[c] "error: assignment to expression with array type error" when I assign a struct field (C)

I'm a beginner C programmer, yesterday I learned the use of C structs and the possible application of these ones about the resolution of specific problems. However when I was experimenting with my C IDE (Codeblocks 16.01) in order to learn this aspect of C programming, I've encountered a strange issue. The code is the following:

#include <stdio.h>

#define N 30

typedef struct{
     char name[N];
     char surname[N];
     int age;
} data;

int main() {
     data s1;
     s1.surname = "Rossi";
     s1.age = 19;
     return 0;

During the compilation, the compiler (GCC 4.9.3-1 under Windows) reported me an error that says

"error: assignment to expression with array type error"

on instruction


while if I do

data s1 = {"Paolo", "Rossi", 19};

it works. What am I doing wrong?

This question is related to c arrays string struct initialization

The answer is

You are facing issue in


because, in the LHS, you're using an array type, which is not assignable.

To elaborate, from C11, chapter §6.5.16

assignment operator shall have a modifiable lvalue as its left operand.

and, regarding the modifiable lvalue, from chapter §

A modifiable lvalue is an lvalue that does not have array type, [...]

You need to use strcpy() to copy into the array.

That said, data s1 = {"Paolo", "Rossi", 19}; works fine, because this is not a direct assignment involving assignment operator. There we're using a brace-enclosed initializer list to provide the initial values of the object. That follows the law of initialization, as mentioned in chapter §6.7.9

Each brace-enclosed initializer list has an associated current object. When no designations are present, subobjects of the current object are initialized in order according to the type of the current object: array elements in increasing subscript order, structure members in declaration order, and the first named member of a union.[....]

typedef struct{
     char name[30];
     char surname[30];
     int age;
} data;

defines that data should be a block of memory that fits 60 chars plus 4 for the int (see note)

 ^ this is name              ^ this is surname              ^ this is age

This allocates the memory on the stack.

data s1;

Assignments just copies numbers, sometimes pointers.

This fails

s1.name = "Paulo";

because the compiler knows that s1.name is the start of a struct 64 bytes long, and "Paulo" is a char[] 6 bytes long (6 because of the trailing \0 in C strings)
Thus, trying to assign a pointer to a string into a string.

To copy "Paulo" into the struct at the point name and "Rossi" into the struct at point surname.

memcpy(s1.name,    "Paulo", 6);
memcpy(s1.surname, "Rossi", 6);
s1.age = 1;

You end up with


strcpy does the same thing but it knows about \0 termination so does not need the length hardcoded.

Alternatively you can define a struct which points to char arrays of any length.

typedef struct {
  char *name;
  char *surname;
  int age;
} data;

This will create


This will now work because you are filling the struct with pointers.

s1.name = "Paulo";
s1.surname = "Rossi";
s1.age = 1;

Something like this


Where 4 and 10 are pointers.

Note: the ints and pointers can be different sizes, the sizes 4 above are 32bit as an example.

Please check this example here: Accessing Structure Members

There is explained that the right way to do it is like this:

strcpy(s1.name , "Egzona");
printf( "Name : %s\n", s1.name);

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