1. Use the ternary operator (?:).
  2. Understand when to use the ternary operator
  3. Understand the use of statement modifiers
  4. Review using comparison operators and boolean operators.
  5. Practice implementing control flow using if, elsif, and else statements.

Reviewing Operations

In this lab, we'll be combining our knowledge of operators (like comparison and boolean operators) with our new understanding of control flow using if, elsif, and else statements.

This lab will require you to use the comparison operators (>, <, ==, etc.) and boolean operators that you learned about in the previous unit.

This lab will require you to use a new operator that you haven't been introduced to before: the ternary operator.

The Ternary Operator ?:

The ternary operator (?:) is another type of comparison operator that is used in the context of if and else statements. Its best use case is to replace a simple if/else statement where you're basically saying: if this is true do something; if it's false do something else. If you have an if statement that requires an elsif, a ternary operator is not the best choice.

Let's take this if/else statement pair and express it with a ternary operator instead:

age = 1

if age < 2
   "not a baby"

Remember that if the condition associated with the if statement returns true, then the code underneath the conditional line will execute. If it fails however, then the code underneath the else will execute. In the above example, the value of the age variable is 1; since this is less than 2, the conditional will evaluate as true and will then return the string "baby".

Let's take a look at the same code using the ternary operator:

age = 1

age < 2 ? "baby" : "not a baby"

How does this work? In the above statement, the code before the ? ("question mark") is evaluated as a boolean expression. If it returns true, the code on the left side of the : ("colon") will run, otherwise the code on the right will run.

It's a way of expressing an if and an else statement together on one line in this format:

conditional ? action_if_true : action_if_false

Why Use the Ternary Operator?

The ternary operator has a few things going for it. First of all, as Rubyists, we like to think about design. Is our code needlessly complex? Are our methods too long? Is our code self-explanatory––i.e., can someone reading it easily understand what it does? These are good questions to keep in mind as you learn to build more and more complicated programs. In fact, Ruby is a language that lends itself particularly well to elegant design. There are many design patterns that you'll learn about later on in this course, but for now, just keep the above questions in mind.

Our first implementation of our are-you-a-baby? program required six lines of code. Using the ternary operator, we were able to implement the same behavior in only two lines! That's a great piece of refactoring!

A Note on Usage: We use the ternary operator in a case like the one here when the if & else statement pair that we would otherwise construct is very simple. If your situation requires if and elsif statements, then the switching is too complex for the ternary operator making it inappropriate to use.

Statement Modifiers

Ruby has a useful feature called a statement modifier that allows you to put a conditional at the end of a statement. For example, let's consider this statement:

puts "Hey, it's 2015!"

However, we don't want to say "Hey, it's 2015!" every time this code is run. We only want to say it's 2015 if it's actually 2015. This is a good case for an if statement modifier.

this_year = Time.now.year
puts "Hey, it's 2015!" if this_year == 2015

Now, with the statement modifier if this_year == 2015 we are only putting it if the year is, in fact, 2015.

We can also use unless in a statement modifier as well.

this_year = Time.now.year
puts "Hey, it's not 2015!" unless this_year == 2015


  1. Fork and clone this lab.
  2. Run the test suite in your terminal and check out the error messages and expectations in the spec file. You'll be coding your solutions in lib/operations.rb.
  3. The first method, unsafe? will take in an argument of a speed and return true if the speed is unsafe and false if it is safe.
    • Use an if/else statement pair to build the unsafe? method. It should return true if the speed is either below 40 or above 60. Going 30 mph on the freeway would be unsafe, as would going 95 mph. Going 50 miles per hour, however, would return false as that's within the "safe" range.
  4. Build the method not_safe? that is a version of your previous unsafe? method but use the ternary operator (?:) instead of an if/else statement pair.

A Debugging Reminder: You can interact with your methods by typing require 'pry' at the top of your file, running gem install pry in the terminal, and then placing the line binding.pry inside the method that you want to play around with. Then, when you run the test suite using learn test in your terminal, your program will freeze when it hits the binding and you'll be able to explore your method inside your console.


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