14.3. strcat(), strncat()

Concatenate two strings into a single string.


#include <string.h>
int strcat(const char *dest, const char *src);
int strncat(const char *dest, const char *src, size_t n);


"Concatenate", for those not in the know, means to "stick together". These functions take two strings, and stick them together, storing the result in the first string.

These functions don't take the size of the first string into account when it does the concatenation. What this means in practical terms is that you can try to stick a 2 megabyte string into a 10 byte space. This will lead to unintended consequences, unless you intended to lead to unintended consequences, in which case it will lead to intended unintended consequences.

Technical banter aside, your boss and/or professor will be irate.

If you want to make sure you don't overrun the first string, be sure to check the lengths of the strings first and use some highly technical subtraction to make sure things fit.

You can actually only concatenate the first n characters of the second string by using strncat() and specifying the maximum number of characters to copy.

Return Value

Both functions return a pointer to the destination string, like most of the string-oriented functions.


char dest[20] = "Hello";
char *src = ", World!";
char numbers[] = "12345678";

printf("dest before strcat: \"%s\"\n", dest); // "Hello"

strcat(dest, src);
printf("dest after strcat:  \"%s\"\n", dest); // "Hello, world!"

strncat(dest, numbers, 3); // strcat first 3 chars of numbers
printf("dest after strncat: \"%s\"\n", dest); // "Hello, world!123"

Notice I mixed and matched pointer and array notation there with src and numbers; this is just fine with string functions.

See Also