How to Assign the Ternary Operator in JavaScript?

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Key Takeaways:

  • The ternary operator allows conditional assignment of values in JavaScript.
  • Its syntax is condition ? exprIfTrue : exprIfFalse.
  • The condition is evaluated first, with exprIfTrue used if true and exprIfFalse used if false.
  • Ternary operators are frequently used to simplify conditional assignment and return values.
  • They provide a compact syntax for basic if-else conditional logic.


Conditional logic is ubiquitous in programming. The ability to check conditions and execute different code paths based on the outcome is a fundamental concept. In JavaScript, one common way to implement basic conditional logic is the ternary operator.

The ternary operator provides a compact syntax for assigning values conditionally within a single expression. This avoids more verbose if-else statements for simple conditional assignment. Ternary operators are invaluable when writing tidy, readable code.

This article will provide a comprehensive guide on how to use ternary operators for conditional value assignment in JavaScript. It evaluates the syntax, usage, examples, and best practices when leveraging these useful operators. Readers will gain a firm grasp of how to integrate ternary operators into their own code.

Mastering basic ternary syntax lays a foundation for more advanced conditional logic in JavaScript. The concise yet expressive nature of ternaries makes them a popular choice. This article will equip readers with the knowledge needed to confidently assign values using ternary operators.

Syntax for the Ternary Operator

The ternary operator syntax relies on three operands – a condition followed by a question mark (?), then an expression to execute if truthy followed by a colon (:), and finally an expression to run if falsy:

condition ? exprIfTrue : exprIfFalse

This compact syntax allows conditional logic in a single line. The condition is evaluated first. If it is truthy, the expression after the question mark (?) executes. If it is falsy, the expression after the colon (:) runs instead.

Ternary expressions result in assignment of the exprIfTrue or exprIfFalse result. The condition itself is not assigned, only the expression for the matching case.

Basic Usage of Ternary Operators

A common usage of ternary operators is for conditionally assigning values to variables.

const age = 26; const beverage = age >= 21 ? "Beer" : "Juice"; console.log(beverage); // "Beer"

In this example, the condition is age >= 21, which evaluates to true. So the ternary expression assigns "Beer" to the beverage variable.

The same logic without a ternary operator would require an if-else statement:

let beverage; if (age >= 21) { beverage = "Beer"; } else { beverage = "Juice"; }

The ternary operator condenses this down to a simple one-line conditional assignment.

Ternaries are commonly used inside function bodies to return different values conditionally:

function getFee(age) { return (age >= 65) ? 10 : 20; } getFee(71); // 10

They help minify simple conditional return logic that would otherwise need if-else statements.

Handling Null or Undefined Values

A common use case for ternary operators is to handle null or undefined values by providing a default value:

const person = { name: "Alice" }; const name = person ? : "stranger"; console.log(name); // "Alice" const person2 = null; const name2 = person2 ? : "stranger"; console.log(name2); // "stranger"

In this example, if the person object exists, we can access the name property. But if person is null or undefined, the ternary operator ensures name gets assigned a default value of “stranger” instead of throwing an error.

Chaining Multiple Ternary Operators

You can also chain together multiple ternary operators to build more complex conditional logic:

function getPayAmount(rank) { return (rank === 'A') ? 100 : (rank === 'B') ? 80 : 60; }

Each conditional is evaluated in order until a match is found. The first truthy condition’s expression will be assigned.

Chaining ternaries like this can replicate the functionality of else if logic and switch statements. But take care not to over-chain ternaries in complex scenarios that would be better served by if or switch conditional blocks.

Ternary Operator vs If-Else Statements

While ternary operators have some distinct advantages, if-else statements may be preferable in certain situations:

  • Multiple conditions: Ternary logic works best for binary true/false conditional assignment. Checking many complex conditions is easier using if-else.
  • Readability: Deeply nested or chained ternaries can harm code clarity. If-else may be easier to read.
  • Repeated assignments: Reusing the same ternary logic for assigning multiple variables can be more verbose than if-else blocks.
  • Code branching: Ternaries assign values but cannot execute other code along the happy/sad paths. If-else statements allow branching logic.

The choice ultimately depends on the situation. Ternaries shine for concise single line conditional assignment, while if-else provides more flexibility for complex logic flows.

Best Practices

When using ternary operators, following best practices helps keep code tidy and readable:

  • Consistency: Use a consistent ternary syntax style, e.g. always putting exprIfTrue and exprIfFalse on separate lines.
  • Readability: Avoid deeply nested or chained ternaries. Favor if-else statements for complex logic.
  • Naming: Use descriptive variable names and single letter conditions.
  • Conditional complexity: Keep ternary conditions simple, avoiding nested ternary expressions.
  • Default values: leverage ternaries to assign default values for null/undefined variables.
  • Limit chaining: Only chain 2-3 ternaries maximum before switching to if-else statements.

Common Use Cases

Some typical use cases well-suited for ternary operators include:

  • Conditionally rendering UI elements
  • Toggle visibility of components or features
  • Handling null/undefined values
  • Validating user input before processing
  • Conditional redirects based on conditions
  • Returning different values from functions
  • Concise inline conditional assignment
  • Simplifying logic flow for basic true/false cases

For any scenario with straightforward binary logic, ternaries provide a compact syntax over if-else.

Examples of Ternary Usage

Here are some examples of how ternary operators are commonly used:

Toggle Modal Visibility

function toggleModal(show) { const display = show ? "block" : "none"; return <div style={{display}}>Hello World!</div>; }

Validate User Credentials

function login(username, password) { return (username && password) ? { success: true } : { success: false, error: "Missing credentials" } }

Conditional Redirect

function redirect(user) { const url = user.loggedIn ? "/dashboard" : "/login" return window.location.href = url; }

Toggle CSS Class

function getContainerClass(darkMode) { return darkMode ? "dark-theme" : "light-theme"; }


What is the syntax for ternary operators?

The syntax for ternary operators is:

condition ? exprIfTrue : exprIfFalse

The condition is evaluated first. If truthy, exprIfTrue is executed/returned. If falsy, exprIfFalse is used instead.

How do you assign a variable using a ternary operator?

You can assign to a variable conditionally like:

const access = (age >= 18) ? true : false;

The variable will be assigned exprIfTrue or exprIfFalse based on the condition.

What are the main advantages of using ternary operators?

The advantages are:

  • More concise syntax vs. if-else statements
  • Inline conditional assignment in a single expression
  • Avoid repeated if-else blocks when conditionally assigning values

When would if-else statements be better than ternary operators?

If-else statements allow more complex conditional logic with multiple conditions, code branching, and readability for complex tests. They are preferable for convoluted logic flows over ternary operators.

How can you use ternary operators with functions?

Ternary operators are useful in functions to:

  • Conditionally return different values
  • Set parameter default values
  • Assign return values or function body logic conditionally

Are ternary operators suitable for complex conditional logic?

Ternaries work best for simple true/false conditional assignment. Chaining many ternaries can harm readability. For complex logic, if/else or switch statements are likely preferable.


Ternary operators provide a compact syntax for conditionally assigning values in JavaScript. Their syntax allows for concise inline conditional logic in a single expression.

Ternaries have advantages over verbose if-else statements in simple cases. They are frequently used to conditionally set variable values, return values from functions, and handle null/undefined variables.

However, more complex logic with multiple conditions or code branching is better suited to if-else statements. Overuse of ternary nesting and chaining can reduce code clarity.

When leveraged properly, ternary operators are invaluable for writing clean JavaScript code. Learning their syntax and applications equips developers with a useful tool for managing conditional values and logic flows.

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