Defect Report #025
Submission Date: 10 Dec 92
Source: X3J11/91-005 (Fred Tydeman)
What is meant by ``representable floating-point value?'' Assume double
precision, unless stated otherwise.
First, some definitions based partially upon the floating-point model in
subclause 184.108.40.206.2, on pages 14-16 of the C Standard:
On the real number line, these symbols order as:
+Normal Numbers: DBL_MIN to DBL_MAX, inclusive;
normalized (first significand digit is non-zero), sign is +1.
-Normal Numbers: -DBL_MAX to -DBL_MIN,
+Zero: All digits zero, sign is +1; (true zero).
-Zero: All digits zero, sign is -1.
Zero: Union of +zero and -zero.
+Denormals: Exponent is ``minimum'' (biased exponent is zero); first significand
digit is zero; sign is +1. These are in range +DBL_DeN
(inclusive) to +DBL_MIN (exclusive). (Let DBL_DeN
be the symbol for the minimum positive denormal, so we can talk about it
-Denormals: same as +denormals, except sign, and range is -DBL_MIN
(exclusive) to -DBL_DeN (inclusive).
+Unnormals: Biased exponent is non-zero; first significand digit is zero;
sign is +1. These overlap the range of +normals and +denormals.
-Unnormals: Same as +unnormals, except sign; range is over -normals and
+infinity: From IEEE-754.
-infinity: From IEEE-754.
Quiet NaN (Not a Number); sign does not matter; from IEEE-754.
Signaling NaN; sign does not matter; from IEEE-754.
NaN: Union of Quiet NaN and Signaling NaN.
Others: Reserved (VAX?) and Indefinite (CDC/Cray?) act like NaN.
[ 1 )[ 2 ]( 3 ]( 4 )( 6 )[ 7 )[ 8 ]( 9 ]
-INF -DBL_MAX -DBL_MIN -DBL_Den -0 +0 +DBL_Den +DBL_MIN +DBL_MAX +INF
Non-real numbers are: SNaN, QNaN, and NaN; call this region 10.
Regions 1 and 9 are overflow, 2 and 8 are normal numbers, 3 and 7 are denormal
numbers (pseudo underflow), 4 and 6 are true underflow, and 5 is zero.
So, the question is: What does ``representable (double-precision) floating-point
Some things to consider in your answer follow. The questions that follow
are rhetorical and do not need answers.
Regions 2, 5 and 8 (+/- normals and zero)
Regions 2, 3, 5, 7, and 8 (+/- normals, denormals, and zero)
Regions 2 through 8 [-DBL_MAX ... +DBL_MAX]
Regions 1 through 9 [-INF ... +INF]
Regions 1 through 10 (reals and non-reals)
What the hardware can represent
Something else? What?
Subclause 220.127.116.11.2 Characteristics of floating types <float.h>,
page 14, lines 32-34:
The characteristics of floating types are defined in terms of a model that
describes a representation of floating-point numbers and values that provide
information about an implementation's floating-point arithmetic.
Same section, page 15, line 6:
A normalized floating-point number x ... is defined by the following
That model is just normalized numbers and zero (appears to include signed
zeros). It excludes denormal and unnormal numbers, infinities, and NaNs.
Are signed zeros required, or just allowed?
Subclause 18.104.22.168 Floating constants, page 26, lines 32-35: ``If
the scaled value is in the range of representable values (for its type)
the result is either the nearest representable value, or the larger or
smaller representable value immediately adjacent to the nearest value,
chosen in an implementation-defined manner.''
A B y C x D E z F
-DBL_Den 0.0 +DBL_Den +DBL_MIN +DBL_MAX +INF
The representable numbers are A, B, C, D, E, and F. The number
x can be converted to B, C, or D! But what if B is zero, C is DBL_DeN
(denormal), and D is DBL_MIN (normalized). Is x representable?
It is not in the range DBL_MIN ... DBL_MAX and its inverse
causes overflow; so those say not valid. On the other hand, it is in the
range DBL_DeN ... DBL_MAX and it does not cause underflow;
so those say it is valid.
What if B is zero, A is -DBL_DeN (denormal), and C is +DBL_DeN
(denormal); is y representable? If so, its nearest value is zero, and the
immediately adjacent values include a positive and a negative number. So
a user-written positive number is allowed to end up with a negative value!
What if E is DBL_MAX and F is infinity (on a machine that
uses infinities, IEEE-754)? Does z have a representation? If z came from
1.0/x, then z caused overflow which says invalid. But on IEEE-754 machines,
it would either be DBL_MAX or infinity depending upon the
rounding control, so it has a representation and is valid.
What is ``nearest?'' In linear or logarithmic sense? If the number is between
0 and DBL_DeN, e.g.,
10-99999, it is linear-nearest to
zero, but log-nearest to DBL_DeN. If the number is between
DBL_MAX and INF, e.g., 10+99999, it is linear- and log-nearest
to DBL_MAX. Or is everything bigger than DBL_MAX
nearest to INF?
Subclause 22.214.171.124 Floating and integral, page 35, Footnote 29: ``Thus,
the range of portable floating values is (-1,Utype_MAX+1).''
Subclause 126.96.36.199 Floating types, page 35, lines 11-15: ``When a
double is demoted to float or a long
double to double or float, if
the value being converted is outside the range of values that can be represented,
the behavior is undefined. If the value being converted is in the range
of values that can be represented but cannot be represented exactly, the
result is either the nearest higher or nearest lower value, chosen in an
Subclause 6.3 Expressions, page 38, lines 15-17: ``If an exception
occurs during the evaluation of an expression (that is, if the result is
not mathematically defined or not in the range of representable values
for its type), the behavior is undefined.''
w = 1.0 / 0.0 ; /* infinity in IEEE-754 */
x = 0.0 / 0.0 ; /* NaN in IEEE-754 */
y = +0.0 ; /* plus zero */
z = - y ; /* minus zero: Must this be -0.0? May it be +0.0?
Are the above representable?
Subclause 7.5.1 Treatment of error conditions, page 111, lines 11-12:
``The behavior of each of these functions is defined for all representable
values of its input arguments.''
What about non-numbers? Are they representable? What is sin(NaN)?
If you got a NaN as input, then you can return NaN as output. But, is it
a domain error? Must errno be set to EDOM?
The NaN already indicates an error, so setting errno adds
no more information. Assuming NaN is not part of Standard C ``representable,''
but the hardware supports it, then using NaNs is an extension of Standard
C and setting errno need not be required, but is allowed.
Subclause 7.5.1 Treatment of error conditions, on page 111, lines
20-27 says: ``Similarly, a range error occurs if the result of the
function cannot be represented as a double value. If the
result overflows (the magnitude of the result is so large that it cannot
be represented in an object of the specified type), the function returns
the value of the macro HUGE_VAL, with the same sign (except
for the tan function) as the correct value of the function;
the value of the macro ERANGE is stored in errno.
If the result underflows (the magnitude of the result is so small that
it cannot be represented in an object of the specified type), the function
returns zero; whether the integer expression errno acquires
the value of the macro ERANGE is implementation-defined.''
What about denormal numbers? What is sin(DBL_MIN/3.0L)?
Must this be considered underflow and therefore return zero, and maybe
set errno to ERANGE? Or may it return DBL_MIN/3.0,
a denormal number? Assuming denormals are not part of Standard C ``representable,''
but the hardware supports it, then using them is an extension of Standard
C and setting errno need not be required, but is allowed.
What about infinity? What is exp(INF)? If you got
an INF as input, then you can return INF as output. But, is it a range
error? The output value is representable, so that says: no error. The output
value is bigger than DBL_MAX, so that says: an error and
set errno to ERANGE. Assuming infinity
is not part of Standard C ``representable,'' but the hardware supports
it, then using INFs is an extension of Standard C and setting errno
need not be required, but is allowed. Correct?
What about signed zeros? What is sin(-0.0)? Must this return
-0.0? May it return -0.0? May it return +0.0? Signed zeros appear to be
required in the model in subclause 188.8.131.52.2 on page 15.
What is sqrt(-0.0)? IEEE-754 and IEEE-854 (floating-point
standards) say this must be -0. Is -0.0 negative? Is this a domain error?
Subclause 184.108.40.206 The fprintf function on page 132, lines
32-33 says: ``(It will begin with a sign only when a negative value is
converted if this flag is not specified.)''
What is fprintf(stdout, "%+.1f", -0.0);? Must
it be -0.0? May it be +0.0? Is -0.0 a negative value? The model on page
15 appears to require support for signed zeros.
What is fprintf(stdout, "%f %f", 1.0/0.0, 0.0/0.0);?
May it be the IEEE-854 strings of inf or infinity
for the infinity and NaN for the quiet NaN? Would NaNQ
also be allowed for a quiet NaN? Would NaNS be allowed
for a signaling NaN? Must the sign be printed? Signs are optional in IEEE-754
and IEEE-854. Or, must it be some decimal notation as specified by subclause
220.127.116.11, page 133, line 19? Does the locale matter?
Subclause 18.104.22.168 The strtod function on page 151, lines
2-3 says: ``If the subject sequence begins with a minus sign, the value
resulting from the conversion is negated.''
What is strtod("-0.0", &ptr)? Must it be
-0.0? May it be +0.0? The model on page 15 appears to require support for
signed zeros. All floating-point hardware I know about support signed zeros
at least at the load, store, and negate/complement instruction level.
Subclause 22.214.171.124 The strtod function on page 151, lines
12-15 say: ``If the correct value is outside the range of representable
values, plus or minus HUGE_VAL is returned (according to
the sign of the value), and the value of the macro ERANGE
is stored in errno. If the correct value would cause underflow,
zero is returned and the value of the macro ERANGE is stored
If HUGE_VAL is +infinity, then is strtod("1e99999",
&ptr) outside the range of representable values, and a range
error? Or is it the ``nearest'' of DBL_MAX and INF?
Principles for C floating-point representation:
(These principles are intended to clarify the use of some terms in the
standard; they are not meant to impose additional constraints on conforming
- ``Value'' refers to the abstract (mathematical) meaning; ``representation''
refers to the implementation data pattern.
- Some (not all) values have exact representations.
- There may be multiple exact representations for the same value; all
such representations shall compare equal.
- Exact representations of different values shall compare unequal.
- There shall be at least one exact representation for the value zero.
- Implementations are allowed considerable latitude in the way they represent
floating-point quantities; in particular, as noted in Footnote 10 on page
14, the implementation need not exactly conform to the model given in subclause
126.96.36.199.2 for ``normalized floating-point numbers.''
- There may be minimum and/or maximum exactly-representable values; all
values between and including such extrema are considered to ``lie within
the range of representable values.''
- Implementations may elect to represent ``infinite'' values, in which
case all real numbers would lie within the range of representable values.
- For a given value, the ``nearest representable value'' is that exactly-representable
value within the range of representable values that is closest (mathematically,
using the usual Euclidean norm) to the given value.
(Points 3 and 4 are meant to apply to representations of the same floating
type, not meant for comparison between different types.)
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This implies that a conforming implementation is allowed to accept a floating-point
constant of any arbitrarily large or small value.