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Programming Perl, 3rd Edition by Jon Orwant, Tom Christiansen, Larry Wall

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Context

Until now we've seen several terms that can produce scalar values. Before we can discuss terms further, though, we must come to terms with the notion of context.

Scalar and List Context

Every operation[16] that you invoke in a Perl script is evaluated in a specific context, and how that operation behaves may depend on the requirements of that context. There are two major contexts: scalar and list. For example, assignment to a scalar variable, or to a scalar element of an array or hash, evaluates the righthand side in a scalar context:

$x         = funkshun();  # scalar context
$x[1]      = funkshun();  # scalar context
$x{"ray"}  = funkshun();  # scalar context

But assignment to an array or a hash, or to a slice of either, evaluates the righthand side in a list context, even if the slice picks out only one element:

@x         = funkshun();  # list context
@x[1]      = funkshun();  # list context
@x{"ray"}  = funkshun();  # list context
%x         = funkshun();  # list context

Assignment to a list of scalars also provides a list context to the righthand side, even if there's only one element in the list:

($x,$y,$z) = funkshun();  # list context
($x)       = funkshun();  # list context

These rules do not change at all when you declare a variable by modifying the term with my or our, so we have:

my $x      = funkshun();  # scalar context
my @x      = funkshun();  # list context
my %x      = funkshun();  # list context
my ($x)    = funkshun();  # list context

You will be miserable until you learn the difference between scalar and list context, because certain ...

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