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What is unexpected token in JavaScript

Understanding the Concept of "Token"

To understand what an "unexpected token" means in JavaScript, let's first get a clear understanding of what a token is. Think of a token as a building block of any programming language. Just like you need bricks to build a house, you need tokens to write a program. In JavaScript, a token could be a keyword, an identifier, a literal, or a symbol that complies with the syntax rules.

For example, in a line of code like let number = 5;, let, number, =, 5, and ; are all tokens.

The Unexpected Token Error

When you see an "unexpected token" error, JavaScript is essentially telling you that it found a symbol, word, or construct it didn't expect in the place it found it. It's like expecting to find a brick in your house-building process but finding a watermelon instead. Not really useful, right?

Let's see an example. If you write the following code:

let number = 

And leave it as it is, you'll get an "unexpected token" error. JavaScript expected a value after the = sign, but it found nothing. Hence the error.

Common Causes of Unexpected Token Errors

Unexpected token errors are usually a result of syntax mistakes. Let's look at some common scenarios.

Missing Parentheses, Brackets, or Braces

In JavaScript, parentheses (), brackets [], and braces {} usually come in pairs. If you forget to close one, you'll get an unexpected token error.

let numbers = [1, 2, 3, 4;

In this example, the closing bracket ] is missing, causing an unexpected token error.

Incorrectly Placed Symbols

Placing symbols where they're not expected can also trigger this error.

let number = 5*;

Here, the * is unexpected because there's nothing after it to multiply with 5.

Unexpected String End

If you start a string with a quotation mark and don't end it with a matching one, JavaScript will throw an unexpected token error.

let greeting = "Hello;

The string is not properly closed, so an unexpected token error is generated.

Fixing Unexpected Token Errors

Fixing unexpected token errors requires keen attention to your code syntax. Here are some tips:

  1. Balance your parentheses, brackets, and braces. Always ensure each open symbol has a matching closing symbol.
let numbers = [1, 2, 3, 4]; // Correct syntax
  1. Place symbols properly. Ensure symbols are where they're supposed to be.
let number = 5 * 2; // Correct syntax
  1. Close your strings properly. If you start a string with a quotation mark, ensure you end it with a matching one.
let greeting = "Hello"; // Correct syntax


Think of JavaScript as a strict school teacher, and the tokens as the students. This teacher expects every student to be in their right place (syntax) and do the right thing (operation). When the teacher finds a student doing something unexpected (an unexpected token error), they raise an alarm (throw an error).

So, next time you encounter an "unexpected token" error, don't panic. It's just JavaScript's way of telling you that something is out of place. Use the error message to help you debug and fix the issue. Remember, every great coder has faced and conquered numerous unexpected token errors. Happy coding!