• At this point the program starts printfing the pot value.
  • At this point the program starts printingf the pot value.

Both sound wrong, and yet... one of them must be used.

  • 4
    What the program is outputting is an externally visible behavior. You can't tell whether it's done by printf or in some other way unless you have visibility into the program (e.g. with a debugger). It is irrelevant. What the program is doing, by external evidence, is printing. If you want to discuss what is going on in the program, you can say that it's calling the printf function or executing printf. printf is not a word in English; it's an identifier in a computer programming language which makes it a kind of code. When you write it, you're "coding".
    – Kaz
    May 5, 2012 at 4:28
  • That's true to an extent. I'm thinking of a microcontroller situation where the reentrancy/size/efficiency of printf as opposed to puts might be relevant.
    – Owen
    May 5, 2012 at 5:39
  • 2
    I've only ever heard printf pronounced as printeff. This can be verbed: printeffing, printeffed. "printing f" breaks up the lexical unit.
    – Kaz
    May 5, 2012 at 6:06

5 Answers 5


No, you actually have another choice:

"At this point the program starts to printf the pot value."

Similarly, if you have another case like "Don't interrupt the program while it's printfing", you can also reword that:

"Don't interrupt the program during printf"

In short, printf is a programming-language token, not an English-language verb; so if you try to conjugate it you may cause confusion or at least a double-take (unless that's your intention).

  • That's a really good idea... but what if it's a situation where you can't do that? ("Don't interrupt the program while it's printfing?")
    – Owen
    May 5, 2012 at 2:54
  • well, the situation you described in your actual question doesn't present that difficulty :) May 5, 2012 at 2:55
  • 1
    Well, in that case, you may want to use something like "Don't interrupt the program while printf is processing."
    – Fr0zenFyr
    May 5, 2012 at 6:24
  • 2
    If someone is particularly testy, they might exclaim, "Don't interrupt the program while it's effing printing!"
    – J.R.
    May 5, 2012 at 20:26

"printf" shouldn't be a verb in any context, but if that's irrelevant you can set off the piece of code with punctuation as 'printf'ing or `printf'ing.


Though I would describe the actions of a computer by function and not by the implementation (meaning that I would say: "while the computer is printing") I would not break up the token if converting it into a verb.

While the computer was printf-ing...


I would say "At this point the program starts printing the output value using printf". This is, in my opinion, a case of taking verbing too far.


To be honest, I'm not sure why you can't just use the term printing.

At this point the program starts printing the pot value.

Is it really important to include the letter f, just because the printf function is used? (I mean, it's not as though the output gets printf-ed on the printfer – right?).

If it's absolutely critical to include the name of the function, simply write:

At this point the program starts printing the pot value, using printf.

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