Literals

Literals create objects you can use in your program. Literals include:

Boolean and Nil Literals

nil and false are both false values. nil is sometimes used to indicate “no value” or “unknown” but evaluates to false in conditional expressions.

true is a true value. All objects except nil and false evaluate to a true value in conditional expressions.

Number Literals

Integer Literals

You can write integers of any size as follows:

1234
1_234

These numbers have the same value, 1,234. The underscore may be used to enhance readability for humans. You may place an underscore anywhere in the number.

You can use a special prefix to write numbers in decimal, hexadecimal, octal or binary formats. For decimal numbers use a prefix of 0d, for hexadecimal numbers use a prefix of 0x, for octal numbers use a prefix of 0 or 0o, for binary numbers use a prefix of 0b. The alphabetic component of the number is not case-sensitive.

Examples:

0d170
0D170

0xaa
0xAa
0xAA
0Xaa
0XAa
0XaA

0252
0o252
0O252

0b10101010
0B10101010

All these numbers have the same decimal value, 170. Like integers and floats you may use an underscore for readability.

Float Literals

Floating-point numbers may be written as follows:

12.34
1234e-2
1.234E1

These numbers have the same value, 12.34. You may use underscores in floating point numbers as well.

Rational Literals

You can write a Rational literal using a special suffix, 'r'.

Examples:

1r       # => (1/1)
2/3r     # => (2/3)   # With denominator.
-1r      # => (-1/1)  # With signs.
-2/3r    # => (-2/3)
2/-3r    # => (-2/3)
-2/-3r   # => (2/3)
+1/+3r   # => (1/3)
1.2r     # => (6/5)   # With fractional part.
1_1/2_1r # => (11/21) # With embedded underscores.
2/4r     # => (1/2)   # Automatically reduced.

Syntax:

<rational-literal> = <numerator> [ '/' <denominator> ] 'r'
<numerator> = [ <sign> ] <digits> [ <fractional-part> ]
<fractional-part> = '.' <digits>
<denominator> = [ sign ] <digits>
<sign> = '-' | '+'
<digits> = <digit> { <digit> | '_' <digit> }
<digit> = '0' | '1' | '2' | '3' | '4' | '5' | '6' | '7' | '8' | '9'

Note this, which is parsed as Float numerator 1.2 divided by Rational denominator 3r, resulting in a Float:

1.2/3r  # => 0.39999999999999997

Complex Literals

You can write a Complex number as follows (suffixed i):

1i          #=> (0+1i)
1i * 1i     #=> (-1+0i)

Also Rational numbers may be imaginary numbers.

12.3ri      #=> (0+(123/10)*i)

i must be placed after r; the opposite is not allowed.

12.3ir      #=> Syntax error

Strings

String Literals

The most common way of writing strings is using ":

"This is a string."

The string may be many lines long.

Any internal " must be escaped:

"This string has a quote: \".  As you can see, it is escaped"

Double-quote strings allow escaped characters such as \n for newline, \t for tab, etc. The full list of supported escape sequences are as follows:

\a             bell, ASCII 07h (BEL)
\b             backspace, ASCII 08h (BS)
\t             horizontal tab, ASCII 09h (TAB)
\n             newline (line feed), ASCII 0Ah (LF)
\v             vertical tab, ASCII 0Bh (VT)
\f             form feed, ASCII 0Ch (FF)
\r             carriage return, ASCII 0Dh (CR)
\e             escape, ASCII 1Bh (ESC)
\s             space, ASCII 20h (SPC)
\\             backslash, \
\nnn           octal bit pattern, where nnn is 1-3 octal digits ([0-7])
\xnn           hexadecimal bit pattern, where nn is 1-2 hexadecimal digits ([0-9a-fA-F])
\unnnn         Unicode character, where nnnn is exactly 4 hexadecimal digits ([0-9a-fA-F])
\u{nnnn ...}   Unicode character(s), where each nnnn is 1-6 hexadecimal digits ([0-9a-fA-F])
\cx or \C-x    control character, where x is an ASCII printable character
\M-x           meta character, where x is an ASCII printable character
\M-\C-x        meta control character, where x is an ASCII printable character
\M-\cx         same as above
\c\M-x         same as above
\c? or \C-?    delete, ASCII 7Fh (DEL)

Any other character following a backslash is interpreted as the character itself.

Double-quote strings allow interpolation of other values using #{...}:

"One plus one is two: #{1 + 1}"

Any expression may be placed inside the interpolated section, but it’s best to keep the expression small for readability.

You can also use #@foo, #@@foo and #$foo as a shorthand for, respectively, #{ @foo }, #{ @@foo } and #{ $foo }.

Interpolation may be disabled by escaping the “#” character or using single-quote strings:

'#{1 + 1}' #=> "\#{1 + 1}"

In addition to disabling interpolation, single-quoted strings also disable all escape sequences except for the single-quote (\') and backslash (\\).

Adjacent string literals are automatically concatenated by the interpreter:

"con" "cat" "en" "at" "ion" #=> "concatenation"
"This string contains "\
"no newlines."              #=> "This string contains no newlines."

Any combination of adjacent single-quote, double-quote, percent strings will be concatenated as long as a percent-string is not last.

%q{a} 'b' "c" #=> "abc"
"a" 'b' %q{c} #=> NameError: uninitialized constant q

There is also a character literal notation to represent single character strings, which syntax is a question mark (?) followed by a single character or escape sequence that corresponds to a single codepoint in the script encoding:

?a       #=> "a"
?abc     #=> SyntaxError
?\n      #=> "\n"
?\s      #=> " "
?\\      #=> "\\"
?\u{41}  #=> "A"
?\C-a    #=> "\x01"
?\M-a    #=> "\xE1"
?\M-\C-a #=> "\x81"
?\C-\M-a #=> "\x81", same as above
?あ      #=> "あ"

See also:

Here Document Literals

If you are writing a large block of text you may use a “here document” or “heredoc”:

expected_result = <<HEREDOC
This would contain specially formatted text.

That might span many lines
HEREDOC

The heredoc starts on the line following <<HEREDOC and ends with the next line that starts with HEREDOC. The result includes the ending newline.

You may use any identifier with a heredoc, but all-uppercase identifiers are typically used.

You may indent the ending identifier if you place a “-” after <<:

  expected_result = <<-INDENTED_HEREDOC
This would contain specially formatted text.

That might span many lines
  INDENTED_HEREDOC

Note that while the closing identifier may be indented, the content is always treated as if it is flush left. If you indent the content those spaces will appear in the output.

To have indented content as well as an indented closing identifier, you can use a “squiggly” heredoc, which uses a “~” instead of a “-” after <<:

expected_result = <<~SQUIGGLY_HEREDOC
  This would contain specially formatted text.

  That might span many lines
SQUIGGLY_HEREDOC

The indentation of the least-indented line will be removed from each line of the content. Note that empty lines and lines consisting solely of literal tabs and spaces will be ignored for the purposes of determining indentation, but escaped tabs and spaces are considered non-indentation characters.

A heredoc allows interpolation and escaped characters. You may disable interpolation and escaping by surrounding the opening identifier with single quotes:

expected_result = <<-'EXPECTED'
One plus one is #{1 + 1}
EXPECTED

p expected_result # prints: "One plus one is \#{1 + 1}\n"

The identifier may also be surrounded with double quotes (which is the same as no quotes) or with backticks. When surrounded by backticks the HEREDOC behaves like Kernel#`:

puts <<-`HEREDOC`
cat #{__FILE__}
HEREDOC

When surrounding with quotes, any character but that quote and newline (CR and/or LF) can be used as the identifier.

To call a method on a heredoc place it after the opening identifier:

expected_result = <<-EXPECTED.chomp
One plus one is #{1 + 1}
EXPECTED

You may open multiple heredocs on the same line, but this can be difficult to read:

puts(<<-ONE, <<-TWO)
content for heredoc one
ONE
content for heredoc two
TWO

Symbol Literals

A Symbol represents a name inside the ruby interpreter. See Symbol for more details on what symbols are and when ruby creates them internally.

You may reference a symbol using a colon: :my_symbol.

You may also create symbols by interpolation:

:"my_symbol1"
:"my_symbol#{1 + 1}"

Like strings, a single-quote may be used to disable interpolation:

:'my_symbol#{1 + 1}' #=> :"my_symbol\#{1 + 1}"

When creating a Hash, there is a special syntax for referencing a Symbol as well.

See also:

Array Literals

An array is created using the objects between [ and ]:

[1, 2, 3]

You may place expressions inside the array:

[1, 1 + 1, 1 + 2]
[1, [1 + 1, [1 + 2]]]

See also:

See Array for the methods you may use with an array.

Hash Literals

A hash is created using key-value pairs between { and }:

{ "a" => 1, "b" => 2 }

Both the key and value may be any object.

You can create a hash using symbol keys with the following syntax:

{ a: 1, b: 2 }

This same syntax is used for keyword arguments for a method.

Like Symbol literals, you can quote symbol keys.

{ "a 1": 1, "b #{1 + 1}": 2 }

is equal to

{ :"a 1" => 1, :"b 2" => 2 }

Hash values can be omitted, meaning that value will be fetched from the context by the name of the key:

x = 100
y = 200
h = { x:, y: }
#=> {:x=>100, :y=>200}

See Hash for the methods you may use with a hash.

Range Literals

A range represents an interval of values. The range may include or exclude its ending value.

(1..2)  # includes its ending value
(1...2) # excludes its ending value
(1..)   # endless range, representing infinite sequence from 1 to Infinity
(..1)   # beginless range, representing infinite sequence from -Infinity to 1

You may create a range of any object. See the Range documentation for details on the methods you need to implement.

Regexp Literals

A regular expression may be created using leading and trailing slash ('/') characters:

re = /foo/ # => /foo/
re.class   # => Regexp

The trailing slash may be followed by one or more flag characters that modify the behavior. See Regexp options for details.

Interpolation may be used inside regular expressions along with escaped characters. Note that a regular expression may require additional escaped characters than a string.

See also:

See Regexp for a description of the syntax of regular expressions.

Lambda Proc Literals

A lambda proc can be created with ->:

-> { 1 + 1 }

Calling the above proc will give a result of 2.

You can require arguments for the proc as follows:

->(v) { 1 + v }

This proc will add one to its argument.

Percent Literals

Each of the literals in described in this section may use these paired delimiters:

These are demonstrated in the next section.

%q: Non-Interpolable String Literals

You can write a non-interpolable string with %q. The created string is the same as if you created it with single quotes:

%[foo bar baz]        # => "foo bar baz" # Using [].
%(foo bar baz)        # => "foo bar baz" # Using ().
%{foo bar baz}        # => "foo bar baz" # Using {}.
%<foo bar baz>        # => "foo bar baz" # Using <>.
%|foo bar baz|        # => "foo bar baz" # Using two |.
%:foo bar baz:        # => "foo bar baz" # Using two :.
%q(1 + 1 is #{1 + 1}) # => "1 + 1 is \#{1 + 1}" # No interpolation.

% and %Q: Interpolable String Literals

You can write an interpolable string with %Q or with its alias %:

%[foo bar baz]       # => "foo bar baz"
%(1 + 1 is #{1 + 1}) # => "1 + 1 is 2" # Interpolation.

%w and %W: String-Array Literals

You can write an array of strings with %w (non-interpolable) or %W (interpolable):

%w[foo bar baz]       # => ["foo", "bar", "baz"]
%w[1 % *]             # => ["1", "%", "*"]
# Use backslash to embed spaces in the strings.
%w[foo\ bar baz\ bat] # => ["foo bar", "baz bat"]
%w(#{1 + 1})          # => ["\#{1", "+", "1}"]
%W(#{1 + 1})          # => ["2"]

%i and %I: Symbol-Array Literals

You can write an array of symbols with %i (non-interpolable) or %I (interpolable):

%i[foo bar baz]       # => [:foo, :bar, :baz]
%i[1 % *]             # => [:"1", :%, :*]
# Use backslash to embed spaces in the symbols.
%i[foo\ bar baz\ bat] # => [:"foo bar", :"baz bat"]
%i(#{1 + 1})          # => [:"\#{1", :+, :"1}"]
%I(#{1 + 1})          # => [:"2"]

%s: Symbol Literals

You can write a symbol with %s:

:foo     # => :foo
:foo bar # => :"foo bar"

%r: Regexp Literals

You can write a regular expression with %r; the character used as the leading and trailing delimiter may be (almost) any character:

%r/foo/             # => /foo/
%r:name/value pair: # => /name\/value pair/

A few “symmetrical” character pairs may be used as delimiters:

%r[foo] # => /foo/
%r{foo} # => /foo/
%r(foo) # => /foo/
%r<foo> # => /foo/

The trailing delimiter may be followed by one or more flag characters that modify the behavior. See Regexp options for details.

%x: Backtick Literals

You can write and execute a shell command with %x:

%x(echo 1) # => "1\n"