How To Use Swift’s Ternary Operator

Jeff Morhous // January 15, 2021

Ternary operators are beyond cool. They’re an easy way to do some if-else logic all on one line. Beyond that, they’re still easy to read and understand, so you don’t have to sacrifice readability for the ‘cool factor’ of using a language’s advanced features. In fact, it’s a great way to keep methods shorter and draw attention to other logic that may be more meaningful to your program.

Start With An If-Else Statements

Take the below code for example. You compare two variables, and print something based on the result.

if variable1 == variable2 {
    print("Equality! 🥳")
} else {
    print("NO EQUALITY 🤬")

Convert It To One Line

The ternary operator consists of 3 parts.

  1. A conditional check
  2. The result of the operation if the conditional is true
  3. The result of the operation if the conditional is false

For our above if-else statement, we could write it like this 👇

print(variable1 == variable2 ? "Equality! 🥳" : "NO EQUALITY 🤬")

Assigning A Value

Ternary operations in Swift aren’t limited to just print statements. In fact, the ternary operator returns a value which can be used to set a variable.

You could take the below check for the age to drink alcohol

var result = “”

if(age < 21){  
  result = "Too young to drink 🍺"  
} else {  
  result = "Old enough to drink 🍻"  


This is a lot of code to just assign a string based on a number value. We can use the ternary operator to do this in just 2 lines — and you can see the example below 👇

let result = age > 21 ? "Too young to drink 🍺"" : "Old enough to drink 🍻"

Consider subscribing to my newsletter to get occasional updates about new things I make or write.