Arithmetic expressions are used in COBOL to represent a fixed or computed numeric value. An arithmetic expression can be one of the following:

- a numeric elementary data item
- a numeric literal
- the address of a data item (ADDRESS OF phrase)
- two or more of the above, separated by arithmetic operators
- two or more arithmetic expressions, separated by arithmetic operators
- an arithmetic expression enclosed in parentheses
- an arithmetic expression preceded by a unary operator (a sign)

Arithmetic expressions can use five binary and two unary arithmetic operators. A space must precede and follow each operator. The operators are:

Binary Operator | Meaning |
---|---|

+ | Addition |

- | Subtraction |

* | Multiplication |

/ | Division |

** | Exponentiation |

Unary Operator | Meaning |
---|---|

+ | Multiplication by +1 |

- | Multiplication by -1 |

Note: Spaces are often required before and after minus signs to prevent ambiguity.