result: True
as the console output because one of the operands is true but not both.
Note: based on my personal experiences, this operator is not used very often.
Nevertheless, I think it is worth knowing of its existence, for those few times.
Next, that's your turn to practice what we just covered.
Exercise
The exercise will focus on the logic part and not on the code part. We will use this knowledge in the next installment, where we will learn to write conditional code based on boolean logic. For now, try to answer the following questions without consulting the logic tables.
What is the result of:
true && true
true  true
!true && true
true  !true
true ^ true
Once you are done, compare your results with the answers below:
Answers
true
true
false
true

false
Good job! You completed another small chapter of your programming journey.
Conclusion
In this article, we explored the three basic operations of Boolean algebra: AND
, OR
, and NOT
. Each of them has a logical table that lists the expected output based on the inputs. For example, AND returns true
only when both operands are true
, while OR returns false
only when both operands are false
.
Then we looked at the compound operator XOR (exclusive OR). That operator helps simplify certain scenarios where you want a result of true
when only one of the two operands is true
but not both.
This is very important and will be used in subsequent articles to learn to use boolean algebra to write conditional logic. We will also explore more complex scenarios and some laws to help you simplify your conditional logic. This was a theoretical article that we will practice in the next one of the series.
All in all, Boolean algebra is one of the bases of programming that you can't escape. Please leave a comment below if you have questions or comments.
Next step
It is now time to move to the next article: Writing conditional code blocks with ifelse selection statements which is coming soon. Stay tuned by following me on dev.to, Twitter, or other places you can find me.
You can look at my blog for more info.
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