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SAS Constants in Expressions


A SAS constant is a number or a character string that indicates a fixed value. Constants can be used as expressions in many SAS statements, including variable assignment and IF-THEN statements. They can also be used as values for certain options. Constants are also called literals.

The following are types of SAS constants:

Character Constants

A character constant consists of 1 to 32,767 characters and must be enclosed in quotation marks. Character constants can also be represented in hexadecimal form.

Using Quotation Marks

In the following SAS statement, Tom is a character constant:

if name='Tom' then do;
If a character constant includes a single quotation mark, surround it with double quotation marks. For example, to specify the character value Tom's as a constant, enter
You can also write a single quotation mark as two consecutive single quotation marks and SAS treats it as one. You can then surround the character constant with single quotation marks:
The same principle holds true for double quotation marks:
Matching quotation marks correctly is important. Missing or extraneous quotation marks cause SAS to misread both the erroneous statement and the statements that follow it. For example, in name='O'Brien';, O is the character value of NAME, Brien is extraneous, and '; begins another quoted string.  [cautionend]

Comparing Character Constants and Character Variables

It is important to remember that character constants are enclosed in quotation marks, but names of character variables are not. This distinction applies wherever you can use a character constant, such as in titles, footnotes, labels, and other descriptive strings; in option values; and in operating environment-specific strings, such as file specifications and commands.

The following statements use character constants:

The following statements use character variables:

In the second set of examples, SAS searches for variables named ABC and SMITH, instead of constants.

Note:   SAS distinguishes between uppercase and lowercase when comparing quoted values. For example, the character values 'Smith' and 'SMITH' are not equivalent.  [cautionend]

Hexadecimal Notation

SAS character constants can be expressed in hexadecimal notation. A character hex constant is a string of an even number of hex characters enclosed in single or double quotation marks, followed immediately by an X, as in this example:


A comma can be used to make the string more readable, but it is not part of and does not alter the hex value. If the string contains a comma, the comma must separate an even number of hex characters within the string, as in this example:

if value='3132,3334'x then do;

Numeric Constants

A numeric constant is a number that appears in a SAS statement. Numeric constants can be presented in many forms, including

Standard Notation

Most numeric constants are written just as numeric data values are. The numeric constant in the following expression is 100:

Numeric constants expressed in standard notation can be integers, can be specified with or without a plus or minus sign, and can include decimal places, as in these examples:

Scientific Notation

In scientific notation, the number before the E is multiplied by the power of ten that is indicated by the number after the E. For example, 2E4 is the same as 2x104 or 20,000. For numeric constants larger than (1032 )-1, you must use scientific notation. Additional examples follow:

Hexadecimal Notation

A numeric constant that is expressed as a hexadecimal value starts with a numeric digit (usually 0), can be followed by more hexadecimal digits, and ends with the letter X. The constant can contain up to 16 valid hexadecimal digits (0 to 9, A to F). The following are numeric hex constants:

You can use numeric hex constants in a DATA step, as follows:
data test;
   input abend pib2.;
   if abend=0c1x or abend=0b0ax then do;
    ... more SAS statements ...

Date, Time, and Datetime Constants

You can create a date constant, time constant, or datetime constant by specifying the date or time in single or double quotation marks, followed by a D (date), T (time), or DT (datetime) to indicate the type of value. Use the following patterns to create date and time constants:

'ddmmm<yy>yy'D or "ddmmm<yy>yy"D represents a SAS date value:

'hh:mm<:ss.s>'T or "hh:mm<:ss.s>"T represents a SAS time value:

'ddmmm<yy>yy:hh:mm<:ss.s>'DT or "ddmmm<yy>yy:hh:mm<:ss.s>"DT represents a SAS datetime value:

For more information on SAS dates, refer to Dates, Times, and Intervals.

Bit Testing Constants

Bit masks are used in bit testing to compare internal bits in a value's representation. You can perform bit testing on both character and numeric variables. The general form of the operation is:

expression comparison-operator bit-mask

The following are the components of the bit-testing operation:

can be any valid SAS expression. Both character and numeric variables can be bit tested. When SAS tests a character value, it aligns the left-most bit of the mask with the left-most bit of the string; the test proceeds through the corresponding bits, moving to the right. When SAS tests a numeric value, the value is truncated from a floating-point number to a 32-bit integer. The right-most bit of the mask is aligned with the right-most bit of the number, and the test proceeds through the corresponding bits, moving to the left.

compares an expression with the bit mask. Refer to Comparison Operators for a discussion of these operators.

is a string of 0s, 1s, and periods in quotation marks that is immediately followed by a B. Zeros test whether the bit is off; ones test whether the bit is on; and periods ignore the bit. Commas and blanks can be inserted in the bit mask for readability without affecting its meaning.

Truncation can occur when SAS uses a bit mask. If the expression is longer than the bit mask, SAS truncates the expression before it compares it with the bit mask. A false comparison may result. An expression's length (in bits) must be less than or equal to the length of the bit mask. If the bit mask is longer than a character expression, SAS prints a warning in the log, stating that the bit mask is truncated on the left, and continues processing.  [cautionend]

The following example tests a character variable:

if a='..1.0000'b then do;

If the third bit of A (counting from the left) is on, and the fifth through eighth bits are off, the comparison is true and the expression result is 1. Otherwise, the comparison is false and the expression result is 0. The following is a more detailed example:

data test;
  input @88 bits $char1.;
  if bits='10000000'b 
    then category='a';
  else if bits='01000000'b 
    then category='b';
  else if bits='00100000'b 
    then category='c';

Note:   Bit masks cannot be used as bit literals in assignment statements. For example, the following statement is not valid:

x='0101'b;     /* incorrect */

The $BINARYw. and BINARYw. formats and the $BINARYw., BINARYw.d, and BITSw.d informats can be useful for bit testing. You can use them to convert character and numeric values to their binary values, and vice versa, and to extract specified bits from input data. See SAS Language Reference: Dictionary for complete descriptions of these formats and informats.

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Copyright 1999 by SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC, USA. All rights reserved.