Suppose I have defined an array of points

pair p[];

Then are p.0, p0, p[0] different? Can I use p.01, p01, p[01]?

1 Answer 1


According to the rules, p.0 is the variable p subscripted by the number .0 (which is equal to 0). Thus p.0, p0 and p[0] are the same variable.

Here's an interactive version:

This is MetaPost, version 1.803 (kpathsea version 6.1.1)
(mpost.mp (/usr/local/texlive/2013/texmf-dist/metapost/base/plain.mp
Preloading the plain mem file, version 1.004) )
*pair p[];
*p0=(2,3); show p0; show p[0]; show p.0;
>> (2,3)
>> (2,3)
>> (2,3)
*p1=(1,2); show p[1]; show p[01]; show p.1;
>> (xpart p0.1,ypart p0.1)
>> (1,2)
>> (1,2)

Note that p1 and p.1 are not the same. The number 1 can be equivalently typed 1 and 01, so p1, p01, p[1] and p[01] are exactly the same. However, p. 1 (with a space) is the same as p1.

Metapost splits its input into tokens. You find the definition of token in section 7.1 of the manual (texdoc metapost). The rules say that


is formed by two tokens, a symbolic one p and a numeric token .1; while symbolic tokens can assume different meanings, numeric tokens always mean the corresponding number, in this case 0.1, because it's legal to type it as 0.1, .1, 0.10 or any other way compatible with the rules.

A different case is p. 1; a space always makes Metapost end its look up for a token name. Also . does the same, provided it's not immediately followed by a digit or another period. When a space or period has done its stopping job, it's ignored. So

p 1 p. 1 p1 p[1]

are completely equivalent methods for referring to the same variable. Not p.1, I repeat, which is equivalent to p0.1 or p[0.1]. The “bracket rule” is in another place, where arrays are dealt with.

  • Then, what's the exact meaning of p.1? why it is equal to p0.1? and how to understand it? Thanks
    – user19832
    Jan 22, 2014 at 9:06
  • 2
    @user19832: As egreg explained, .1 is the same as 0.1 for MetaPost. Any period, if it is immediately followed by one digit or more, is considered as the period of a "numeric token" (a number) and thus part of a number. Jan 24, 2014 at 11:21

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