The Difference Between an Operand & an Operator

By Dan Stone

If you've ever solved an algebra equation, you've already used operands and operators -- you just didn't call them by name. Aside from markup languages like HTML and CSS, computer programming heavily relies on operands and operators for mathematical and logical decision making. Programs are like giant flow charts: Operators determine which way you move on the chart based on operands.

Operands Are Values

Operands are numerical, text and Boolean values that a program can manipulate and use as logical guidelines for making decisions. Like with math, computer programs can use constant values and variables as operands. Variables are data repositories that are called by a name instead of a value. If you have the variable "dozens" with the value of "2" and the constant "12" in the equation "dozens * 12 = 24." Both "dozens" and "12" are operands in the equation.

Operators Manipulate And Check Operands

Operators are used to manipulate and check operand values. Operands include mathematical actions like plus, minus, multiply and divide for manipulating data and changing numerical values. For example, "*" is the operator in "dozens * 12 = 24." Operands also designate character strings like "Tom Sawyer" and carry Boolean values like "true." Operators like "==" can be used to see if string and Boolean values match conditions like "hungry == true" to proceed with an instruction set if "hungry" is true. Operators like "and" and "or" can be used to create complex logical conditions.