C++ Accessing a dangling reference


It is illegal to access a reference to an object that has gone out of scope or been otherwise destroyed. Such a reference is said to be dangling since it no longer refers to a valid object.

#include <iostream>
int& getX() {
    int x = 42;
    return x;
int main() {
    int& r = getX();
    std::cout << r << "\n";

In this example, the local variable x goes out of scope when getX returns. (Note that lifetime extension cannot extend the lifetime of a local variable past the scope of the block in which it is defined.) Therefore r is a dangling reference. This program has undefined behavior, although it may appear to work and print 42 in some cases.