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GNU Emacs Lisp Reference Manual

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10.3 Constructs for Combining Conditions

This section describes three constructs that are often used together with if and cond to express complicated conditions. The constructs and and or can also be used individually as kinds of multiple conditional constructs.

Function: not condition
This function tests for the falsehood of condition. It returns t if condition is nil, and nil otherwise. The function not is identical to null, and we recommend using the name null if you are testing for an empty list.

Special Form: and conditions...
The and special form tests whether all the conditions are true. It works by evaluating the conditions one by one in the order written.

If any of the conditions evaluates to nil, then the result of the and must be nil regardless of the remaining conditions; so and returns nil right away, ignoring the remaining conditions.

If all the conditions turn out non-nil, then the value of the last of them becomes the value of the and form. Just (and), with no conditions, returns t, appropriate because all the conditions turned out non-nil. (Think about it; which one did not?)

Here is an example. The first condition returns the integer 1, which is not nil. Similarly, the second condition returns the integer 2, which is not nil. The third condition is nil, so the remaining condition is never evaluated.

 
(and (print 1) (print 2) nil (print 3))
     -| 1
     -| 2
=> nil

Here is a more realistic example of using and:

 
(if (and (consp foo) (eq (car foo) 'x))
    (message "foo is a list starting with x"))

Note that (car foo) is not executed if (consp foo) returns nil, thus avoiding an error.

and can be expressed in terms of either if or cond. For example:

 
(and arg1 arg2 arg3)
==
(if arg1 (if arg2 arg3))
==
(cond (arg1 (cond (arg2 arg3))))

Special Form: or conditions...
The or special form tests whether at least one of the conditions is true. It works by evaluating all the conditions one by one in the order written.

If any of the conditions evaluates to a non-nil value, then the result of the or must be non-nil; so or returns right away, ignoring the remaining conditions. The value it returns is the non-nil value of the condition just evaluated.

If all the conditions turn out nil, then the or expression returns nil. Just (or), with no conditions, returns nil, appropriate because all the conditions turned out nil. (Think about it; which one did not?)

For example, this expression tests whether x is either nil or the integer zero:

 
(or (eq x nil) (eq x 0))

Like the and construct, or can be written in terms of cond. For example:

 
(or arg1 arg2 arg3)
==
(cond (arg1)
      (arg2)
      (arg3))

You could almost write or in terms of if, but not quite:

 
(if arg1 arg1
  (if arg2 arg2 
    arg3))

This is not completely equivalent because it can evaluate arg1 or arg2 twice. By contrast, (or arg1 arg2 arg3) never evaluates any argument more than once.


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