Parentheses Error
Windows only


Every now and then, you may get the error message “Cannot use parentheses when calling a Sub” when calling a function or method. This does not happen all the time. For example, the following code appears to work:

Result = MyFunc(MyArg)

…but this code does not work:

Result = MyOtherFunc(MyArg1, MyArg2)
MyOtherSub(MyArg1, MyArg2)


In VBScript, parentheses mean several different things:

Evaluate a subexpression before the rest of the expression. For example:

Average = (First + Last) / 2


Dereference the index of an array. For example:

Item = MyArray(Index)


Call a function or subroutine. For example:

Limit = UBound(MyArray)


Pass an argument which would normally be ByRef as ByVal. For example…

'Arg1 is passed ByRef, Arg2 is passed ByVal.
Result = MyFunction(Arg1, (Arg2))

And, there are additional rules that apply when calling a function or subroutine…

An argument list for a function call with an assignment to the returned value must be surrounded by parentheses. For example:

Result = MyFunc(MyArg)

An argument list for a subroutine call, or a function call with no assignment, that uses the Call keyword must be surrounded by parentheses. For example:

Call MySub(MyArg)

If the above two rules do not apply, then the list must not be surrounded by parentheses.

Finally, there is the ByRef rule: arguments are passed ByRef when possible. But, if there are extra parentheses around a variable, then the variable is passed ByVal, not ByRef.

From these rules, it should be clear why the statement MySub(MyArg) is legal but MyOtherSub(MyArg1, MyArg2) is not. The first case appears to be a subroutine call with parentheses around the argument list, but that would violate the rules. Then why does this work? In fact, it is a subroutine call with no parentheses around the argument list, but parentheses around the first argument. This passes the argument by value. The second case is a clear violation of rules, and there is no way to make it legal, so an error is given.


Here are some examples to what is legal and what is not in VBScript. Suppose X and Y are variables, Func1 is a one argument procedure, and Func2 is a two argument procedure.

To pass X ByRef and Y ByRef:

Func1 X
Call Func1(X)
Z = Func1(X)
Func2 X, Y
Call Func2(X, Y)
Z = Func2(X, Y)

To pass X ByVal and Y ByRef:

Call Func1((X))
Z = Func1((X))
Func2 (X), Y
Func2 ((X)), Y
Call Func2((X), Y)
Z = Func2((X), Y)

The following will give syntax errors:

Call Func1 X
Z = Func1 X
Func2(X, Y)
Call Func2 X, Y
Z = Func2 X, Y