The Absence of a Ternary Operator in Go: A Design Choice for Simplicity


Go, also known as Golang, is a statically typed, compiled programming language developed by Google. Since its release in 2009, Go has gained popularity for its simplicity, efficiency, and readability. One notable feature that sets Go apart from many other programming languages is its lack of a ternary operator. In this blog post, we’ll explore why Go may never get a ternary operator and the reasons behind this design choice.

1. Readability and Simplicity

One of Go’s guiding principles is readability. The language designers firmly believe that code should be easy to read and understand, not just by the person who wrote it but also by others who may need to maintain or modify it. By omitting a ternary operator, Go encourages developers to write code that is more explicit and self-explanatory. While ternary operators can be concise, they often sacrifice readability, especially for those who are new to the language or not accustomed to this shorthand.

2. Clarity Over Conciseness

In Go, clarity takes precedence over conciseness. The absence of a ternary operator reinforces the idea that code should be as clear as possible, even if it means writing a few extra lines. The goal is to minimize the potential for ambiguity and misunderstanding, making it easier to catch bugs and maintain code in the long run.

3. Avoiding Ambiguity

Ternary operators can sometimes introduce ambiguity or unexpected behavior, particularly when used in complex expressions or in combination with other operators. Go’s design philosophy includes avoiding such pitfalls. The language’s creators want developers to write code that is predictable and free from hidden gotchas, and not having a ternary operator contributes to this goal.

4. Encouraging Full Statements

Go encourages developers to use full statements rather than expressions. While expressions can be more concise, full statements can provide better context and make code more explicit. By not offering a ternary operator, Go encourages developers to write code that clearly conveys its intent.

5. Avoiding Pitfalls of Null Coalescing

Ternary operators are often used for null coalescing, which can introduce issues related to null values or unexpected behavior. Go’s strong typing system and its approach to error handling may reduce the need for null coalescing, making a ternary operator less necessary in Go’s ecosystem.

6. Compatibility and Consistency

Introducing a ternary operator into a language that didn’t originally have one can lead to inconsistencies in coding styles across different codebases. It may also require rethinking certain language features and best practices. Go’s design decisions are made with careful consideration of backward compatibility and language consistency.


While some programmers might miss the convenience of a ternary operator in Go, its absence is not a design oversight but a conscious choice to prioritize readability, clarity, and simplicity. Go’s creators have carefully crafted the language to encourage good coding practices and minimize common sources of confusion and bugs. Ultimately, Go’s lack of a ternary operator aligns with its goal of providing a pragmatic and efficient tool for developers who value clean and maintainable code.

As the Go programming language continues to evolve, it’s essential for developers to understand and appreciate the design principles that underpin its features. While the absence of a ternary operator may seem like a limitation at first, it reflects Go’s commitment to making code that is not only functional but also easy to understand and maintain.

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