# Is it safe to keep a pointer out-of-bounds without dereferencing it?

Moving pointer to one element past the last element is allowed, but moving further or moving before the first element is not allowed.

Quote from N1570 6.5.6 Additive operators (point 8):

When an expression that has integer type is added to or subtracted from a pointer, the result has the type of the pointer operand. If the pointer operand points to an element of an array object, and the array is large enough, the result points to an element offset from the original element such that the difference of the subscripts of the resulting and original array elements equals the integer expression. In other words, if the expression P points to the i-th element of an array object, the expressions (P)+N (equivalently, N+(P)) and (P)-N (where N has the value n) point to, respectively, the i+n-th and i−n-th elements of the array object, provided they exist. Moreover, if the expression P points to the last element of an array object, the expression (P)+1 points one past the last element of the array object, and if the expression Q points one past the last element of an array object, the expression (Q)-1 points to the last element of the array object. If both the pointer operand and the result point to elements of the same array object, or one past the last element of the array object, the evaluation shall not produce an overflow; otherwise, the behavior is undefined. If the result points one past the last element of the array object, it shall not be used as the operand of a unary * operator that is evaluated.

A pointer may point to one element past the last element of the array, and pointer arithmetic may be done between that pointer and a pointer to an element of the array.

Such a pointer cannot be dereferenced, but it can be used in pointer arithmetic. For example, the following is valid:

char arr;
char *p1, *p2;
p1 = arr + 10;
p2 = arr + 5;
int diff = p1 - p2;
printf("diff=%d\n", diff);   // prints 5


A pointer may not point before the first element.

This is spelled out in section 6.5.6p8 of the C standard:

When an expression that has integer type is added to or subtracted from a pointer, the result has the type of the pointer operand. If the pointer operand points to an element of an array object, and the array is large enough, the result points to an element offset from the original element such that the difference of the subscripts of the resulting and original array elements equals the integer expression. In other words, if the expression P points to the i-th element of an array object, the expressions (P)+N (equivalently, N+(P)) and (P)-N (where N has the value n) point to, respectively, the i+n-th and i−n-th elements of the array object, provided they exist. Moreover, if the expression P points to the last element of an array object, the expression (P)+1 points one past the last element of the array object, and if the expression Q points one past the last element of an array object,the expression (Q)-1 points to the last element of the array object. If both the pointer operand and the result point to elements of the same array object, or one past the last element of the array object, the evaluation shall not produce an overflow; otherwise, the behavior is undefined. If the result points one past the last element of the array object, it shall not be used as the operand of a unary * operator that is evaluated.

Note that bolded portion that states that a pointer may be created to point to one element past the end of the array, and there is nothing allowing to point to any point before the start of the array.