Why do I get a "conflicting types for getline" error when compiling the longest line example in chapter 1 of K&R2?

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Here is a program I'm trying to run straight from section 1.9 of "The C Programming Language".

#include <stdio.h>
#define MAXLINE 1000

int getline(char line[], int maxline);
void copy(char to[], char from[]);

    int len;
    int max;
    char line[MAXLINE];
    char longest[MAXLINE];

    max = 0;
    while ((len = getline(line, MAXLINE)) > 0)
        if (len > max) {
        max = len;
        copy(longest, line);
    if (max > 0)
        printf("%s", longest);
return 0;

int getline(char s[], int lim)
    int c, i;

    for (i=0; i<lim-1 && (c=getchar()) !=EOF && c != '\n'; ++i)
        s[i] = c;
    if (c == '\n') {
        s[i] = c;
    s[i] = '\0';
    return i;

void copy(char to[], char from[])
    int i;

    i = 0;
    while ((to[i] = from[i]) != '\0')

Here is the error I get when I try to compile the program using Ubuntu 11.10:

cc     word.c   -o word
word.c:4:5: error: conflicting types for ‘getline’
/usr/include/stdio.h:671:20: note: previous declaration of ‘getline’ was here
word.c:26:5: error: conflicting types for ‘getline’
/usr/include/stdio.h:671:20: note: previous declaration of ‘getline’ was here
make: *** [word] Error 1

Just to make sure it wasn't a problem with the print in the book, I referenced this set of answers to back of chapter exercises from the book (http://users.powernet.co.uk/eton/kandr2/krx1.html) and I get a similar error when I try to run exercises 18, 19, 20, 21, etc., from that link. It's really hard to learn when I can't run the programs to see how they output. This issue started when introducing character arrays and function calls in one program. I'd appreciate any advice on this issue.

The problem is that getline() is a standard library function. (defined in stdio.h) Your function has the same name and is thus clashing with it.

The solution is to simply change the name.

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The conflicting function getline() is a GNU/POSIX extension.

K&R state that they address specifically ANSI C in their book (c.f.), which does not provide this function.

The authors present the complete guide to ANSI standard C language programming.

In order set gcc into "K&R compatibility mode" you can specify the ANSI or ISO modes for compilation. These are intended to disable extensions, e.g., the function getline(). This could eventually eliminate the need to edit other examples provided by K&R as well.

For example, the following compile just fine:

$ gcc test.c -ansi
$ gcc test.c -std=c89

(Except that they complain about the implicit default return type of main() with -Wall.)

Apparently on some systems, these modes may not work as presented here (apparently some version(s) of Mac OS fail to correctly disable all extensions). I tested this successfully on my machine:

$ gcc --version
gcc (GCC) 4.7.2 20121109 (Red Hat 4.7.2-8)
Copyright (C) 2012 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions.  There is NO

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This is because the stdio.h have a getline() function.

So a simple thing to make this work would be to rename your function to my_getline()

Both getline() and getdelim() were originally GNU extensions. They were standardized in POSIX.1-2008.

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/usr/include/stdio.h:671:20: note: previous declaration of ‘getline’ was here

That should give you a hint. Try and rename the getline() function in the code to something else.

Also, declaring main() this way is old style. A function with no declared return type and arguments, by defaults, accepts an unspecified number of arguments and returns an int. This is nearly the case for main(): it does return an int, but has two arguments. You had better declare it as:

int main(int argc, char **argv)


int main(int argc, char *argv[])

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getline is now a POSIX function declared in stdio.h

Rename you getline function to another name and it will compile.

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  • getline() is not a standard library function, it is an extension, as @moooeeeep stated more in depth and also in here stackoverflow.com/questions/7376566/… by @Dietrich Epp. So, if you are coding today, you shouldn't use getline(), but what if you depend on a library that already uses its self-implemented getline() function? I think, in a broad sense, the @moooeeeep's answer is more appropriate.
  • I wasted 3 beers , and extra 20 minutes and finally gave a thought to google it.
  • I have tried gcc test.c -ansi. It seems that it doesn't work.
  • @Jack what OS/--version did you try?
  • I use macOS Sierra Version 10.12.5. Any substitution for gcc test.c -ansi in this OS?
  • Maybe you could try this: stackoverflow.com/q/7376566/1025391 other than that, you might need to rename the function :(
  • This is the right answer to the question. Not how to fix it, but why does it fail if the book is written by experts? "Because the book was written when getline was not yet standardized." Ahhh, Thank you.
  • @mikiemorales The book was written in compliance with another standard. See my answer: stackoverflow.com/a/17378451/1025391
  • This has been deprecated only in C99. The old style function definition is still used for main function in the last edition of K&R (edition 2).
  • Really? I thought it had been deprecated for as long as the first ANSI C specification...
  • I had the same problem described in the question. I looked up some C references to see whether getline() was in fact defined in the standard library but didn't find it, confusing me even more. The answers I found helpful here were those which specified that getline() is defined in the POSIX Standard C Library. Simply saying 'it already exists' is confusing and probably incorrect.
  • @IsaacKleinman although I admit that my answer isn't precise enought, but still it is correct: quoting from the accepted answer "The problem is that getline() is a standard library function. (defined in stdio.h) "
  • A minor curiosity: FreeBSD provides getline() but does not declare it in any header, exactly to avoid this kind of name clashes (freebsd.org/cgi/…)
  • @loreb That's quite interesting, tho having to #define something just for getline() feels icky.