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There are two assignment operators, the list assignment operator and the scalar assignment operator. If the left-hand side (LHS) of an assignment is some kind of aggregate, the list assignment is used. Otherwise, the scalar assignment is used. The following are considered to be aggregates:

  • (...) (any expression in parentheses)
  • @array
  • @array[...]
  • %hash
  • @hash{...}
  • Any of the above preceded by my, our or local

There are two differences between the operators. The first is the context in which operands are evaluated:

  • The scalar assignment evaluates both of its operands in scalar context.
  • The list assignment evaluates both of its operands in list context.

The second difference is in what they return:

ReturnsContext in which Assignment Operator is Evaluated
Operatorscalar assignmentThe LHS as an lvalueThe LHS as an lvalue
list assignmentThe number of scalars returned by the RHSThe scalars returned by the LHS as lvalues

Note that the right-hand side is used for the list assignment in scalar context.

Finally, here are some examples:

ExamplesContext in which Assignment Operator is Evaluated
Operatorscalar assignment
# Array evaluated in scalar context. my $count = @array;
# The s/// operates on $copy. (my $copy = $str) =~ s/\\/\\\\/g;
# Prints $x. print($x = $y);
list assignment
# Array evaluated in list context. my @copy = @array;
# Only dies if f() returns an empty list. # This does not die if f() returns a # false scalar like zero or undef. my ($x) = f() or die;
my $count = () = f();
# Prints @x. print(@x = @y);

Related topics:

Update: Added examples.
Update: Incorporated JavaFan's additions.
Update: Removed list slices and mentioned state.
Update: One of the examples in the scalar context column did not depend on context. It has been moved to its own column. Also, added short explanations of examples.

In reply to Mini-Tutorial: Scalar vs List Assignment Operator by ikegami

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