How do you use the ? : (conditional) operator in JavaScript?

This is a one-line shorthand for an if-else statement. It’s called the conditional operator.1

Here is an example of code that could be shortened with the conditional operator:

var userType;
if (userIsYoungerThan18) {
  userType = "Minor";
} else {
  userType = "Adult";
}

if (userIsYoungerThan21) {
  serveDrink("Grape Juice");
} else {
  serveDrink("Wine");
}

This can be shortened with the ?: like so:

var userType = userIsYoungerThan18 ? "Minor" : "Adult";

serveDrink(userIsYoungerThan21 ? "Grape Juice" : "Wine");

Like all expressions, the conditional operator can also be used as a standalone statement with side-effects, though this isĀ unusualĀ outside of minification:

userIsYoungerThan21 ? serveGrapeJuice() : serveWine();

They can even be chained:

serveDrink(userIsYoungerThan4 ? 'Milk' : userIsYoungerThan21 ? 'Grape Juice' : 'Wine');

Be careful, though, or you will end up with convoluted code like this:

var k = a ? (b ? (c ? d : e) : (d ? e : f)) : f ? (g ? h : i) : j;


1 Often called “the ternary operator,” but in fact it’s just a ternary operator [an operator accepting three operands]. It’s the only one JavaScript currently has, though.

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