The reason for this error is that the pointer returned by activeScreen is a temporary variable. It will be destroyed after this line (or maybe somewhere during the execution of this line, I'm not really sure about this). If you tried to take the address of this temporary variable, the resulting pointer will point to a non-existent variable (the temporary). This would (if you're lucky) lead to a crash of your program, or worse, nondeterministic behaviour. That's why taking the address of temporaries (or rvalues) isn't allowed.Screen** s = &screenManager.activeScreen();
Error: expression must be an lvalue or function designator
That's also the reason why your other example works: You save the returned pointer to an lvalue (which you call p), of which it is perfectly valid to take to address. But be carefull, if you do this within a function and p is local to the function, if you return &p or store it somewhere, you will get all the problems that taking the address of an rvalue would have caused. So be carefull. The correct solution is what SiCrane proposes. Or as Bob said, are you sure you need a pointer to a pointer?