Something confuses me when I draw a line with some label in the middle.



\draw (0,0) -- node[below] {a} ++ (4,0);

\draw (-2,0) -- node[below] {a} ++ (2,0);

\draw (-2,0) -- (2,0);

\draw (2,0) -- node[below] {a} ++ (0,0);


The following is what I got. Here are my questions:

  • I can understand the first one, a line of length 4 with label in the middle.
  • Why the second one is only half the length of the first one?
  • In the third one, if I didn't add the label, why is the length the same as the first one?
  • Why is there no line in the last one?
  • One last question, what does -- and ++ mean?

enter image description here


The ++ provides a relative coordinate with respect to the last point. So. ++(2,0) means, roughly, move 2 rightwards and 0 up/down.

Hence, (0,0) ++(2,0) gives a path from the origin to (2,0) but (-2,0) ++(2,0) gives a path from (-2,0) to the origin. Similarly (43.5,6.78) ++(2,0) gives a path from (43.5,6.78) to (45.5,6.78).

++(0,0), therefore means don't move at all either up/down or right/left.

The ++ also changes the position afterwards so that with (-2,0) ++(2,0), the last point is now at (0,0), for instance.

The label doesn't add to the length of the path: ++(4,0) is still just 4 to the right of the last point however many nodes are in between.

-- just means a line as the crow flies between points, which is drawn if we're drawing things at all.

\path (0,0) -- (2,0);

just moves in a straight line from the origin to (2,0).

 \draw (0,0) -- (2,0);

also draws that line, whereas

\draw (0,0) (2,0);

would simply move, without drawing, despite the \draw and

\draw (0,0) (2,0) -- (4,0);

would move from the origin to (2,0) and then draw a straight line from (2,0) to (4,0).

  • Thank you for the explanation. Now I understand \draw (-2,0) -- node[below] {a} ++ (2,0); will draw a line from (-2,0) to (0,0), but is it true that the node will be automatically in the middle between (-2,0) and (0,0)? – Patrick Li Jun 8 '16 at 11:26
  • Yes, it will automatically be placed in the middle by default. You can change it by saying e.g. node [below, near end] or node [below, pos=.3] or whatever, but midway is default. – cfr Jun 8 '16 at 12:07

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