Binary logical operators are fundamental to software development and chances are you use them almost every time you write code. The operators `&&`

(*and*) and `||`

(*or*) fall into this category and are regularly found in predicates for control flow statements in application code.

```
if (a && b) {
// do something...
} else if (a || b) {
// do something else...
}
```

`&&`

and `||`

are referred to as **binary logical operators** because they perform an operation on two values (*binary*) and the two values (or operands) must be propositional expressions that evaluate to either true or false (*logical*).

Combining two propositional expressions with a binary logical operator produces a new propositional expression which is itself a valid operand for a binary logical operator. This means that we can use an expression with a logical operator as one of the operands of another expression, for example `(a && b) || c`

where the expression `(a && b)`

serves as the left operand of the `||`

operator.

While less common in most application code, there is a third binary logical operator that can be used in control flow statements. It is known as the *xor* operator or the *exclusive or* operator. Not all programming languages have a built in *xor* operator but of those that do, the symbol `^`

is often used to represent *xor* in code, allowing for expressions like `a ^ b`

and `(a ^ b && c)`

.

##
The *&&* and *||* Operators

Before getting into what exactly `^`

does and when to use it, let's first take a brief look at `&&`

and `||`

so that we can consider the *xor* operator as it relates to *and* and *or*.

The operator `&&`

evaluates to true if both operands in the expression evaluate to true, otherwise it evaluates to false. The relationship between `&&`

and all possible combinations of left and right operands are expressed in the following truth table where column `a`

represents the left operand of an expression, column `b`

represents the right operand of an expression, and column `&&`

represents the result of applying the `&&`

operator to both `a`

and `b`

.

```
-----------------------
a | b | &&
=======================
True | True | True
-----------------------
True | False | False
-----------------------
False | True | False
-----------------------
False | False | False
-----------------------
```

In contrast to `&&`

, the operator `||`

evaluates to true if either one or the other operand in the expression evaluates to true or if both operands evaluate to true. If both operands are false, then the `||`

expression will be false.

```
-----------------------
a | b | ||
=======================
True | True | True
-----------------------
True | False | True
-----------------------
False | True | True
-----------------------
False | False | False
-----------------------
```

##
The *^* Operator

Then there is the `^`

operator. It evaluates to true if either operand in the expression evaluates to true but **not** if both operands evaluate to true. If both operands are false or if both operands are true, the `^`

expression will evaluate to false. This is what the *exclusive* in *exclusive or* is communicating. For the expression to evaluate as true, one or the other operand must be true, not both. One of them must be exclusively true.

```
-----------------------
a | b | ^
=======================
True | True | False
-----------------------
True | False | True
-----------------------
False | True | True
-----------------------
False | False | False
-----------------------
```

You may come across languages that have a bitwise *xor* operator however this is not the same as the logical *xor* operator. Conceptually they are similar but in practice they are used for different purposes. It is outside the scope of this blog post to discuss bitwise operators and their relationship to logical operators however it is a topic worth exploring separately. For now it is important to know that they are not the same and that the focus of this blog post is on *logical* operators, not *bitwise*.

##
Using *Exclusive Or* in Code

The *xor* operator should be used when you require one and only one of two expressions to be true. For languages that do not have an *xor* operator, it is possible to check if only one expression is true however it is more verbose and does not communicate intent as clearly.

If the language you are working with has an *xor* operator, using it will make your code easier to read at a glance. It will clearly communicate the purpose of your code â€” to find an exclusively true expression.

```
// these expressions takes much longer to read and understand
boolean c = (a || b) && !(a && b)
boolean d = (a && !b) || (!a && b)
// using xor clearly communicates the purpose of the expression
boolean e = a ^ b
```

## Top comments (1)

In most languages I've used, the xor operator is bitwise as well as logical xor. It doesn't make much difference for most purposes, especially with some new languages that even forbid implicit conversions to boolean. For boolean operations, it makes no difference if you use & or && for 'and' operation, and same with | or || for 'or' operation, no difference. In fact, it makes no sense to use logical && for 'a && b' when you know a is boolean, b is boolean, and you expect the result to also be a boolean. You can save a character by putting & instead of &&. Same with XOR... bitwise or logical, when operating on boolean inputs, logical and bitwise operators all behave the same way.