Expressions

An expression is a sequence of operators and operands. This chapter defines the syntax, order of evaluation of operands and operators, and meaning of expressions.

Expression classifications

An expression is classified as one of the following:

  • A value. Every value has an associated type.
  • A variable. Every variable has an associated type, namely the declared type of the variable.
  • A namespace. An expression with this classification can only appear as the left hand side of a member_access (Member access). In any other context, an expression classified as a namespace causes a compile-time error.
  • A type. An expression with this classification can only appear as the left hand side of a member_access (Member access), or as an operand for the as operator (The as operator), the is operator (The is operator), or the typeof operator (The typeof operator). In any other context, an expression classified as a type causes a compile-time error.
  • A method group, which is a set of overloaded methods resulting from a member lookup (Member lookup). A method group may have an associated instance expression and an associated type argument list. When an instance method is invoked, the result of evaluating the instance expression becomes the instance represented by this (This access). A method group is permitted in an invocation_expression (Invocation expressions) , a delegate_creation_expression (Delegate creation expressions) and as the left hand side of an is operator, and can be implicitly converted to a compatible delegate type (Method group conversions). In any other context, an expression classified as a method group causes a compile-time error.
  • A null literal. An expression with this classification can be implicitly converted to a reference type or nullable type.
  • An anonymous function. An expression with this classification can be implicitly converted to a compatible delegate type or expression tree type.
  • A property access. Every property access has an associated type, namely the type of the property. Furthermore, a property access may have an associated instance expression. When an accessor (the get or set block) of an instance property access is invoked, the result of evaluating the instance expression becomes the instance represented by this (This access).
  • An event access. Every event access has an associated type, namely the type of the event. Furthermore, an event access may have an associated instance expression. An event access may appear as the left hand operand of the += and -= operators (Event assignment). In any other context, an expression classified as an event access causes a compile-time error.
  • An indexer access. Every indexer access has an associated type, namely the element type of the indexer. Furthermore, an indexer access has an associated instance expression and an associated argument list. When an accessor (the get or set block) of an indexer access is invoked, the result of evaluating the instance expression becomes the instance represented by this (This access), and the result of evaluating the argument list becomes the parameter list of the invocation.
  • Nothing. This occurs when the expression is an invocation of a method with a return type of void. An expression classified as nothing is only valid in the context of a statement_expression (Expression statements).

The final result of an expression is never a namespace, type, method group, or event access. Rather, as noted above, these categories of expressions are intermediate constructs that are only permitted in certain contexts.

A property access or indexer access is always reclassified as a value by performing an invocation of the get accessor or the set accessor. The particular accessor is determined by the context of the property or indexer access: If the access is the target of an assignment, the set accessor is invoked to assign a new value (Simple assignment). Otherwise, the get accessor is invoked to obtain the current value (Values of expressions).

Values of expressions

Most of the constructs that involve an expression ultimately require the expression to denote a value. In such cases, if the actual expression denotes a namespace, a type, a method group, or nothing, a compile-time error occurs. However, if the expression denotes a property access, an indexer access, or a variable, the value of the property, indexer, or variable is implicitly substituted:

  • The value of a variable is simply the value currently stored in the storage location identified by the variable. A variable must be considered definitely assigned (Definite assignment) before its value can be obtained, or otherwise a compile-time error occurs.
  • The value of a property access expression is obtained by invoking the get accessor of the property. If the property has no get accessor, a compile-time error occurs. Otherwise, a function member invocation (Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution) is performed, and the result of the invocation becomes the value of the property access expression.
  • The value of an indexer access expression is obtained by invoking the get accessor of the indexer. If the indexer has no get accessor, a compile-time error occurs. Otherwise, a function member invocation (Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution) is performed with the argument list associated with the indexer access expression, and the result of the invocation becomes the value of the indexer access expression.

Static and Dynamic Binding

The process of determining the meaning of an operation based on the type or value of constituent expressions (arguments, operands, receivers) is often referred to as binding. For instance the meaning of a method call is determined based on the type of the receiver and arguments. The meaning of an operator is determined based on the type of its operands.

In C# the meaning of an operation is usually determined at compile-time, based on the compile-time type of its constituent expressions. Likewise, if an expression contains an error, the error is detected and reported by the compiler. This approach is known as static binding.

However, if an expression is a dynamic expression (i.e. has the type dynamic) this indicates that any binding that it participates in should be based on its run-time type (i.e. the actual type of the object it denotes at run-time) rather than the type it has at compile-time. The binding of such an operation is therefore deferred until the time where the operation is to be executed during the running of the program. This is referred to as dynamic binding.

When an operation is dynamically bound, little or no checking is performed by the compiler. Instead if the run-time binding fails, errors are reported as exceptions at run-time.

The following operations in C# are subject to binding:

  • Member access: e.M
  • Method invocation: e.M(e1, ..., eN)
  • Delegate invocation:e(e1, ..., eN)
  • Element access: e[e1, ..., eN]
  • Object creation: new C(e1, ..., eN)
  • Overloaded unary operators: +, -, !, ~, ++, --, true, false
  • Overloaded binary operators: +, -, *, /, %, &, &&, |, ||, ??, ^, <<, >>, ==,!=, >, <, >=, <=
  • Assignment operators: =, +=, -=, *=, /=, %=, &=, |=, ^=, <<=, >>=
  • Implicit and explicit conversions

When no dynamic expressions are involved, C# defaults to static binding, which means that the compile-time types of constituent expressions are used in the selection process. However, when one of the constituent expressions in the operations listed above is a dynamic expression, the operation is instead dynamically bound.

Binding-time

Static binding takes place at compile-time, whereas dynamic binding takes place at run-time. In the following sections, the term binding-time refers to either compile-time or run-time, depending on when the binding takes place.

The following example illustrates the notions of static and dynamic binding and of binding-time:

object  o = 5;
dynamic d = 5;

Console.WriteLine(5);  // static  binding to Console.WriteLine(int)
Console.WriteLine(o);  // static  binding to Console.WriteLine(object)
Console.WriteLine(d);  // dynamic binding to Console.WriteLine(int)

The first two calls are statically bound: the overload of Console.WriteLine is picked based on the compile-time type of their argument. Thus, the binding-time is compile-time.

The third call is dynamically bound: the overload of Console.WriteLine is picked based on the run-time type of its argument. This happens because the argument is a dynamic expression -- its compile-time type is dynamic. Thus, the binding-time for the third call is run-time.

Dynamic binding

The purpose of dynamic binding is to allow C# programs to interact with dynamic objects, i.e. objects that do not follow the normal rules of the C# type system. Dynamic objects may be objects from other programming languages with different types systems, or they may be objects that are programmatically setup to implement their own binding semantics for different operations.

The mechanism by which a dynamic object implements its own semantics is implementation defined. A given interface -- again implementation defined -- is implemented by dynamic objects to signal to the C# run-time that they have special semantics. Thus, whenever operations on a dynamic object are dynamically bound, their own binding semantics, rather than those of C# as specified in this document, take over.

While the purpose of dynamic binding is to allow interoperation with dynamic objects, C# allows dynamic binding on all objects, whether they are dynamic or not. This allows for a smoother integration of dynamic objects, as the results of operations on them may not themselves be dynamic objects, but are still of a type unknown to the programmer at compile-time. Also dynamic binding can help eliminate error-prone reflection-based code even when no objects involved are dynamic objects.

The following sections describe for each construct in the language exactly when dynamic binding is applied, what compile time checking -- if any -- is applied, and what the compile-time result and expression classification is.

Types of constituent expressions

When an operation is statically bound, the type of a constituent expression (e.g. a receiver, an argument, an index or an operand) is always considered to be the compile-time type of that expression.

When an operation is dynamically bound, the type of a constituent expression is determined in different ways depending on the compile-time type of the constituent expression:

  • A constituent expression of compile-time type dynamic is considered to have the type of the actual value that the expression evaluates to at runtime
  • A constituent expression whose compile-time type is a type parameter is considered to have the type which the type parameter is bound to at runtime
  • Otherwise the constituent expression is considered to have its compile-time type.

Operators

Expressions are constructed from operands and operators. The operators of an expression indicate which operations to apply to the operands. Examples of operators include +, -, *, /, and new. Examples of operands include literals, fields, local variables, and expressions.

There are three kinds of operators:

  • Unary operators. The unary operators take one operand and use either prefix notation (such as --x) or postfix notation (such as x++).
  • Binary operators. The binary operators take two operands and all use infix notation (such as x + y).
  • Ternary operator. Only one ternary operator, ?:, exists; it takes three operands and uses infix notation (c ? x : y).

The order of evaluation of operators in an expression is determined by the precedence and associativity of the operators (Operator precedence and associativity).

Operands in an expression are evaluated from left to right. For example, in F(i) + G(i++) * H(i), method F is called using the old value of i, then method G is called with the old value of i, and, finally, method H is called with the new value of i. This is separate from and unrelated to operator precedence.

Certain operators can be overloaded. Operator overloading permits user-defined operator implementations to be specified for operations where one or both of the operands are of a user-defined class or struct type (Operator overloading).

Operator precedence and associativity

When an expression contains multiple operators, the precedence of the operators controls the order in which the individual operators are evaluated. For example, the expression x + y * z is evaluated as x + (y * z) because the * operator has higher precedence than the binary + operator. The precedence of an operator is established by the definition of its associated grammar production. For example, an additive_expression consists of a sequence of multiplicative_expressions separated by + or - operators, thus giving the + and - operators lower precedence than the *, /, and % operators.

The following table summarizes all operators in order of precedence from highest to lowest:

Section Category Operators
Primary expressions Primary x.y f(x) a[x] x++ x-- new typeof default checked unchecked delegate
Unary operators Unary + - ! ~ ++x --x (T)x
Arithmetic operators Multiplicative * / %
Arithmetic operators Additive + -
Shift operators Shift << >>
Relational and type-testing operators Relational and type testing < > <= >= is as
Relational and type-testing operators Equality == !=
Logical operators Logical AND &
Logical operators Logical XOR ^
Logical operators Logical OR |
Conditional logical operators Conditional AND &&
Conditional logical operators Conditional OR ||
The null coalescing operator Null coalescing ??
Conditional operator Conditional ?:
Assignment operators, Anonymous function expressions Assignment and lambda expression = *= /= %= += -= <<= >>= &= ^= |= =>

When an operand occurs between two operators with the same precedence, the associativity of the operators controls the order in which the operations are performed:

  • Except for the assignment operators and the null coalescing operator, all binary operators are left-associative, meaning that operations are performed from left to right. For example, x + y + z is evaluated as (x + y) + z.
  • The assignment operators, the null coalescing operator and the conditional operator (?:) are right-associative, meaning that operations are performed from right to left. For example, x = y = z is evaluated as x = (y = z).

Precedence and associativity can be controlled using parentheses. For example, x + y * z first multiplies y by z and then adds the result to x, but (x + y) * z first adds x and y and then multiplies the result by z.

Operator overloading

All unary and binary operators have predefined implementations that are automatically available in any expression. In addition to the predefined implementations, user-defined implementations can be introduced by including operator declarations in classes and structs (Operators). User-defined operator implementations always take precedence over predefined operator implementations: Only when no applicable user-defined operator implementations exist will the predefined operator implementations be considered, as described in Unary operator overload resolution and Binary operator overload resolution.

The overloadable unary operators are:

+   -   !   ~   ++   --   true   false

Although true and false are not used explicitly in expressions (and therefore are not included in the precedence table in Operator precedence and associativity), they are considered operators because they are invoked in several expression contexts: boolean expressions (Boolean expressions) and expressions involving the conditional (Conditional operator), and conditional logical operators (Conditional logical operators).

The overloadable binary operators are:

+   -   *   /   %   &   |   ^   <<   >>   ==   !=   >   <   >=   <=

Only the operators listed above can be overloaded. In particular, it is not possible to overload member access, method invocation, or the =, &&, ||, ??, ?:, =>, checked, unchecked, new, typeof, default, as, and is operators.

When a binary operator is overloaded, the corresponding assignment operator, if any, is also implicitly overloaded. For example, an overload of operator * is also an overload of operator *=. This is described further in Compound assignment. Note that the assignment operator itself (=) cannot be overloaded. An assignment always performs a simple bit-wise copy of a value into a variable.

Cast operations, such as (T)x, are overloaded by providing user-defined conversions (User-defined conversions).

Element access, such as a[x], is not considered an overloadable operator. Instead, user-defined indexing is supported through indexers (Indexers).

In expressions, operators are referenced using operator notation, and in declarations, operators are referenced using functional notation. The following table shows the relationship between operator and functional notations for unary and binary operators. In the first entry, op denotes any overloadable unary prefix operator. In the second entry, op denotes the unary postfix ++ and -- operators. In the third entry, op denotes any overloadable binary operator.

Operator notation Functional notation
op x operator op(x)
x op operator op(x)
x op y operator op(x,y)

User-defined operator declarations always require at least one of the parameters to be of the class or struct type that contains the operator declaration. Thus, it is not possible for a user-defined operator to have the same signature as a predefined operator.

User-defined operator declarations cannot modify the syntax, precedence, or associativity of an operator. For example, the / operator is always a binary operator, always has the precedence level specified in Operator precedence and associativity, and is always left-associative.

While it is possible for a user-defined operator to perform any computation it pleases, implementations that produce results other than those that are intuitively expected are strongly discouraged. For example, an implementation of operator == should compare the two operands for equality and return an appropriate bool result.

The descriptions of individual operators in Primary expressions through Conditional logical operators specify the predefined implementations of the operators and any additional rules that apply to each operator. The descriptions make use of the terms unary operator overload resolution, binary operator overload resolution, and numeric promotion, definitions of which are found in the following sections.

Unary operator overload resolution

An operation of the form op x or x op, where op is an overloadable unary operator, and x is an expression of type X, is processed as follows:

  • The set of candidate user-defined operators provided by X for the operation operator op(x) is determined using the rules of Candidate user-defined operators.
  • If the set of candidate user-defined operators is not empty, then this becomes the set of candidate operators for the operation. Otherwise, the predefined unary operator op implementations, including their lifted forms, become the set of candidate operators for the operation. The predefined implementations of a given operator are specified in the description of the operator (Primary expressions and Unary operators).
  • The overload resolution rules of Overload resolution are applied to the set of candidate operators to select the best operator with respect to the argument list (x), and this operator becomes the result of the overload resolution process. If overload resolution fails to select a single best operator, a binding-time error occurs.

Binary operator overload resolution

An operation of the form x op y, where op is an overloadable binary operator, x is an expression of type X, and y is an expression of type Y, is processed as follows:

  • The set of candidate user-defined operators provided by X and Y for the operation operator op(x,y) is determined. The set consists of the union of the candidate operators provided by X and the candidate operators provided by Y, each determined using the rules of Candidate user-defined operators. If X and Y are the same type, or if X and Y are derived from a common base type, then shared candidate operators only occur in the combined set once.
  • If the set of candidate user-defined operators is not empty, then this becomes the set of candidate operators for the operation. Otherwise, the predefined binary operator op implementations, including their lifted forms, become the set of candidate operators for the operation. The predefined implementations of a given operator are specified in the description of the operator (Arithmetic operators through Conditional logical operators). For predefined enum and delegate operators, the only operators considered are those defined by an enum or delegate type that is the binding-time type of one of the operands.
  • The overload resolution rules of Overload resolution are applied to the set of candidate operators to select the best operator with respect to the argument list (x,y), and this operator becomes the result of the overload resolution process. If overload resolution fails to select a single best operator, a binding-time error occurs.

Candidate user-defined operators

Given a type T and an operation operator op(A), where op is an overloadable operator and A is an argument list, the set of candidate user-defined operators provided by T for operator op(A) is determined as follows:

  • Determine the type T0. If T is a nullable type, T0 is its underlying type, otherwise T0 is equal to T.
  • For all operator op declarations in T0 and all lifted forms of such operators, if at least one operator is applicable (Applicable function member) with respect to the argument list A, then the set of candidate operators consists of all such applicable operators in T0.
  • Otherwise, if T0 is object, the set of candidate operators is empty.
  • Otherwise, the set of candidate operators provided by T0 is the set of candidate operators provided by the direct base class of T0, or the effective base class of T0 if T0 is a type parameter.

Numeric promotions

Numeric promotion consists of automatically performing certain implicit conversions of the operands of the predefined unary and binary numeric operators. Numeric promotion is not a distinct mechanism, but rather an effect of applying overload resolution to the predefined operators. Numeric promotion specifically does not affect evaluation of user-defined operators, although user-defined operators can be implemented to exhibit similar effects.

As an example of numeric promotion, consider the predefined implementations of the binary * operator:

int operator *(int x, int y);
uint operator *(uint x, uint y);
long operator *(long x, long y);
ulong operator *(ulong x, ulong y);
float operator *(float x, float y);
double operator *(double x, double y);
decimal operator *(decimal x, decimal y);

When overload resolution rules (Overload resolution) are applied to this set of operators, the effect is to select the first of the operators for which implicit conversions exist from the operand types. For example, for the operation b * s, where b is a byte and s is a short, overload resolution selects operator *(int,int) as the best operator. Thus, the effect is that b and s are converted to int, and the type of the result is int. Likewise, for the operation i * d, where i is an int and d is a double, overload resolution selects operator *(double,double) as the best operator.

Unary numeric promotions

Unary numeric promotion occurs for the operands of the predefined +, -, and ~ unary operators. Unary numeric promotion simply consists of converting operands of type sbyte, byte, short, ushort, or char to type int. Additionally, for the unary - operator, unary numeric promotion converts operands of type uint to type long.

Binary numeric promotions

Binary numeric promotion occurs for the operands of the predefined +, -, *, /, %, &, |, ^, ==, !=, >, <, >=, and <= binary operators. Binary numeric promotion implicitly converts both operands to a common type which, in case of the non-relational operators, also becomes the result type of the operation. Binary numeric promotion consists of applying the following rules, in the order they appear here:

  • If either operand is of type decimal, the other operand is converted to type decimal, or a binding-time error occurs if the other operand is of type float or double.
  • Otherwise, if either operand is of type double, the other operand is converted to type double.
  • Otherwise, if either operand is of type float, the other operand is converted to type float.
  • Otherwise, if either operand is of type ulong, the other operand is converted to type ulong, or a binding-time error occurs if the other operand is of type sbyte, short, int, or long.
  • Otherwise, if either operand is of type long, the other operand is converted to type long.
  • Otherwise, if either operand is of type uint and the other operand is of type sbyte, short, or int, both operands are converted to type long.
  • Otherwise, if either operand is of type uint, the other operand is converted to type uint.
  • Otherwise, both operands are converted to type int.

Note that the first rule disallows any operations that mix the decimal type with the double and float types. The rule follows from the fact that there are no implicit conversions between the decimal type and the double and float types.

Also note that it is not possible for an operand to be of type ulong when the other operand is of a signed integral type. The reason is that no integral type exists that can represent the full range of ulong as well as the signed integral types.

In both of the above cases, a cast expression can be used to explicitly convert one operand to a type that is compatible with the other operand.

In the example

decimal AddPercent(decimal x, double percent) {
    return x * (1.0 + percent / 100.0);
}

a binding-time error occurs because a decimal cannot be multiplied by a double. The error is resolved by explicitly converting the second operand to decimal, as follows:

decimal AddPercent(decimal x, double percent) {
    return x * (decimal)(1.0 + percent / 100.0);
}

Lifted operators

Lifted operators permit predefined and user-defined operators that operate on non-nullable value types to also be used with nullable forms of those types. Lifted operators are constructed from predefined and user-defined operators that meet certain requirements, as described in the following:

  • For the unary operators

    +  ++  -  --  !  ~
    

    a lifted form of an operator exists if the operand and result types are both non-nullable value types. The lifted form is constructed by adding a single ? modifier to the operand and result types. The lifted operator produces a null value if the operand is null. Otherwise, the lifted operator unwraps the operand, applies the underlying operator, and wraps the result.

  • For the binary operators

    +  -  *  /  %  &  |  ^  <<  >>
    

    a lifted form of an operator exists if the operand and result types are all non-nullable value types. The lifted form is constructed by adding a single ? modifier to each operand and result type. The lifted operator produces a null value if one or both operands are null (an exception being the & and | operators of the bool? type, as described in Boolean logical operators). Otherwise, the lifted operator unwraps the operands, applies the underlying operator, and wraps the result.

  • For the equality operators

    ==  !=
    

    a lifted form of an operator exists if the operand types are both non-nullable value types and if the result type is bool. The lifted form is constructed by adding a single ? modifier to each operand type. The lifted operator considers two null values equal, and a null value unequal to any non-null value. If both operands are non-null, the lifted operator unwraps the operands and applies the underlying operator to produce the bool result.

  • For the relational operators

    <  >  <=  >=
    

    a lifted form of an operator exists if the operand types are both non-nullable value types and if the result type is bool. The lifted form is constructed by adding a single ? modifier to each operand type. The lifted operator produces the value false if one or both operands are null. Otherwise, the lifted operator unwraps the operands and applies the underlying operator to produce the bool result.

Member lookup

A member lookup is the process whereby the meaning of a name in the context of a type is determined. A member lookup can occur as part of evaluating a simple_name (Simple names) or a member_access (Member access) in an expression. If the simple_name or member_access occurs as the primary_expression of an invocation_expression (Method invocations), the member is said to be invoked.

If a member is a method or event, or if it is a constant, field or property of either a delegate type (Delegates) or the type dynamic (The dynamic type), then the member is said to be invocable.

Member lookup considers not only the name of a member but also the number of type parameters the member has and whether the member is accessible. For the purposes of member lookup, generic methods and nested generic types have the number of type parameters indicated in their respective declarations and all other members have zero type parameters.

A member lookup of a name N with K type parameters in a type T is processed as follows:

  • First, a set of accessible members named N is determined:
    • If T is a type parameter, then the set is the union of the sets of accessible members named N in each of the types specified as a primary constraint or secondary constraint (Type parameter constraints) for T, along with the set of accessible members named N in object.
    • Otherwise, the set consists of all accessible (Member access) members named N in T, including inherited members and the accessible members named N in object. If T is a constructed type, the set of members is obtained by substituting type arguments as described in Members of constructed types. Members that include an override modifier are excluded from the set.
  • Next, if K is zero, all nested types whose declarations include type parameters are removed. If K is not zero, all members with a different number of type parameters are removed. Note that when K is zero, methods having type parameters are not removed, since the type inference process (Type inference) might be able to infer the type arguments.
  • Next, if the member is invoked, all non-invocable members are removed from the set.
  • Next, members that are hidden by other members are removed from the set. For every member S.M in the set, where S is the type in which the member M is declared, the following rules are applied:
    • If M is a constant, field, property, event, or enumeration member, then all members declared in a base type of S are removed from the set.
    • If M is a type declaration, then all non-types declared in a base type of S are removed from the set, and all type declarations with the same number of type parameters as M declared in a base type of S are removed from the set.
    • If M is a method, then all non-method members declared in a base type of S are removed from the set.
  • Next, interface members that are hidden by class members are removed from the set. This step only has an effect if T is a type parameter and T has both an effective base class other than object and a non-empty effective interface set (Type parameter constraints). For every member S.M in the set, where S is the type in which the member M is declared, the following rules are applied if S is a class declaration other than object:
    • If M is a constant, field, property, event, enumeration member, or type declaration, then all members declared in an interface declaration are removed from the set.
    • If M is a method, then all non-method members declared in an interface declaration are removed from the set, and all methods with the same signature as M declared in an interface declaration are removed from the set.
  • Finally, having removed hidden members, the result of the lookup is determined:
    • If the set consists of a single member that is not a method, then this member is the result of the lookup.
    • Otherwise, if the set contains only methods, then this group of methods is the result of the lookup.
    • Otherwise, the lookup is ambiguous, and a binding-time error occurs.

For member lookups in types other than type parameters and interfaces, and member lookups in interfaces that are strictly single-inheritance (each interface in the inheritance chain has exactly zero or one direct base interface), the effect of the lookup rules is simply that derived members hide base members with the same name or signature. Such single-inheritance lookups are never ambiguous. The ambiguities that can possibly arise from member lookups in multiple-inheritance interfaces are described in Interface member access.

Base types

For purposes of member lookup, a type T is considered to have the following base types:

  • If T is object, then T has no base type.
  • If T is an enum_type, the base types of T are the class types System.Enum, System.ValueType, and object.
  • If T is a struct_type, the base types of T are the class types System.ValueType and object.
  • If T is a class_type, the base types of T are the base classes of T, including the class type object.
  • If T is an interface_type, the base types of T are the base interfaces of T and the class type object.
  • If T is an array_type, the base types of T are the class types System.Array and object.
  • If T is a delegate_type, the base types of T are the class types System.Delegate and object.

Function members

Function members are members that contain executable statements. Function members are always members of types and cannot be members of namespaces. C# defines the following categories of function members:

  • Methods
  • Properties
  • Events
  • Indexers
  • User-defined operators
  • Instance constructors
  • Static constructors
  • Destructors

Except for destructors and static constructors (which cannot be invoked explicitly), the statements contained in function members are executed through function member invocations. The actual syntax for writing a function member invocation depends on the particular function member category.

The argument list (Argument lists) of a function member invocation provides actual values or variable references for the parameters of the function member.

Invocations of generic methods may employ type inference to determine the set of type arguments to pass to the method. This process is described in Type inference.

Invocations of methods, indexers, operators and instance constructors employ overload resolution to determine which of a candidate set of function members to invoke. This process is described in Overload resolution.

Once a particular function member has been identified at binding-time, possibly through overload resolution, the actual run-time process of invoking the function member is described in Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution.

The following table summarizes the processing that takes place in constructs involving the six categories of function members that can be explicitly invoked. In the table, e, x, y, and value indicate expressions classified as variables or values, T indicates an expression classified as a type, F is the simple name of a method, and P is the simple name of a property.

Construct Example Description
Method invocation F(x,y) Overload resolution is applied to select the best method F in the containing class or struct. The method is invoked with the argument list (x,y). If the method is not static, the instance expression is this.
T.F(x,y) Overload resolution is applied to select the best method F in the class or struct T. A binding-time error occurs if the method is not static. The method is invoked with the argument list (x,y).
e.F(x,y) Overload resolution is applied to select the best method F in the class, struct, or interface given by the type of e. A binding-time error occurs if the method is static. The method is invoked with the instance expression e and the argument list (x,y).
Property access P The get accessor of the property P in the containing class or struct is invoked. A compile-time error occurs if P is write-only. If P is not static, the instance expression is this.
P = value The set accessor of the property P in the containing class or struct is invoked with the argument list (value). A compile-time error occurs if P is read-only. If P is not static, the instance expression is this.
T.P The get accessor of the property P in the class or struct T is invoked. A compile-time error occurs if P is not static or if P is write-only.
T.P = value The set accessor of the property P in the class or struct T is invoked with the argument list (value). A compile-time error occurs if P is not static or if P is read-only.
e.P The get accessor of the property P in the class, struct, or interface given by the type of e is invoked with the instance expression e. A binding-time error occurs if P is static or if P is write-only.
e.P = value The set accessor of the property P in the class, struct, or interface given by the type of e is invoked with the instance expression e and the argument list (value). A binding-time error occurs if P is static or if P is read-only.
Event access E += value The add accessor of the event E in the containing class or struct is invoked. If E is not static, the instance expression is this.
E -= value The remove accessor of the event E in the containing class or struct is invoked. If E is not static, the instance expression is this.
T.E += value The add accessor of the event E in the class or struct T is invoked. A binding-time error occurs if E is not static.
T.E -= value The remove accessor of the event E in the class or struct T is invoked. A binding-time error occurs if E is not static.
e.E += value The add accessor of the event E in the class, struct, or interface given by the type of e is invoked with the instance expression e. A binding-time error occurs if E is static.
e.E -= value The remove accessor of the event E in the class, struct, or interface given by the type of e is invoked with the instance expression e. A binding-time error occurs if E is static.
Indexer access e[x,y] Overload resolution is applied to select the best indexer in the class, struct, or interface given by the type of e. The get accessor of the indexer is invoked with the instance expression e and the argument list (x,y). A binding-time error occurs if the indexer is write-only.
e[x,y] = value Overload resolution is applied to select the best indexer in the class, struct, or interface given by the type of e. The set accessor of the indexer is invoked with the instance expression e and the argument list (x,y,value). A binding-time error occurs if the indexer is read-only.
Operator invocation -x Overload resolution is applied to select the best unary operator in the class or struct given by the type of x. The selected operator is invoked with the argument list (x).
x + y Overload resolution is applied to select the best binary operator in the classes or structs given by the types of x and y. The selected operator is invoked with the argument list (x,y).
Instance constructor invocation new T(x,y) Overload resolution is applied to select the best instance constructor in the class or struct T. The instance constructor is invoked with the argument list (x,y).

Argument lists

Every function member and delegate invocation includes an argument list which provides actual values or variable references for the parameters of the function member. The syntax for specifying the argument list of a function member invocation depends on the function member category:

  • For instance constructors, methods, indexers and delegates, the arguments are specified as an argument_list, as described below. For indexers, when invoking the set accessor, the argument list additionally includes the expression specified as the right operand of the assignment operator.
  • For properties, the argument list is empty when invoking the get accessor, and consists of the expression specified as the right operand of the assignment operator when invoking the set accessor.
  • For events, the argument list consists of the expression specified as the right operand of the += or -= operator.
  • For user-defined operators, the argument list consists of the single operand of the unary operator or the two operands of the binary operator.

The arguments of properties (Properties), events (Events), and user-defined operators (Operators) are always passed as value parameters (Value parameters). The arguments of indexers (Indexers) are always passed as value parameters (Value parameters) or parameter arrays (Parameter arrays). Reference and output parameters are not supported for these categories of function members.

The arguments of an instance constructor, method, indexer or delegate invocation are specified as an argument_list:

argument_list
    : argument (',' argument)*
    ;

argument
    : argument_name? argument_value
    ;

argument_name
    : identifier ':'
    ;

argument_value
    : expression
    | 'ref' variable_reference
    | 'out' variable_reference
    ;

An argument_list consists of one or more arguments, separated by commas. Each argument consists of an optional argument_name followed by an argument_value. An argument with an argument_name is referred to as a named argument, whereas an argument without an argument_name is a positional argument. It is an error for a positional argument to appear after a named argument in an argument_list.

The argument_value can take one of the following forms:

  • An expression, indicating that the argument is passed as a value parameter (Value parameters).
  • The keyword ref followed by a variable_reference (Variable references), indicating that the argument is passed as a reference parameter (Reference parameters). A variable must be definitely assigned (Definite assignment) before it can be passed as a reference parameter. The keyword out followed by a variable_reference (Variable references), indicating that the argument is passed as an output parameter (Output parameters). A variable is considered definitely assigned (Definite assignment) following a function member invocation in which the variable is passed as an output parameter.

Corresponding parameters

For each argument in an argument list there has to be a corresponding parameter in the function member or delegate being invoked.

The parameter list used in the following is determined as follows:

  • For virtual methods and indexers defined in classes, the parameter list is picked from the most specific declaration or override of the function member, starting with the static type of the receiver, and searching through its base classes.
  • For interface methods and indexers, the parameter list is picked form the most specific definition of the member, starting with the interface type and searching through the base interfaces. If no unique parameter list is found, a parameter list with inaccessible names and no optional parameters is constructed, so that invocations cannot use named parameters or omit optional arguments.
  • For partial methods, the parameter list of the defining partial method declaration is used.
  • For all other function members and delegates there is only a single parameter list, which is the one used.

The position of an argument or parameter is defined as the number of arguments or parameters preceding it in the argument list or parameter list.

The corresponding parameters for function member arguments are established as follows:

  • Arguments in the argument_list of instance constructors, methods, indexers and delegates:
    • A positional argument where a fixed parameter occurs at the same position in the parameter list corresponds to that parameter.
    • A positional argument of a function member with a parameter array invoked in its normal form corresponds to the parameter array, which must occur at the same position in the parameter list.
    • A positional argument of a function member with a parameter array invoked in its expanded form, where no fixed parameter occurs at the same position in the parameter list, corresponds to an element in the parameter array.
    • A named argument corresponds to the parameter of the same name in the parameter list.
    • For indexers, when invoking the set accessor, the expression specified as the right operand of the assignment operator corresponds to the implicit value parameter of the set accessor declaration.
  • For properties, when invoking the get accessor there are no arguments. When invoking the set accessor, the expression specified as the right operand of the assignment operator corresponds to the implicit value parameter of the set accessor declaration.
  • For user-defined unary operators (including conversions), the single operand corresponds to the single parameter of the operator declaration.
  • For user-defined binary operators, the left operand corresponds to the first parameter, and the right operand corresponds to the second parameter of the operator declaration.

Run-time evaluation of argument lists

During the run-time processing of a function member invocation (Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution), the expressions or variable references of an argument list are evaluated in order, from left to right, as follows:

  • For a value parameter, the argument expression is evaluated and an implicit conversion (Implicit conversions) to the corresponding parameter type is performed. The resulting value becomes the initial value of the value parameter in the function member invocation.
  • For a reference or output parameter, the variable reference is evaluated and the resulting storage location becomes the storage location represented by the parameter in the function member invocation. If the variable reference given as a reference or output parameter is an array element of a reference_type, a run-time check is performed to ensure that the element type of the array is identical to the type of the parameter. If this check fails, a System.ArrayTypeMismatchException is thrown.

Methods, indexers, and instance constructors may declare their right-most parameter to be a parameter array (Parameter arrays). Such function members are invoked either in their normal form or in their expanded form depending on which is applicable (Applicable function member):

  • When a function member with a parameter array is invoked in its normal form, the argument given for the parameter array must be a single expression that is implicitly convertible (Implicit conversions) to the parameter array type. In this case, the parameter array acts precisely like a value parameter.
  • When a function member with a parameter array is invoked in its expanded form, the invocation must specify zero or more positional arguments for the parameter array, where each argument is an expression that is implicitly convertible (Implicit conversions) to the element type of the parameter array. In this case, the invocation creates an instance of the parameter array type with a length corresponding to the number of arguments, initializes the elements of the array instance with the given argument values, and uses the newly created array instance as the actual argument.

The expressions of an argument list are always evaluated in the order they are written. Thus, the example

class Test
{
    static void F(int x, int y = -1, int z = -2) {
        System.Console.WriteLine("x = {0}, y = {1}, z = {2}", x, y, z);
    }

    static void Main() {
        int i = 0;
        F(i++, i++, i++);
        F(z: i++, x: i++);
    }
}

produces the output

x = 0, y = 1, z = 2
x = 4, y = -1, z = 3

The array co-variance rules (Array covariance) permit a value of an array type A[] to be a reference to an instance of an array type B[], provided an implicit reference conversion exists from B to A. Because of these rules, when an array element of a reference_type is passed as a reference or output parameter, a run-time check is required to ensure that the actual element type of the array is identical to that of the parameter. In the example

class Test
{
    static void F(ref object x) {...}

    static void Main() {
        object[] a = new object[10];
        object[] b = new string[10];
        F(ref a[0]);        // Ok
        F(ref b[1]);        // ArrayTypeMismatchException
    }
}

the second invocation of F causes a System.ArrayTypeMismatchException to be thrown because the actual element type of b is string and not object.

When a function member with a parameter array is invoked in its expanded form, the invocation is processed exactly as if an array creation expression with an array initializer (Array creation expressions) was inserted around the expanded parameters. For example, given the declaration

void F(int x, int y, params object[] args);

the following invocations of the expanded form of the method

F(10, 20);
F(10, 20, 30, 40);
F(10, 20, 1, "hello", 3.0);

correspond exactly to

F(10, 20, new object[] {});
F(10, 20, new object[] {30, 40});
F(10, 20, new object[] {1, "hello", 3.0});

In particular, note that an empty array is created when there are zero arguments given for the parameter array.

When arguments are omitted from a function member with corresponding optional parameters, the default arguments of the function member declaration are implicitly passed. Because these are always constant, their evaluation will not impact the evaluation order of the remaining arguments.

Type inference

When a generic method is called without specifying type arguments, a type inference process attempts to infer type arguments for the call. The presence of type inference allows a more convenient syntax to be used for calling a generic method, and allows the programmer to avoid specifying redundant type information. For example, given the method declaration:

class Chooser
{
    static Random rand = new Random();

    public static T Choose<T>(T first, T second) {
        return (rand.Next(2) == 0)? first: second;
    }
}

it is possible to invoke the Choose method without explicitly specifying a type argument:

int i = Chooser.Choose(5, 213);                 // Calls Choose<int>

string s = Chooser.Choose("foo", "bar");        // Calls Choose<string>

Through type inference, the type arguments int and string are determined from the arguments to the method.

Type inference occurs as part of the binding-time processing of a method invocation (Method invocations) and takes place before the overload resolution step of the invocation. When a particular method group is specified in a method invocation, and no type arguments are specified as part of the method invocation, type inference is applied to each generic method in the method group. If type inference succeeds, then the inferred type arguments are used to determine the types of arguments for subsequent overload resolution. If overload resolution chooses a generic method as the one to invoke, then the inferred type arguments are used as the actual type arguments for the invocation. If type inference for a particular method fails, that method does not participate in overload resolution. The failure of type inference, in and of itself, does not cause a binding-time error. However, it often leads to a binding-time error when overload resolution then fails to find any applicable methods.

If the supplied number of arguments is different than the number of parameters in the method, then inference immediately fails. Otherwise, assume that the generic method has the following signature:

Tr M<X1,...,Xn>(T1 x1, ..., Tm xm)

With a method call of the form M(E1...Em) the task of type inference is to find unique type arguments S1...Sn for each of the type parameters X1...Xn so that the call M<S1...Sn>(E1...Em) becomes valid.

During the process of inference each type parameter Xi is either fixed to a particular type Si or unfixed with an associated set of bounds. Each of the bounds is some type T. Initially each type variable Xi is unfixed with an empty set of bounds.

Type inference takes place in phases. Each phase will try to infer type arguments for more type variables based on the findings of the previous phase. The first phase makes some initial inferences of bounds, whereas the second phase fixes type variables to specific types and infers further bounds. The second phase may have to be repeated a number of times.

Note: Type inference takes place not only when a generic method is called. Type inference for conversion of method groups is described in Type inference for conversion of method groups and finding the best common type of a set of expressions is described in Finding the best common type of a set of expressions.

The first phase

For each of the method arguments Ei:

  • If Ei is an anonymous function, an explicit parameter type inference (Explicit parameter type inferences) is made from Ei to Ti
  • Otherwise, if Ei has a type U and xi is a value parameter then a lower-bound inference is made from U to Ti.
  • Otherwise, if Ei has a type U and xi is a ref or out parameter then an exact inference is made from U to Ti.
  • Otherwise, no inference is made for this argument.

The second phase

The second phase proceeds as follows:

  • All unfixed type variables Xi which do not depend on (Dependence) any Xj are fixed (Fixing).
  • If no such type variables exist, all unfixed type variables Xi are fixed for which all of the following hold:
    • There is at least one type variable Xj that depends on Xi
    • Xi has a non-empty set of bounds
  • If no such type variables exist and there are still unfixed type variables, type inference fails.
  • Otherwise, if no further unfixed type variables exist, type inference succeeds.
  • Otherwise, for all arguments Ei with corresponding parameter type Ti where the output types (Output types) contain unfixed type variables Xj but the input types (Input types) do not, an output type inference (Output type inferences) is made from Ei to Ti. Then the second phase is repeated.

Input types

If E is a method group or implicitly typed anonymous function and T is a delegate type or expression tree type then all the parameter types of T are input types of E with type T.

Output types

If E is a method group or an anonymous function and T is a delegate type or expression tree type then the return type of T is an output type of E with type T.

Dependence

An unfixed type variable Xi depends directly on an unfixed type variable Xj if for some argument Ek with type Tk Xj occurs in an input type of Ek with type Tk and Xi occurs in an output type of Ek with type Tk.

Xj depends on Xi if Xj depends directly on Xi or if Xi depends directly on Xk and Xk depends on Xj. Thus "depends on" is the transitive but not reflexive closure of "depends directly on".

Output type inferences

An output type inference is made from an expression E to a type T in the following way:

  • If E is an anonymous function with inferred return type U (Inferred return type) and T is a delegate type or expression tree type with return type Tb, then a lower-bound inference (Lower-bound inferences) is made from U to Tb.
  • Otherwise, if E is a method group and T is a delegate type or expression tree type with parameter types T1...Tk and return type Tb, and overload resolution of E with the types T1...Tk yields a single method with return type U, then a lower-bound inference is made from U to Tb.
  • Otherwise, if E is an expression with type U, then a lower-bound inference is made from U to T.
  • Otherwise, no inferences are made.

Explicit parameter type inferences

An explicit parameter type inference is made from an expression E to a type T in the following way:

  • If E is an explicitly typed anonymous function with parameter types U1...Uk and T is a delegate type or expression tree type with parameter types V1...Vk then for each Ui an exact inference (Exact inferences) is made from Ui to the corresponding Vi.

Exact inferences

An exact inference from a type U to a type V is made as follows:

  • If V is one of the unfixed Xi then U is added to the set of exact bounds for Xi.

  • Otherwise, sets V1...Vk and U1...Uk are determined by checking if any of the following cases apply:

    • V is an array type V1[...] and U is an array type U1[...] of the same rank
    • V is the type V1? and U is the type U1?
    • V is a constructed type C<V1...Vk>and U is a constructed type C<U1...Uk>

    If any of these cases apply then an exact inference is made from each Ui to the corresponding Vi.

  • Otherwise no inferences are made.

Lower-bound inferences

A lower-bound inference from a type U to a type V is made as follows:

  • If V is one of the unfixed Xi then U is added to the set of lower bounds for Xi.

  • Otherwise, if V is the type V1?and U is the type U1? then a lower bound inference is made from U1 to V1.

  • Otherwise, sets U1...Uk and V1...Vk are determined by checking if any of the following cases apply:

    • V is an array type V1[...] and U is an array type U1[...] (or a type parameter whose effective base type is U1[...]) of the same rank

    • V is one of IEnumerable<V1>, ICollection<V1> or IList<V1> and U is a one-dimensional array type U1[](or a type parameter whose effective base type is U1[])

    • V is a constructed class, struct, interface or delegate type C<V1...Vk> and there is a unique type C<U1...Uk> such that U (or, if U is a type parameter, its effective base class or any member of its effective interface set) is identical to, inherits from (directly or indirectly), or implements (directly or indirectly) C<U1...Uk>.

      (The "uniqueness" restriction means that in the case interface C<T> {} class U: C<X>, C<Y> {}, then no inference is made when inferring from U to C<T> because U1 could be X or Y.)

    If any of these cases apply then an inference is made from each Ui to the corresponding Vi as follows:

    • If Ui is not known to be a reference type then an exact inference is made
    • Otherwise, if U is an array type then a lower-bound inference is made
    • Otherwise, if V is C<V1...Vk> then inference depends on the i-th type parameter of C:
      • If it is covariant then a lower-bound inference is made.
      • If it is contravariant then an upper-bound inference is made.
      • If it is invariant then an exact inference is made.
  • Otherwise, no inferences are made.

Upper-bound inferences

An upper-bound inference from a type U to a type V is made as follows:

  • If V is one of the unfixed Xi then U is added to the set of upper bounds for Xi.

  • Otherwise, sets V1...Vk and U1...Uk are determined by checking if any of the following cases apply:

    • U is an array type U1[...] and V is an array type V1[...] of the same rank

    • U is one of IEnumerable<Ue>, ICollection<Ue> or IList<Ue> and V is a one-dimensional array type Ve[]

    • U is the type U1? and V is the type V1?

    • U is constructed class, struct, interface or delegate type C<U1...Uk> and V is a class, struct, interface or delegate type which is identical to, inherits from (directly or indirectly), or implements (directly or indirectly) a unique type C<V1...Vk>

      (The "uniqueness" restriction means that if we have interface C<T>{} class V<Z>: C<X<Z>>, C<Y<Z>>{}, then no inference is made when inferring from C<U1> to V<Q>. Inferences are not made from U1 to either X<Q> or Y<Q>.)

    If any of these cases apply then an inference is made from each Ui to the corresponding Vi as follows:

    • If Ui is not known to be a reference type then an exact inference is made
    • Otherwise, if V is an array type then an upper-bound inference is made
    • Otherwise, if U is C<U1...Uk> then inference depends on the i-th type parameter of C:
      • If it is covariant then an upper-bound inference is made.
      • If it is contravariant then a lower-bound inference is made.
      • If it is invariant then an exact inference is made.
  • Otherwise, no inferences are made.

Fixing

An unfixed type variable Xi with a set of bounds is fixed as follows:

  • The set of candidate types Uj starts out as the set of all types in the set of bounds for Xi.
  • We then examine each bound for Xi in turn: For each exact bound U of Xi all types Uj which are not identical to U are removed from the candidate set. For each lower bound U of Xi all types Uj to which there is not an implicit conversion from U are removed from the candidate set. For each upper bound U of Xi all types Uj from which there is not an implicit conversion to U are removed from the candidate set.
  • If among the remaining candidate types Uj there is a unique type V from which there is an implicit conversion to all the other candidate types, then Xi is fixed to V.
  • Otherwise, type inference fails.

Inferred return type

The inferred return type of an anonymous function F is used during type inference and overload resolution. The inferred return type can only be determined for an anonymous function where all parameter types are known, either because they are explicitly given, provided through an anonymous function conversion or inferred during type inference on an enclosing generic method invocation.

The inferred result type is determined as follows:

  • If the body of F is an expression that has a type, then the inferred result type of F is the type of that expression.
  • If the body of F is a block and the set of expressions in the block's return statements has a best common type T (Finding the best common type of a set of expressions), then the inferred result type of F is T.
  • Otherwise, a result type cannot be inferred for F.

The inferred return type is determined as follows:

  • If F is async and the body of F is either an expression classified as nothing (Expression classifications), or a statement block where no return statements have expressions, the inferred return type is System.Threading.Tasks.Task
  • If F is async and has an inferred result type T, the inferred return type is System.Threading.Tasks.Task<T>.
  • If F is non-async and has an inferred result type T, the inferred return type is T.
  • Otherwise a return type cannot be inferred for F.

As an example of type inference involving anonymous functions, consider the Select extension method declared in the System.Linq.Enumerable class:

namespace System.Linq
{
    public static class Enumerable
    {
        public static IEnumerable<TResult> Select<TSource,TResult>(
            this IEnumerable<TSource> source,
            Func<TSource,TResult> selector)
        {
            foreach (TSource element in source) yield return selector(element);
        }
    }
}

Assuming the System.Linq namespace was imported with a using clause, and given a class Customer with a Name property of type string, the Select method can be used to select the names of a list of customers:

List<Customer> customers = GetCustomerList();
IEnumerable<string> names = customers.Select(c => c.Name);

The extension method invocation (Extension method invocations) of Select is processed by rewriting the invocation to a static method invocation:

IEnumerable<string> names = Enumerable.Select(customers, c => c.Name);

Since type arguments were not explicitly specified, type inference is used to infer the type arguments. First, the customers argument is related to the source parameter, inferring T to be Customer. Then, using the anonymous function type inference process described above, c is given type Customer, and the expression c.Name is related to the return type of the selector parameter, inferring S to be string. Thus, the invocation is equivalent to

Sequence.Select<Customer,string>(customers, (Customer c) => c.Name)

and the result is of type IEnumerable<string>.

The following example demonstrates how anonymous function type inference allows type information to "flow" between arguments in a generic method invocation. Given the method:

static Z F<X,Y,Z>(X value, Func<X,Y> f1, Func<Y,Z> f2) {
    return f2(f1(value));
}

Type inference for the invocation:

double seconds = F("1:15:30", s => TimeSpan.Parse(s), t => t.TotalSeconds);

proceeds as follows: First, the argument "1:15:30" is related to the value parameter, inferring X to be string. Then, the parameter of the first anonymous function, s, is given the inferred type string, and the expression TimeSpan.Parse(s) is related to the return type of f1, inferring Y to be System.TimeSpan. Finally, the parameter of the second anonymous function, t, is given the inferred type System.TimeSpan, and the expression t.TotalSeconds is related to the return type of f2, inferring Z to be double. Thus, the result of the invocation is of type double.

Type inference for conversion of method groups

Similar to calls of generic methods, type inference must also be applied when a method group M containing a generic method is converted to a given delegate type D (Method group conversions). Given a method

Tr M<X1...Xn>(T1 x1 ... Tm xm)

and the method group M being assigned to the delegate type D the task of type inference is to find type arguments S1...Sn so that the expression:

M<S1...Sn>

becomes compatible (Delegate declarations) with D.

Unlike the type inference algorithm for generic method calls, in this case there are only argument types, no argument expressions. In particular, there are no anonymous functions and hence no need for multiple phases of inference.

Instead, all Xi are considered unfixed, and a lower-bound inference is made from each argument type Uj of D to the corresponding parameter type Tj of M. If for any of the Xi no bounds were found, type inference fails. Otherwise, all Xi are fixed to corresponding Si, which are the result of type inference.

Finding the best common type of a set of expressions

In some cases, a common type needs to be inferred for a set of expressions. In particular, the element types of implicitly typed arrays and the return types of anonymous functions with block bodies are found in this way.

Intuitively, given a set of expressions E1...Em this inference should be equivalent to calling a method

Tr M<X>(X x1 ... X xm)

with the Ei as arguments.

More precisely, the inference starts out with an unfixed type variable X. Output type inferences are then made from each Ei to X. Finally, X is fixed and, if successful, the resulting type S is the resulting best common type for the expressions. If no such S exists, the expressions have no best common type.

Overload resolution

Overload resolution is a binding-time mechanism for selecting the best function member to invoke given an argument list and a set of candidate function members. Overload resolution selects the function member to invoke in the following distinct contexts within C#:

Each of these contexts defines the set of candidate function members and the list of arguments in its own unique way, as described in detail in the sections listed above. For example, the set of candidates for a method invocation does not include methods marked override (Member lookup), and methods in a base class are not candidates if any method in a derived class is applicable (Method invocations).

Once the candidate function members and the argument list have been identified, the selection of the best function member is the same in all cases:

  • Given the set of applicable candidate function members, the best function member in that set is located. If the set contains only one function member, then that function member is the best function member. Otherwise, the best function member is the one function member that is better than all other function members with respect to the given argument list, provided that each function member is compared to all other function members using the rules in Better function member. If there is not exactly one function member that is better than all other function members, then the function member invocation is ambiguous and a binding-time error occurs.

The following sections define the exact meanings of the terms applicable function member and better function member.

Applicable function member

A function member is said to be an applicable function member with respect to an argument list A when all of the following are true:

  • Each argument in A corresponds to a parameter in the function member declaration as described in Corresponding parameters, and any parameter to which no argument corresponds is an optional parameter.
  • For each argument in A, the parameter passing mode of the argument (i.e., value, ref, or out) is identical to the parameter passing mode of the corresponding parameter, and
    • for a value parameter or a parameter array, an implicit conversion (Implicit conversions) exists from the argument to the type of the corresponding parameter, or
    • for a ref or out parameter, the type of the argument is identical to the type of the corresponding parameter. After all, a ref or out parameter is an alias for the argument passed.

For a function member that includes a parameter array, if the function member is applicable by the above rules, it is said to be applicable in its normal form. If a function member that includes a parameter array is not applicable in its normal form, the function member may instead be applicable in its expanded form:

  • The expanded form is constructed by replacing the parameter array in the function member declaration with zero or more value parameters of the element type of the parameter array such that the number of arguments in the argument list A matches the total number of parameters. If A has fewer arguments than the number of fixed parameters in the function member declaration, the expanded form of the function member cannot be constructed and is thus not applicable.
  • Otherwise, the expanded form is applicable if for each argument in A the parameter passing mode of the argument is identical to the parameter passing mode of the corresponding parameter, and
    • for a fixed value parameter or a value parameter created by the expansion, an implicit conversion (Implicit conversions) exists from the type of the argument to the type of the corresponding parameter, or
    • for a ref or out parameter, the type of the argument is identical to the type of the corresponding parameter.

Better function member

For the purposes of determining the better function member, a stripped-down argument list A is constructed containing just the argument expressions themselves in the order they appear in the original argument list.

Parameter lists for each of the candidate function members are constructed in the following way:

  • The expanded form is used if the function member was applicable only in the expanded form.
  • Optional parameters with no corresponding arguments are removed from the parameter list
  • The parameters are reordered so that they occur at the same position as the corresponding argument in the argument list.

Given an argument list A with a set of argument expressions {E1, E2, ..., En} and two applicable function members Mp and Mq with parameter types {P1, P2, ..., Pn} and {Q1, Q2, ..., Qn}, Mp is defined to be a better function member than Mq if

  • for each argument, the implicit conversion from Ex to Qx is not better than the implicit conversion from Ex to Px, and
  • for at least one argument, the conversion from Ex to Px is better than the conversion from Ex to Qx.

When performing this evaluation, if Mp or Mq is applicable in its expanded form, then Px or Qx refers to a parameter in the expanded form of the parameter list.

In case the parameter type sequences {P1, P2, ..., Pn} and {Q1, Q2, ..., Qn} are equivalent (i.e. each Pi has an identity conversion to the corresponding Qi), the following tie-breaking rules are applied, in order, to determine the better function member.

  • If Mp is a non-generic method and Mq is a generic method, then Mp is better than Mq.
  • Otherwise, if Mp is applicable in its normal form and Mq has a params array and is applicable only in its expanded form, then Mp is better than Mq.
  • Otherwise, if Mp has more declared parameters than Mq, then Mp is better than Mq. This can occur if both methods have params arrays and are applicable only in their expanded forms.
  • Otherwise if all parameters of Mp have a corresponding argument whereas default arguments need to be substituted for at least one optional parameter in Mq then Mp is better than Mq.
  • Otherwise, if Mp has more specific parameter types than Mq, then Mp is better than Mq. Let {R1, R2, ..., Rn} and {S1, S2, ..., Sn} represent the uninstantiated and unexpanded parameter types of Mp and Mq. Mp's parameter types are more specific than Mq's if, for each parameter, Rx is not less specific than Sx, and, for at least one parameter, Rx is more specific than Sx:
    • A type parameter is less specific than a non-type parameter.
    • Recursively, a constructed type is more specific than another constructed type (with the same number of type arguments) if at least one type argument is more specific and no type argument is less specific than the corresponding type argument in the other.
    • An array type is more specific than another array type (with the same number of dimensions) if the element type of the first is more specific than the element type of the second.
  • Otherwise if one member is a non-lifted operator and the other is a lifted operator, the non-lifted one is better.
  • Otherwise, neither function member is better.

Better conversion from expression

Given an implicit conversion C1 that converts from an expression E to a type T1, and an implicit conversion C2 that converts from an expression E to a type T2, C1 is a better conversion than C2 if E does not exactly match T2 and at least one of the following holds:

Exactly matching Expression

Given an expression E and a type T, E exactly matches T if one of the following holds:

  • E has a type S, and an identity conversion exists from S to T
  • E is an anonymous function, T is either a delegate type D or an expression tree type Expression<D> and one of the following holds:
    • An inferred return type X exists for E in the context of the parameter list of D (Inferred return type), and an identity conversion exists from X to the return type of D
    • Either E is non-async and D has a return type Y or E is async and D has a return type Task<Y>, and one of the following holds:
      • The body of E is an expression that exactly matches Y
      • The body of E is a statement block where every return statement returns an expression that exactly matches Y

Better conversion target

Given two different types T1 and T2, T1 is a better conversion target than T2 if no implicit conversion from T2 to T1 exists, and at least one of the following holds:

  • An implicit conversion from T1 to T2 exists
  • T1 is either a delegate type D1 or an expression tree type Expression<D1>, T2 is either a delegate type D2 or an expression tree type Expression<D2>, D1 has a return type S1 and one of the following holds:
    • D2 is void returning
    • D2 has a return type S2, and S1 is a better conversion target than S2
  • T1 is Task<S1>, T2 is Task<S2>, and S1 is a better conversion target than S2
  • T1 is S1 or S1? where S1 is a signed integral type, and T2 is S2 or S2? where S2 is an unsigned integral type. Specifically:
    • S1 is sbyte and S2 is byte, ushort, uint, or ulong
    • S1 is short and S2 is ushort, uint, or ulong
    • S1 is int and S2 is uint, or ulong
    • S1 is long and S2 is ulong

Overloading in generic classes

While signatures as declared must be unique, it is possible that substitution of type arguments results in identical signatures. In such cases, the tie-breaking rules of overload resolution above will pick the most specific member.

The following examples show overloads that are valid and invalid according to this rule:

interface I1<T> {...}

interface I2<T> {...}

class G1<U>
{
    int F1(U u);                  // Overload resolution for G<int>.F1
    int F1(int i);                // will pick non-generic

    void F2(I1<U> a);             // Valid overload
    void F2(I2<U> a);
}

class G2<U,V>
{
    void F3(U u, V v);            // Valid, but overload resolution for
    void F3(V v, U u);            // G2<int,int>.F3 will fail

    void F4(U u, I1<V> v);        // Valid, but overload resolution for    
    void F4(I1<V> v, U u);        // G2<I1<int>,int>.F4 will fail

    void F5(U u1, I1<V> v2);      // Valid overload
    void F5(V v1, U u2);

    void F6(ref U u);             // valid overload
    void F6(out V v);
}

Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution

For most dynamically bound operations the set of possible candidates for resolution is unknown at compile-time. In certain cases, however the candidate set is known at compile-time:

  • Static method calls with dynamic arguments
  • Instance method calls where the receiver is not a dynamic expression
  • Indexer calls where the receiver is not a dynamic expression
  • Constructor calls with dynamic arguments

In these cases a limited compile-time check is performed for each candidate to see if any of them could possibly apply at run-time.This check consists of the following steps:

  • Partial type inference: Any type argument that does not depend directly or indirectly on an argument of type dynamic is inferred using the rules of Type inference. The remaining type arguments are unknown.
  • Partial applicability check: Applicability is checked according to Applicable function member, but ignoring parameters whose types are unknown.
  • If no candidate passes this test, a compile-time error occurs.

Function member invocation

This section describes the process that takes place at run-time to invoke a particular function member. It is assumed that a binding-time process has already determined the particular member to invoke, possibly by applying overload resolution to a set of candidate function members.

For purposes of describing the invocation process, function members are divided into two categories:

  • Static function members. These are instance constructors, static methods, static property accessors, and user-defined operators. Static function members are always non-virtual.
  • Instance function members. These are instance methods, instance property accessors, and indexer accessors. Instance function members are either non-virtual or virtual, and are always invoked on a particular instance. The instance is computed by an instance expression, and it becomes accessible within the function member as this (This access).

The run-time processing of a function member invocation consists of the following steps, where M is the function member and, if M is an instance member, E is the instance expression:

  • If M is a static function member:

    • The argument list is evaluated as described in Argument lists.
    • M is invoked.
  • If M is an instance function member declared in a value_type:

    • E is evaluated. If this evaluation causes an exception, then no further steps are executed.
    • If E is not classified as a variable, then a temporary local variable of E's type is created and the value of E is assigned to that variable. E is then reclassified as a reference to that temporary local variable. The temporary variable is accessible as this within M, but not in any other way. Thus, only when E is a true variable is it possible for the caller to observe the changes that M makes to this.
    • The argument list is evaluated as described in Argument lists.
    • M is invoked. The variable referenced by E becomes the variable referenced by this.
  • If M is an instance function member declared in a reference_type:

    • E is evaluated. If this evaluation causes an exception, then no further steps are executed.
    • The argument list is evaluated as described in Argument lists.
    • If the type of E is a value_type, a boxing conversion (Boxing conversions) is performed to convert E to type object, and E is considered to be of type object in the following steps. In this case, M could only be a member of System.Object.
    • The value of E is checked to be valid. If the value of E is null, a System.NullReferenceException is thrown and no further steps are executed.
    • The function member implementation to invoke is determined:
      • If the binding-time type of E is an interface, the function member to invoke is the implementation of M provided by the run-time type of the instance referenced by E. This function member is determined by applying the interface mapping rules (Interface mapping) to determine the implementation of M provided by the run-time type of the instance referenced by E.
      • Otherwise, if M is a virtual function member, the function member to invoke is the implementation of M provided by the run-time type of the instance referenced by E. This function member is determined by applying the rules for determining the most derived implementation (Virtual methods) of M with respect to the run-time type of the instance referenced by E.
      • Otherwise, M is a non-virtual function member, and the function member to invoke is M itself.
    • The function member implementation determined in the step above is invoked. The object referenced by E becomes the object referenced by this.

Invocations on boxed instances

A function member implemented in a value_type can be invoked through a boxed instance of that value_type in the following situations:

  • When the function member is an override of a method inherited from type object and is invoked through an instance expression of type object.
  • When the function member is an implementation of an interface function member and is invoked through an instance expression of an interface_type.
  • When the function member is invoked through a delegate.

In these situations, the boxed instance is considered to contain a variable of the value_type, and this variable becomes the variable referenced by this within the function member invocation. In particular, this means that when a function member is invoked on a boxed instance, it is possible for the function member to modify the value contained in the boxed instance.

Primary expressions

Primary expressions include the simplest forms of expressions.

primary_expression
    : primary_no_array_creation_expression
    | array_creation_expression
    ;

primary_no_array_creation_expression
    : literal
    | interpolated_string_expression
    | simple_name
    | parenthesized_expression
    | member_access
    | invocation_expression
    | element_access
    | this_access
    | base_access
    | post_increment_expression
    | post_decrement_expression
    | object_creation_expression
    | delegate_creation_expression
    | anonymous_object_creation_expression
    | typeof_expression
    | checked_expression
    | unchecked_expression
    | default_value_expression
    | nameof_expression
    | anonymous_method_expression
    | primary_no_array_creation_expression_unsafe
    ;

Primary expressions are divided between array_creation_expressions and primary_no_array_creation_expressions. Treating array-creation-expression in this way, rather than listing it along with the other simple expression forms, enables the grammar to disallow potentially confusing code such as

object o = new int[3][1];

which would otherwise be interpreted as

object o = (new int[3])[1];

Literals

A primary_expression that consists of a literal (Literals) is classified as a value.

Interpolated strings

An interpolated_string_expression consists of a $ sign followed by a regular or verbatim string literal, wherein holes, delimited by { and }, enclose expressions and formatting specifications. An interpolated string expression is the result of an interpolated_string_literal that has been broken up into individual tokens, as described in Interpolated string literals.

interpolated_string_expression
    : '$' interpolated_regular_string
    | '$' interpolated_verbatim_string
    ;

interpolated_regular_string
    : interpolated_regular_string_whole
    | interpolated_regular_string_start interpolated_regular_string_body interpolated_regular_string_end
    ;

interpolated_regular_string_body
    : interpolation (interpolated_regular_string_mid interpolation)*
    ;

interpolation
    : expression
    | expression ',' constant_expression
    ;

interpolated_verbatim_string
    : interpolated_verbatim_string_whole
    | interpolated_verbatim_string_start interpolated_verbatim_string_body interpolated_verbatim_string_end
    ;

interpolated_verbatim_string_body
    : interpolation (interpolated_verbatim_string_mid interpolation)+
    ;

The constant_expression in an interpolation must have an implicit conversion to int.

An interpolated_string_expression is classified as a value. If it is immediately converted to System.IFormattable or System.FormattableString with an implicit interpolated string conversion (Implicit interpolated string conversions), the interpolated string expression has that type. Otherwise, it has the type string.

If the type of an interpolated string is System.IFormattable or System.FormattableString, the meaning is a call to System.Runtime.CompilerServices.FormattableStringFactory.Create. If the type is string, the meaning of the expression is a call to string.Format. In both cases, the argument list of the call consists of a format string literal with placeholders for each interpolation, and an argument for each expression corresponding to the place holders.

The format string literal is constructed as follows, where N is the number of interpolations in the interpolated_string_expression:

  • If an interpolated_regular_string_whole or an interpolated_verbatim_string_whole follows the $ sign, then the format string literal is that token.
  • Otherwise, the format string literal consists of:
    • First the interpolated_regular_string_start or interpolated_verbatim_string_start
    • Then for each number I from 0 to N-1:
      • The decimal representation of I
      • Then, if the corresponding interpolation has a constant_expression, a , (comma) followed by the decimal representation of the value of the constant_expression
      • Then the interpolated_regular_string_mid, interpolated_regular_string_end, interpolated_verbatim_string_mid or interpolated_verbatim_string_end immediately following the corresponding interpolation.

The subsequent arguments are simply the expressions from the interpolations (if any), in order.

TODO: examples.

Simple names

A simple_name consists of an identifier, optionally followed by a type argument list:

simple_name
    : identifier type_argument_list?
    ;

A simple_name is either of the form I or of the form I<A1,...,Ak>, where I is a single identifier and <A1,...,Ak> is an optional type_argument_list. When no type_argument_list is specified, consider K to be zero. The simple_name is evaluated and classified as follows:

  • If K is zero and the simple_name appears within a block and if the block's (or an enclosing block's) local variable declaration space (Declarations) contains a local variable, parameter or constant with name I, then the simple_name refers to that local variable, parameter or constant and is classified as a variable or value.

  • If K is zero and the simple_name appears within the body of a generic method declaration and if that declaration includes a type parameter with name I, then the simple_name refers to that type parameter.

  • Otherwise, for each instance type T (The instance type), starting with the instance type of the immediately enclosing type declaration and continuing with the instance type of each enclosing class or struct declaration (if any):

    • If K is zero and the declaration of T includes a type parameter with name I, then the simple_name refers to that type parameter.
    • Otherwise, if a member lookup (Member lookup) of I in T with K type arguments produces a match:
      • If T is the instance type of the immediately enclosing class or struct type and the lookup identifies one or more methods, the result is a method group with an associated instance expression of this. If a type argument list was specified, it is used in calling a generic method (Method invocations).
      • Otherwise, if T is the instance type of the immediately enclosing class or struct type, if the lookup identifies an instance member, and if the reference occurs within the body of an instance constructor, an instance method, or an instance accessor, the result is the same as a member access (Member access) of the form this.I. This can only happen when K is zero.
      • Otherwise, the result is the same as a member access (Member access) of the form T.I or T.I<A1,...,Ak>. In this case, it is a binding-time error for the simple_name to refer to an instance member.
  • Otherwise, for each namespace N, starting with the namespace in which the simple_name occurs, continuing with each enclosing namespace (if any), and ending with the global namespace, the following steps are evaluated until an entity is located:

    • If K is zero and I is the name of a namespace in N, then:
      • If the location where the simple_name occurs is enclosed by a namespace declaration for N and the namespace declaration contains an extern_alias_directive or using_alias_directive that associates the name I with a namespace or type, then the simple_name is ambiguous and a compile-time error occurs.
      • Otherwise, the simple_name refers to the namespace named I in N.
    • Otherwise, if N contains an accessible type having name I and K type parameters, then:
      • If K is zero and the location where the simple_name occurs is enclosed by a namespace declaration for N and the namespace declaration contains an extern_alias_directive or using_alias_directive that associates the name I with a namespace or type, then the simple_name is ambiguous and a compile-time error occurs.
      • Otherwise, the namespace_or_type_name refers to the type constructed with the given type arguments.
    • Otherwise, if the location where the simple_name occurs is enclosed by a namespace declaration for N:
      • If K is zero and the namespace declaration contains an extern_alias_directive or using_alias_directive that associates the name I with an imported namespace or type, then the simple_name refers to that namespace or type.
      • Otherwise, if the namespaces and type declarations imported by the using_namespace_directives and using_static_directives of the namespace declaration contain exactly one accessible type or non-extension static member having name I and K type parameters, then the simple_name refers to that type or member constructed with the given type arguments.
      • Otherwise, if the namespaces and types imported by the using_namespace_directives of the namespace declaration contain more than one accessible type or non-extension-method static member having name I and K type parameters, then the simple_name is ambiguous and an error occurs.

    Note that this entire step is exactly parallel to the corresponding step in the processing of a namespace_or_type_name (Namespace and type names).

  • Otherwise, the simple_name is undefined and a compile-time error occurs.

Parenthesized expressions

A parenthesized_expression consists of an expression enclosed in parentheses.

parenthesized_expression
    : '(' expression ')'
    ;

A parenthesized_expression is evaluated by evaluating the expression within the parentheses. If the expression within the parentheses denotes a namespace or type, a compile-time error occurs. Otherwise, the result of the parenthesized_expression is the result of the evaluation of the contained expression.

Member access

A member_access consists of a primary_expression, a predefined_type, or a qualified_alias_member, followed by a "." token, followed by an identifier, optionally followed by a type_argument_list.

member_access
    : primary_expression '.' identifier type_argument_list?
    | predefined_type '.' identifier type_argument_list?
    | qualified_alias_member '.' identifier
    ;

predefined_type
    : 'bool'   | 'byte'  | 'char'  | 'decimal' | 'double' | 'float' | 'int' | 'long'
    | 'object' | 'sbyte' | 'short' | 'string'  | 'uint'   | 'ulong' | 'ushort'
    ;

The qualified_alias_member production is defined in Namespace alias qualifiers.

A member_access is either of the form E.I or of the form E.I<A1, ..., Ak>, where E is a primary-expression, I is a single identifier and <A1, ..., Ak> is an optional type_argument_list. When no type_argument_list is specified, consider K to be zero.

A member_access with a primary_expression of type dynamic is dynamically bound (Dynamic binding). In this case the compiler classifies the member access as a property access of type dynamic. The rules below to determine the meaning of the member_access are then applied at run-time, using the run-time type instead of the compile-time type of the primary_expression. If this run-time classification leads to a method group, then the member access must be the primary_expression of an invocation_expression.

The member_access is evaluated and classified as follows:

  • If K is zero and E is a namespace and E contains a nested namespace with name I, then the result is that namespace.
  • Otherwise, if E is a namespace and E contains an accessible type having name I and K type parameters, then the result is that type constructed with the given type arguments.
  • If E is a predefined_type or a primary_expression classified as a type, if E is not a type parameter, and if a member lookup (Member lookup) of I in E with K type parameters produces a match, then E.I is evaluated and classified as follows:
    • If I identifies a type, then the result is that type constructed with the given type arguments.
    • If I identifies one or more methods, then the result is a method group with no associated instance expression. If a type argument list was specified, it is used in calling a generic method (Method invocations).
    • If I identifies a static property, then the result is a property access with no associated instance expression.
    • If I identifies a static field:
      • If the field is readonly and the reference occurs outside the static constructor of the class or struct in which the field is declared, then the result is a value, namely the value of the static field I in E.
      • Otherwise, the result is a variable, namely the static field I in E.
    • If I identifies a static event:
      • If the reference occurs within the class or struct in which the event is declared, and the event was declared without event_accessor_declarations (Events), then E.I is processed exactly as if I were a static field.
      • Otherwise, the result is an event access with no associated instance expression.
    • If I identifies a constant, then the result is a value, namely the value of that constant.
    • If I identifies an enumeration member, then the result is a value, namely the value of that enumeration member.
    • Otherwise, E.I is an invalid member reference, and a compile-time error occurs.
  • If E is a property access, indexer access, variable, or value, the type of which is T, and a member lookup (Member lookup) of I in T with K type arguments produces a match, then E.I is evaluated and classified as follows:
    • First, if E is a property or indexer access, then the value of the property or indexer access is obtained (Values of expressions) and E is reclassified as a value.
    • If I identifies one or more methods, then the result is a method group with an associated instance expression of E. If a type argument list was specified, it is used in calling a generic method (Method invocations).
    • If I identifies an instance property,
      • If E is this, I identifies an automatically implemented property (Automatically implemented properties) without a setter, and the reference occurs within an instance constructor for a class or struct type T, then the result is a variable, namely the hidden backing field for the auto-property given by I in the instance of T given by this.
      • Otherwise, the result is a property access with an associated instance expression of E.
    • If T is a class_type and I identifies an instance field of that class_type:
      • If the value of E is null, then a System.NullReferenceException is thrown.
      • Otherwise, if the field is readonly and the reference occurs outside an instance constructor of the class in which the field is declared, then the result is a value, namely the value of the field I in the object referenced by E.
      • Otherwise, the result is a variable, namely the field I in the object referenced by E.
    • If T is a struct_type and I identifies an instance field of that struct_type:
      • If E is a value, or if the field is readonly and the reference occurs outside an instance constructor of the struct in which the field is declared, then the result is a value, namely the value of the field I in the struct instance given by E.
      • Otherwise, the result is a variable, namely the field I in the struct instance given by E.
    • If I identifies an instance event:
      • If the reference occurs within the class or struct in which the event is declared, and the event was declared without event_accessor_declarations (Events), and the reference does not occur as the left-hand side of a += or -= operator, then E.I is processed exactly as if I was an instance field.
      • Otherwise, the result is an event access with an associated instance expression of E.
  • Otherwise, an attempt is made to process E.I as an extension method invocation (Extension method invocations). If this fails, E.I is an invalid member reference, and a binding-time error occurs.

Identical simple names and type names

In a member access of the form E.I, if E is a single identifier, and if the meaning of E as a simple_name (Simple names) is a constant, field, property, local variable, or parameter with the same type as the meaning of E as a type_name (Namespace and type names), then both possible meanings of E are permitted. The two possible meanings of E.I are never ambiguous, since I must necessarily be a member of the type E in both cases. In other words, the rule simply permits access to the static members and nested types of E where a compile-time error would otherwise have occurred. For example:

struct Color
{
    public static readonly Color White = new Color(...);
    public static readonly Color Black = new Color(...);

    public Color Complement() {...}
}

class A
{
    public Color Color;                // Field Color of type Color

    void F() {
        Color = Color.Black;           // References Color.Black static member
        Color = Color.Complement();    // Invokes Complement() on Color field
    }

    static void G() {
        Color c = Color.White;         // References Color.White static member
    }
}

Grammar ambiguities

The productions for simple_name (Simple names) and member_access (Member access) can give rise to ambiguities in the grammar for expressions. For example, the statement:

F(G<A,B>(7));

could be interpreted as a call to F with two arguments, G < A and B > (7). Alternatively, it could be interpreted as a call to F with one argument, which is a call to a generic method G with two type arguments and one regular argument.

If a sequence of tokens can be parsed (in context) as a simple_name (Simple names), member_access (Member access), or pointer_member_access (Pointer member access) ending with a type_argument_list (Type arguments), the token immediately following the closing > token is examined. If it is one of

(  )  ]  }  :  ;  ,  .  ?  ==  !=  |  ^

then the type_argument_list is retained as part of the simple_name, member_access or pointer_member_access and any other possible parse of the sequence of tokens is discarded. Otherwise, the type_argument_list is not considered to be part of the simple_name, member_access or pointer_member_access, even if there is no other possible parse of the sequence of tokens. Note that these rules are not applied when parsing a type_argument_list in a namespace_or_type_name (Namespace and type names). The statement

F(G<A,B>(7));

will, according to this rule, be interpreted as a call to F with one argument, which is a call to a generic method G with two type arguments and one regular argument. The statements

F(G < A, B > 7);
F(G < A, B >> 7);

will each be interpreted as a call to F with two arguments. The statement

x = F < A > +y;

will be interpreted as a less than operator, greater than operator, and unary plus operator, as if the statement had been written x = (F < A) > (+y), instead of as a simple_name with a type_argument_list followed by a binary plus operator. In the statement

x = y is C<T> + z;

the tokens C<T> are interpreted as a namespace_or_type_name with a type_argument_list.

Invocation expressions

An invocation_expression is used to invoke a method.

invocation_expression
    : primary_expression '(' argument_list? ')'
    ;

An invocation_expression is dynamically bound (Dynamic binding) if at least one of the following holds:

  • The primary_expression has compile-time type dynamic.
  • At least one argument of the optional argument_list has compile-time type dynamic and the primary_expression does not have a delegate type.

In this case the compiler classifies the invocation_expression as a value of type dynamic. The rules below to determine the meaning of the invocation_expression are then applied at run-time, using the run-time type instead of the compile-time type of those of the primary_expression and arguments which have the compile-time type dynamic. If the primary_expression does not have compile-time type dynamic, then the method invocation undergoes a limited compile time check as described in Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution.

The primary_expression of an invocation_expression must be a method group or a value of a delegate_type. If the primary_expression is a method group, the invocation_expression is a method invocation (Method invocations). If the primary_expression is a value of a delegate_type, the invocation_expression is a delegate invocation (Delegate invocations). If the primary_expression is neither a method group nor a value of a delegate_type, a binding-time error occurs.

The optional argument_list (Argument lists) provides values or variable references for the parameters of the method.

The result of evaluating an invocation_expression is classified as follows:

  • If the invocation_expression invokes a method or delegate that returns void, the result is nothing. An expression that is classified as nothing is permitted only in the context of a statement_expression (Expression statements) or as the body of a lambda_expression (Anonymous function expressions). Otherwise a binding-time error occurs.
  • Otherwise, the result is a value of the type returned by the method or delegate.

Method invocations

For a method invocation, the primary_expression of the invocation_expression must be a method group. The method group identifies the one method to invoke or the set of overloaded methods from which to choose a specific method to invoke. In the latter case, determination of the specific method to invoke is based on the context provided by the types of the arguments in the argument_list.

The binding-time processing of a method invocation of the form M(A), where M is a method group (possibly including a type_argument_list), and A is an optional argument_list, consists of the following steps:

  • The set of candidate methods for the method invocation is constructed. For each method F associated with the method group M:
    • If F is non-generic, F is a candidate when:
    • If F is generic and M has no type argument list, F is a candidate when:
      • Type inference (Type inference) succeeds, inferring a list of type arguments for the call, and
      • Once the inferred type arguments are substituted for the corresponding method type parameters, all constructed types in the parameter list of F satisfy their constraints (Satisfying constraints), and the parameter list of F is applicable with respect to A (Applicable function member).
    • If F is generic and M includes a type argument list, F is a candidate when:
      • F has the same number of method type parameters as were supplied in the type argument list, and
      • Once the type arguments are substituted for the corresponding method type parameters, all constructed types in the parameter list of F satisfy their constraints (Satisfying constraints), and the parameter list of F is applicable with respect to A (Applicable function member).
  • The set of candidate methods is reduced to contain only methods from the most derived types: For each method C.F in the set, where C is the type in which the method F is declared, all methods declared in a base type of C are removed from the set. Furthermore, if C is a class type other than object, all methods declared in an interface type are removed from the set. (This latter rule only has affect when the method group was the result of a member lookup on a type parameter having an effective base class other than object and a non-empty effective interface set.)
  • If the resulting set of candidate methods is empty, then further processing along the following steps are abandoned, and instead an attempt is made to process the invocation as an extension method invocation (Extension method invocations). If this fails, then no applicable methods exist, and a binding-time error occurs.
  • The best method of the set of candidate methods is identified using the overload resolution rules of Overload resolution. If a single best method cannot be identified, the method invocation is ambiguous, and a binding-time error occurs. When performing overload resolution, the parameters of a generic method are considered after substituting the type arguments (supplied or inferred) for the corresponding method type parameters.
  • Final validation of the chosen best method is performed:
    • The method is validated in the context of the method group: If the best method is a static method, the method group must have resulted from a simple_name or a member_access through a type. If the best method is an instance method, the method group must have resulted from a simple_name, a member_access through a variable or value, or a base_access. If neither of these requirements is true, a binding-time error occurs.
    • If the best method is a generic method, the type arguments (supplied or inferred) are checked against the constraints (Satisfying constraints) declared on the generic method. If any type argument does not satisfy the corresponding constraint(s) on the type parameter, a binding-time error occurs.

Once a method has been selected and validated at binding-time by the above steps, the actual run-time invocation is processed according to the rules of function member invocation described in Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution.

The intuitive effect of the resolution rules described above is as follows: To locate the particular method invoked by a method invocation, start with the type indicated by the method invocation and proceed up the inheritance chain until at least one applicable, accessible, non-override method declaration is found. Then perform type inference and overload resolution on the set of applicable, accessible, non-override methods declared in that type and invoke the method thus selected. If no method was found, try instead to process the invocation as an extension method invocation.

Extension method invocations

In a method invocation (Invocations on boxed instances) of one of the forms

expr . identifier ( )

expr . identifier ( args )

expr . identifier < typeargs > ( )

expr . identifier < typeargs > ( args )

if the normal processing of the invocation finds no applicable methods, an attempt is made to process the construct as an extension method invocation. If expr or any of the args has compile-time type dynamic, extension methods will not apply.

The objective is to find the best type_name C, so that the corresponding static method invocation can take place:

C . identifier ( expr )

C . identifier ( expr , args )

C . identifier < typeargs > ( expr )

C . identifier < typeargs > ( expr , args )

An extension method Ci.Mj is eligible if:

  • Ci is a non-generic, non-nested class
  • The name of Mj is identifier
  • Mj is accessible and applicable when applied to the arguments as a static method as shown above
  • An implicit identity, reference or boxing conversion exists from expr to the type of the first parameter of Mj.

The search for C proceeds as follows:

  • Starting with the closest enclosing namespace declaration, continuing with each enclosing namespace declaration, and ending with the containing compilation unit, successive attempts are made to find a candidate set of extension methods:
    • If the given namespace or compilation unit directly contains non-generic type declarations Ci with eligible extension methods Mj, then the set of those extension methods is the candidate set.
    • If types Ci imported by using_static_declarations and directly declared in namespaces imported by using_namespace_directives in the given namespace or compilation unit directly contain eligible extension methods Mj, then the set of those extension methods is the candidate set.
  • If no candidate set is found in any enclosing namespace declaration or compilation unit, a compile-time error occurs.
  • Otherwise, overload resolution is applied to the candidate set as described in (Overload resolution). If no single best method is found, a compile-time error occurs.
  • C is the type within which the best method is declared as an extension method.

Using C as a target, the method call is then processed as a static method invocation (Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution).

The preceding rules mean that instance methods take precedence over extension methods, that extension methods available in inner namespace declarations take precedence over extension methods available in outer namespace declarations, and that extension methods declared directly in a namespace take precedence over extension methods imported into that same namespace with a using namespace directive. For example:

public static class E
{
    public static void F(this object obj, int i) { }

    public static void F(this object obj, string s) { }
}

class A { }

class B
{
    public void F(int i) { }
}

class C
{
    public void F(object obj) { }
}

class X
{
    static void Test(A a, B b, C c) {
        a.F(1);              // E.F(object, int)
        a.F("hello");        // E.F(object, string)

        b.F(1);              // B.F(int)
        b.F("hello");        // E.F(object, string)

        c.F(1);              // C.F(object)
        c.F("hello");        // C.F(object)
    }
}

In the example, B's method takes precedence over the first extension method, and C's method takes precedence over both extension methods.

public static class C
{
    public static void F(this int i) { Console.WriteLine("C.F({0})", i); }
    public static void G(this int i) { Console.WriteLine("C.G({0})", i); }
    public static void H(this int i) { Console.WriteLine("C.H({0})", i); }
}

namespace N1
{
    public static class D
    {
        public static void F(this int i) { Console.WriteLine("D.F({0})", i); }
        public static void G(this int i) { Console.WriteLine("D.G({0})", i); }
    }
}

namespace N2
{
    using N1;

    public static class E
    {
        public static void F(this int i) { Console.WriteLine("E.F({0})", i); }
    }

    class Test
    {
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            1.F();
            2.G();
            3.H();
        }
    }
}

The output of this example is:

E.F(1)
D.G(2)
C.H(3)

D.G takes precedence over C.G, and E.F takes precedence over both D.F and C.F.

Delegate invocations

For a delegate invocation, the primary_expression of the invocation_expression must be a value of a delegate_type. Furthermore, considering the delegate_type to be a function member with the same parameter list as the delegate_type, the delegate_type must be applicable (Applicable function member) with respect to the argument_list of the invocation_expression.

The run-time processing of a delegate invocation of the form D(A), where D is a primary_expression of a delegate_type and A is an optional argument_list, consists of the following steps:

  • D is evaluated. If this evaluation causes an exception, no further steps are executed.
  • The value of D is checked to be valid. If the value of D is null, a System.NullReferenceException is thrown and no further steps are executed.
  • Otherwise, D is a reference to a delegate instance. Function member invocations (Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution) are performed on each of the callable entities in the invocation list of the delegate. For callable entities consisting of an instance and instance method, the instance for the invocation is the instance contained in the callable entity.

Element access

An element_access consists of a primary_no_array_creation_expression, followed by a "[" token, followed by an argument_list, followed by a "]" token. The argument_list consists of one or more arguments, separated by commas.

element_access
    : primary_no_array_creation_expression '[' expression_list ']'
    ;

The argument_list of an element_access is not allowed to contain ref or out arguments.

An element_access is dynamically bound (Dynamic binding) if at least one of the following holds:

  • The primary_no_array_creation_expression has compile-time type dynamic.
  • At least one expression of the argument_list has compile-time type dynamic and the primary_no_array_creation_expression does not have an array type.

In this case the compiler classifies the element_access as a value of type dynamic. The rules below to determine the meaning of the element_access are then applied at run-time, using the run-time type instead of the compile-time type of those of the primary_no_array_creation_expression and argument_list expressions which have the compile-time type dynamic. If the primary_no_array_creation_expression does not have compile-time type dynamic, then the element access undergoes a limited compile time check as described in Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution.

If the primary_no_array_creation_expression of an element_access is a value of an array_type, the element_access is an array access (Array access). Otherwise, the primary_no_array_creation_expression must be a variable or value of a class, struct, or interface type that has one or more indexer members, in which case the element_access is an indexer access (Indexer access).

Array access

For an array access, the primary_no_array_creation_expression of the element_access must be a value of an array_type. Furthermore, the argument_list of an array access is not allowed to contain named arguments.The number of expressions in the argument_list must be the same as the rank of the array_type, and each expression must be of type int, uint, long, ulong, or must be implicitly convertible to one or more of these types.

The result of evaluating an array access is a variable of the element type of the array, namely the array element selected by the value(s) of the expression(s) in the argument_list.

The run-time processing of an array access of the form P[A], where P is a primary_no_array_creation_expression of an array_type and A is an argument_list, consists of the following steps:

  • P is evaluated. If this evaluation causes an exception, no further steps are executed.
  • The index expressions of the argument_list are evaluated in order, from left to right. Following evaluation of each index expression, an implicit conversion (Implicit conversions) to one of the following types is performed: int, uint, long, ulong. The first type in this list for which an implicit conversion exists is chosen. For instance, if the index expression is of type short then an implicit conversion to int is performed, since implicit conversions from short to int and from short to long are possible. If evaluation of an index expression or the subsequent implicit conversion causes an exception, then no further index expressions are evaluated and no further steps are executed.
  • The value of P is checked to be valid. If the value of P is null, a System.NullReferenceException is thrown and no further steps are executed.
  • The value of each expression in the argument_list is checked against the actual bounds of each dimension of the array instance referenced by P. If one or more values are out of range, a System.IndexOutOfRangeException is thrown and no further steps are executed.
  • The location of the array element given by the index expression(s) is computed, and this location becomes the result of the array access.

Indexer access

For an indexer access, the primary_no_array_creation_expression of the element_access must be a variable or value of a class, struct, or interface type, and this type must implement one or more indexers that are applicable with respect to the argument_list of the element_access.

The binding-time processing of an indexer access of the form P[A], where P is a primary_no_array_creation_expression of a class, struct, or interface type T, and A is an argument_list, consists of the following steps:

  • The set of indexers provided by T is constructed. The set consists of all indexers declared in T or a base type of T that are not override declarations and are accessible in the current context (Member access).
  • The set is reduced to those indexers that are applicable and not hidden by other indexers. The following rules are applied to each indexer S.I in the set, where S is the type in which the indexer I is declared:
    • If I is not applicable with respect to A (Applicable function member), then I is removed from the set.
    • If I is applicable with respect to A (Applicable function member), then all indexers declared in a base type of S are removed from the set.
    • If I is applicable with respect to A (Applicable function member) and S is a class type other than object, all indexers declared in an interface are removed from the set.
  • If the resulting set of candidate indexers is empty, then no applicable indexers exist, and a binding-time error occurs.
  • The best indexer of the set of candidate indexers is identified using the overload resolution rules of Overload resolution. If a single best indexer cannot be identified, the indexer access is ambiguous, and a binding-time error occurs.
  • The index expressions of the argument_list are evaluated in order, from left to right. The result of processing the indexer access is an expression classified as an indexer access. The indexer access expression references the indexer determined in the step above, and has an associated instance expression of P and an associated argument list of A.

Depending on the context in which it is used, an indexer access causes invocation of either the get accessor or the set accessor of the indexer. If the indexer access is the target of an assignment, the set accessor is invoked to assign a new value (Simple assignment). In all other cases, the get accessor is invoked to obtain the current value (Values of expressions).

This access

A this_access consists of the reserved word this.

this_access
    : 'this'
    ;

A this_access is permitted only in the block of an instance constructor, an instance method, or an instance accessor. It has one of the following meanings:

  • When this is used in a primary_expression within an instance constructor of a class, it is classified as a value. The type of the value is the instance type (The instance type) of the class within which the usage occurs, and the value is a reference to the object being constructed.
  • When this is used in a primary_expression within an instance method or instance accessor of a class, it is classified as a value. The type of the value is the instance type (The instance type) of the class within which the usage occurs, and the value is a reference to the object for which the method or accessor was invoked.
  • When this is used in a primary_expression within an instance constructor of a struct, it is classified as a variable. The type of the variable is the instance type (The instance type) of the struct within which the usage occurs, and the variable represents the struct being constructed. The this variable of an instance constructor of a struct behaves exactly the same as an out parameter of the struct type—in particular, this means that the variable must be definitely assigned in every execution path of the instance constructor.
  • When this is used in a primary_expression within an instance method or instance accessor of a struct, it is classified as a variable. The type of the variable is the instance type (The instance type) of the struct within which the usage occurs.
    • If the method or accessor is not an iterator (Iterators), the this variable represents the struct for which the method or accessor was invoked, and behaves exactly the same as a ref parameter of the struct type.
    • If the method or accessor is an iterator, the this variable represents a copy of the struct for which the method or accessor was invoked, and behaves exactly the same as a value parameter of the struct type.

Use of this in a primary_expression in a context other than the ones listed above is a compile-time error. In particular, it is not possible to refer to this in a static method, a static property accessor, or in a variable_initializer of a field declaration.

Base access

A base_access consists of the reserved word base followed by either a "." token and an identifier or an argument_list enclosed in square brackets:

base_access
    : 'base' '.' identifier
    | 'base' '[' expression_list ']'
    ;

A base_access is used to access base class members that are hidden by similarly named members in the current class or struct. A base_access is permitted only in the block of an instance constructor, an instance method, or an instance accessor. When base.I occurs in a class or struct, I must denote a member of the base class of that class or struct. Likewise, when base[E] occurs in a class, an applicable indexer must exist in the base class.

At binding-time, base_access expressions of the form base.I and base[E] are evaluated exactly as if they were written ((B)this).I and ((B)this)[E], where B is the base class of the class or struct in which the construct occurs. Thus, base.I and base[E] correspond to this.I and this[E], except this is viewed as an instance of the base class.

When a base_access references a virtual function member (a method, property, or indexer), the determination of which function member to invoke at run-time (Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution) is changed. The function member that is invoked is determined by finding the most derived implementation (Virtual methods) of the function member with respect to B (instead of with respect to the run-time type of this, as would be usual in a non-base access). Thus, within an override of a virtual function member, a base_access can be used to invoke the inherited implementation of the function member. If the function member referenced by a base_access is abstract, a binding-time error occurs.

Postfix increment and decrement operators

post_increment_expression
    : primary_expression '++'
    ;

post_decrement_expression
    : primary_expression '--'
    ;

The operand of a postfix increment or decrement operation must be an expression classified as a variable, a property access, or an indexer access. The result of the operation is a value of the same type as the operand.

If the primary_expression has the compile-time type dynamic then the operator is dynamically bound (Dynamic binding), the post_increment_expression or post_decrement_expression has the compile-time type dynamic and the following rules are applied at run-time using the run-time type of the primary_expression.

If the operand of a postfix increment or decrement operation is a property or indexer access, the property or indexer must have both a get and a set accessor. If this is not the case, a binding-time error occurs.

Unary operator overload resolution (Unary operator overload resolution) is applied to select a specific operator implementation. Predefined ++ and -- operators exist for the following types: sbyte, byte, short, ushort, int, uint, long, ulong, char, float, double, decimal, and any enum type. The predefined ++ operators return the value produced by adding 1 to the operand, and the predefined -- operators return the value produced by subtracting 1 from the operand. In a checked context, if the result of this addition or subtraction is outside the range of the result type and the result type is an integral type or enum type, a System.OverflowException is thrown.

The run-time processing of a postfix increment or decrement operation of the form x++ or x-- consists of the following steps:

  • If x is classified as a variable:
    • x is evaluated to produce the variable.
    • The value of x is saved.
    • The selected operator is invoked with the saved value of x as its argument.
    • The value returned by the operator is stored in the location given by the evaluation of x.
    • The saved value of x becomes the result of the operation.
  • If x is classified as a property or indexer access:
    • The instance expression (if x is not static) and the argument list (if x is an indexer access) associated with x are evaluated, and the results are used in the subsequent get and set accessor invocations.
    • The get accessor of x is invoked and the returned value is saved.
    • The selected operator is invoked with the saved value of x as its argument.
    • The set accessor of x is invoked with the value returned by the operator as its value argument.
    • The saved value of x becomes the result of the operation.

The ++ and -- operators also support prefix notation (Prefix increment and decrement operators). Typically, the result of x++ or x-- is the value of x before the operation, whereas the result of ++x or --x is the value of x after the operation. In either case, x itself has the same value after the operation.

An operator ++ or operator -- implementation can be invoked using either postfix or prefix notation. It is not possible to have separate operator implementations for the two notations.

The new operator

The new operator is used to create new instances of types.

There are three forms of new expressions:

  • Object creation expressions are used to create new instances of class types and value types.
  • Array creation expressions are used to create new instances of array types.
  • Delegate creation expressions are used to create new instances of delegate types.

The new operator implies creation of an instance of a type, but does not necessarily imply dynamic allocation of memory. In particular, instances of value types require no additional memory beyond the variables in which they reside, and no dynamic allocations occur when new is used to create instances of value types.

Object creation expressions

An object_creation_expression is used to create a new instance of a class_type or a value_type.

object_creation_expression
    : 'new' type '(' argument_list? ')' object_or_collection_initializer?
    | 'new' type object_or_collection_initializer
    ;

object_or_collection_initializer
    : object_initializer
    | collection_initializer
    ;

The type of an object_creation_expression must be a class_type, a value_type or a type_parameter. The type cannot be an abstract class_type.

The optional argument_list (Argument lists) is permitted only if the type is a class_type or a struct_type.

An object creation expression can omit the constructor argument list and enclosing parentheses provided it includes an object initializer or collection initializer. Omitting the constructor argument list and enclosing parentheses is equivalent to specifying an empty argument list.

Processing of an object creation expression that includes an object initializer or collection initializer consists of first processing the instance constructor and then processing the member or element initializations specified by the object initializer (Object initializers) or collection initializer (Collection initializers).

If any of the arguments in the optional argument_list has the compile-time type dynamic then the object_creation_expression is dynamically bound (Dynamic binding) and the following rules are applied at run-time using the run-time type of those arguments of the argument_list that have the compile time type dynamic. However, the object creation undergoes a limited compile time check as described in Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution.

The binding-time processing of an object_creation_expression of the form new T(A), where T is a class_type or a value_type and A is an optional argument_list, consists of the following steps:

  • If T is a value_type and A is not present:
    • The object_creation_expression is a default constructor invocation. The result of the object_creation_expression is a value of type T, namely the default value for T as defined in The System.ValueType type.
  • Otherwise, if T is a type_parameter and A is not present:
    • If no value type constraint or constructor constraint (Type parameter constraints) has been specified for T, a binding-time error occurs.
    • The result of the object_creation_expression is a value of the run-time type that the type parameter has been bound to, namely the result of invoking the default constructor of that type. The run-time type may be a reference type or a value type.
  • Otherwise, if T is a class_type or a struct_type:
    • If T is an abstract class_type, a compile-time error occurs.
    • The instance constructor to invoke is determined using the overload resolution rules of Overload resolution. The set of candidate instance constructors consists of all accessible instance constructors declared in T which are applicable with respect to A (Applicable function member). If the set of candidate instance constructors is empty, or if a single best instance constructor cannot be identified, a binding-time error occurs.
    • The result of the object_creation_expression is a value of type T, namely the value produced by invoking the instance constructor determined in the step above.
  • Otherwise, the object_creation_expression is invalid, and a binding-time error occurs.

Even if the object_creation_expression is dynamically bound, the compile-time type is still T.

The run-time processing of an object_creation_expression of the form new T(A), where T is class_type or a struct_type and A is an optional argument_list, consists of the following steps:

  • If T is a class_type:
    • A new instance of class T is allocated. If there is not enough memory available to allocate the new instance, a System.OutOfMemoryException is thrown and no further steps are executed.
    • All fields of the new instance are initialized to their default values (Default values).
    • The instance constructor is invoked according to the rules of function member invocation (Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution). A reference to the newly allocated instance is automatically passed to the instance constructor and the instance can be accessed from within that constructor as this.
  • If T is a struct_type:
    • An instance of type T is created by allocating a temporary local variable. Since an instance constructor of a struct_type is required to definitely assign a value to each field of the instance being created, no initialization of the temporary variable is necessary.
    • The instance constructor is invoked according to the rules of function member invocation (Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution). A reference to the newly allocated instance is automatically passed to the instance constructor and the instance can be accessed from within that constructor as this.

Object initializers

An object initializer specifies values for zero or more fields, properties or indexed elements of an object.

object_initializer
    : '{' member_initializer_list? '}'
    | '{' member_initializer_list ',' '}'
    ;

member_initializer_list
    : member_initializer (',' member_initializer)*
    ;

member_initializer
    : initializer_target '=' initializer_value
    ;

initializer_target
    : identifier
    | '[' argument_list ']'
    ;

initializer_value
    : expression
    | object_or_collection_initializer
    ;

An object initializer consists of a sequence of member initializers, enclosed by { and } tokens and separated by commas. Each member_initializer designates a target for the initialization. An identifier must name an accessible field or property of the object being initialized, whereas an argument_list enclosed in square brackets must specify arguments for an accessible indexer on the object being initialized. It is an error for an object initializer to include more than one member initializer for the same field or property.

Each initializer_target is followed by an equals sign and either an expression, an object initializer or a collection initializer. It is not possible for expressions within the object initializer to refer to the newly created object it is initializing.

A member initializer that specifies an expression after the equals sign is processed in the same way as an assignment (Simple assignment) to the target.

A member initializer that specifies an object initializer after the equals sign is a nested object initializer, i.e. an initialization of an embedded object. Instead of assigning a new value to the field or property, the assignments in the nested object initializer are treated as assignments to members of the field or property. Nested object initializers cannot be applied to properties with a value type, or to read-only fields with a value type.

A member initializer that specifies a collection initializer after the equals sign is an initialization of an embedded collection. Instead of assigning a new collection to the target field, property or indexer, the elements given in the initializer are added to the collection referenced by the target. The target must be of a collection type that satisfies the requirements specified in Collection initializers.

The arguments to an index initializer will always be evaluated exactly once. Thus, even if the arguments end up never getting used (e.g. because of an empty nested initializer), they will be evaluated for their side effects.

The following class represents a point with two coordinates:

public class Point
{
    int x, y;

    public int X { get { return x; } set { x = value; } }
    public int Y { get { return y; } set { y = value; } }
}

An instance of Point can be created and initialized as follows:

Point a = new Point { X = 0, Y = 1 };

which has the same effect as

Point __a = new Point();
__a.X = 0;
__a.Y = 1; 
Point a = __a;

where __a is an otherwise invisible and inaccessible temporary variable. The following class represents a rectangle created from two points:

public class Rectangle
{
    Point p1, p2;

    public Point P1 { get { return p1; } set { p1 = value; } }
    public Point P2 { get { return p2; } set { p2 = value; } }
}

An instance of Rectangle can be created and initialized as follows:

Rectangle r = new Rectangle {
    P1 = new Point { X = 0, Y = 1 },
    P2 = new Point { X = 2, Y = 3 }
};

which has the same effect as

Rectangle __r = new Rectangle();
Point __p1 = new Point();
__p1.X = 0;
__p1.Y = 1;
__r.P1 = __p1;
Point __p2 = new Point();
__p2.X = 2;
__p2.Y = 3;
__r.P2 = __p2; 
Rectangle r = __r;

where __r, __p1 and __p2 are temporary variables that are otherwise invisible and inaccessible.

If Rectangle's constructor allocates the two embedded Point instances

public class Rectangle
{
    Point p1 = new Point();
    Point p2 = new Point();

    public Point P1 { get { return p1; } }
    public Point P2 { get { return p2; } }
}

the following construct can be used to initialize the embedded Point instances instead of assigning new instances:

Rectangle r = new Rectangle {
    P1 = { X = 0, Y = 1 },
    P2 = { X = 2, Y = 3 }
};

which has the same effect as

Rectangle __r = new Rectangle();
__r.P1.X = 0;
__r.P1.Y = 1;
__r.P2.X = 2;
__r.P2.Y = 3;
Rectangle r = __r;

Given an appropriate definition of C, the following example:

var c = new C {
    x = true,
    y = { a = "Hello" },
    z = { 1, 2, 3 },
    ["x"] = 5,
    [0,0] = { "a", "b" },
    [1,2] = {}
};

is equivalent to this series of assignments:

C __c = new C();
__c.x = true;
__c.y.a = "Hello";
__c.z.Add(1); 
__c.z.Add(2);
__c.z.Add(3);
string __i1 = "x";
__c[__i1] = 5;
int __i2 = 0, __i3 = 0;
__c[__i2,__i3].Add("a");
__c[__i2,__i3].Add("b");
int __i4 = 1, __i5 = 2;
var c = __c;

where __c, etc., are generated variables that are invisible and inaccessible to the source code. Note that the arguments for [0,0] are evaluated only once, and the arguments for [1,2] are evaluated once even though they are never used.

Collection initializers

A collection initializer specifies the elements of a collection.

collection_initializer
    : '{' element_initializer_list '}'
    | '{' element_initializer_list ',' '}'
    ;

element_initializer_list
    : element_initializer (',' element_initializer)*
    ;

element_initializer
    : non_assignment_expression
    | '{' expression_list '}'
    ;

expression_list
    : expression (',' expression)*
    ;

A collection initializer consists of a sequence of element initializers, enclosed by { and } tokens and separated by commas. Each element initializer specifies an element to be added to the collection object being initialized, and consists of a list of expressions enclosed by { and } tokens and separated by commas. A single-expression element initializer can be written without braces, but cannot then be an assignment expression, to avoid ambiguity with member initializers. The non_assignment_expression production is defined in Expression.

The following is an example of an object creation expression that includes a collection initializer:

List<int> digits = new List<int> { 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 };

The collection object to which a collection initializer is applied must be of a type that implements System.Collections.IEnumerable or a compile-time error occurs. For each specified element in order, the collection initializer invokes an Add method on the target object with the expression list of the element initializer as argument list, applying normal member lookup and overload resolution for each invocation. Thus, the collection object must have an applicable instance or extension method with the name Add for each element initializer.

The following class represents a contact with a name and a list of phone numbers:

public class Contact
{
    string name;
    List<string> phoneNumbers = new List<string>();

    public string Name { get { return name; } set { name = value; } }

    public List<string> PhoneNumbers { get { return phoneNumbers; } }
}

A List<Contact> can be created and initialized as follows:

var contacts = new List<Contact> {
    new Contact {
        Name = "Chris Smith",
        PhoneNumbers = { "206-555-0101", "425-882-8080" }
    },
    new Contact {
        Name = "Bob Harris",
        PhoneNumbers = { "650-555-0199" }
    }
};

which has the same effect as

var __clist = new List<Contact>();
Contact __c1 = new Contact();
__c1.Name = "Chris Smith";
__c1.PhoneNumbers.Add("206-555-0101");
__c1.PhoneNumbers.Add("425-882-8080");
__clist.Add(__c1);
Contact __c2 = new Contact();
__c2.Name = "Bob Harris";
__c2.PhoneNumbers.Add("650-555-0199");
__clist.Add(__c2);
var contacts = __clist;

where __clist, __c1 and __c2 are temporary variables that are otherwise invisible and inaccessible.

Array creation expressions

An array_creation_expression is used to create a new instance of an array_type.

array_creation_expression
    : 'new' non_array_type '[' expression_list ']' rank_specifier* array_initializer?
    | 'new' array_type array_initializer
    | 'new' rank_specifier array_initializer
    ;

An array creation expression of the first form allocates an array instance of the type that results from deleting each of the individual expressions from the expression list. For example, the array creation expression new int[10,20] produces an array instance of type int[,], and the array creation expression new int[10][,] produces an array of type int[][,]. Each expression in the expression list must be of type int, uint, long, or ulong, or implicitly convertible to one or more of these types. The value of each expression determines the length of the corresponding dimension in the newly allocated array instance. Since the length of an array dimension must be nonnegative, it is a compile-time error to have a constant_expression with a negative value in the expression list.

Except in an unsafe context (Unsafe contexts), the layout of arrays is unspecified.

If an array creation expression of the first form includes an array initializer, each expression in the expression list must be a constant and the rank and dimension lengths specified by the expression list must match those of the array initializer.

In an array creation expression of the second or third form, the rank of the specified array type or rank specifier must match that of the array initializer. The individual dimension lengths are inferred from the number of elements in each of the corresponding nesting levels of the array initializer. Thus, the expression

new int[,] {{0, 1}, {2, 3}, {4, 5}}

exactly corresponds to

new int[3, 2] {{0, 1}, {2, 3}, {4, 5}}

An array creation expression of the third form is referred to as an implicitly typed array creation expression. It is similar to the second form, except that the element type of the array is not explicitly given, but determined as the best common type (Finding the best common type of a set of expressions) of the set of expressions in the array initializer. For a multidimensional array, i.e., one where the rank_specifier contains at least one comma, this set comprises all expressions found in nested array_initializers.

Array initializers are described further in Array initializers.

The result of evaluating an array creation expression is classified as a value, namely a reference to the newly allocated array instance. The run-time processing of an array creation expression consists of the following steps:

  • The dimension length expressions of the expression_list are evaluated in order, from left to right. Following evaluation of each expression, an implicit conversion (Implicit conversions) to one of the following types is performed: int, uint, long, ulong. The first type in this list for which an implicit conversion exists is chosen. If evaluation of an expression or the subsequent implicit conversion causes an exception, then no further expressions are evaluated and no further steps are executed.
  • The computed values for the dimension lengths are validated as follows. If one or more of the values are less than zero, a System.OverflowException is thrown and no further steps are executed.
  • An array instance with the given dimension lengths is allocated. If there is not enough memory available to allocate the new instance, a System.OutOfMemoryException is thrown and no further steps are executed.
  • All elements of the new array instance are initialized to their default values (Default values).
  • If the array creation expression contains an array initializer, then each expression in the array initializer is evaluated and assigned to its corresponding array element. The evaluations and assignments are performed in the order the expressions are written in the array initializer—in other words, elements are initialized in increasing index order, with the rightmost dimension increasing first. If evaluation of a given expression or the subsequent assignment to the corresponding array element causes an exception, then no further elements are initialized (and the remaining elements will thus have their default values).

An array creation expression permits instantiation of an array with elements of an array type, but the elements of such an array must be manually initialized. For example, the statement

int[][] a = new int[100][];

creates a single-dimensional array with 100 elements of type int[]. The initial value of each element is null. It is not possible for the same array creation expression to also instantiate the sub-arrays, and the statement

int[][] a = new int[100][5];        // Error

results in a compile-time error. Instantiation of the sub-arrays must instead be performed manually, as in

int[][] a = new int[100][];
for (int i = 0; i < 100; i++) a[i] = new int[5];

When an array of arrays has a "rectangular" shape, that is when the sub-arrays are all of the same length, it is more efficient to use a multi-dimensional array. In the example above, instantiation of the array of arrays creates 101 objects—one outer array and 100 sub-arrays. In contrast,

int[,] = new int[100, 5];

creates only a single object, a two-dimensional array, and accomplishes the allocation in a single statement.

The following are examples of implicitly typed array creation expressions:

var a = new[] { 1, 10, 100, 1000 };                       // int[]

var b = new[] { 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5 };                         // double[]

var c = new[,] { { "hello", null }, { "world", "!" } };   // string[,]

var d = new[] { 1, "one", 2, "two" };                     // Error

The last expression causes a compile-time error because neither int nor string is implicitly convertible to the other, and so there is no best common type. An explicitly typed array creation expression must be used in this case, for example specifying the type to be object[]. Alternatively, one of the elements can be cast to a common base type, which would then become the inferred element type.

Implicitly typed array creation expressions can be combined with anonymous object initializers (Anonymous object creation expressions) to create anonymously typed data structures. For example:

var contacts = new[] {
    new {
        Name = "Chris Smith",
        PhoneNumbers = new[] { "206-555-0101", "425-882-8080" }
    },
    new {
        Name = "Bob Harris",
        PhoneNumbers = new[] { "650-555-0199" }
    }
};

Delegate creation expressions

A delegate_creation_expression is used to create a new instance of a delegate_type.

delegate_creation_expression
    : 'new' delegate_type '(' expression ')'
    ;

The argument of a delegate creation expression must be a method group, an anonymous function or a value of either the compile time type dynamic or a delegate_type. If the argument is a method group, it identifies the method and, for an instance method, the object for which to create a delegate. If the argument is an anonymous function it directly defines the parameters and method body of the delegate target. If the argument is a value it identifies a delegate instance of which to create a copy.

If the expression has the compile-time type dynamic, the delegate_creation_expression is dynamically bound (Dynamic binding), and the rules below are applied at run-time using the run-time type of the expression. Otherwise the rules are applied at compile-time.

The binding-time processing of a delegate_creation_expression of the form new D(E), where D is a delegate_type and E is an expression, consists of the following steps:

  • If E is a method group, the delegate creation expression is processed in the same way as a method group conversion (Method group conversions) from E to D.
  • If E is an anonymous function, the delegate creation expression is processed in the same way as an anonymous function conversion (Anonymous function conversions) from E to D.
  • If E is a value, E must be compatible (Delegate declarations) with D, and the result is a reference to a newly created delegate of type D that refers to the same invocation list as E. If E is not compatible with D, a compile-time error occurs.

The run-time processing of a delegate_creation_expression of the form new D(E), where D is a delegate_type and E is an expression, consists of the following steps:

  • If E is a method group, the delegate creation expression is evaluated as a method group conversion (Method group conversions) from E to D.
  • If E is an anonymous function, the delegate creation is evaluated as an anonymous function conversion from E to D (Anonymous function conversions).
  • If E is a value of a delegate_type:
    • E is evaluated. If this evaluation causes an exception, no further steps are executed.
    • If the value of E is null, a System.NullReferenceException is thrown and no further steps are executed.
    • A new instance of the delegate type D is allocated. If there is not enough memory available to allocate the new instance, a System.OutOfMemoryException is thrown and no further steps are executed.
    • The new delegate instance is initialized with the same invocation list as the delegate instance given by E.

The invocation list of a delegate is determined when the delegate is instantiated and then remains constant for the entire lifetime of the delegate. In other words, it is not possible to change the target callable entities of a delegate once it has been created. When two delegates are combined or one is removed from another (Delegate declarations), a new delegate results; no existing delegate has its contents changed.

It is not possible to create a delegate that refers to a property, indexer, user-defined operator, instance constructor, destructor, or static constructor.

As described above, when a delegate is created from a method group, the formal parameter list and return type of the delegate determine which of the overloaded methods to select. In the example

delegate double DoubleFunc(double x);

class A
{
    DoubleFunc f = new DoubleFunc(Square);

    static float Square(float x) {
        return x * x;
    }

    static double Square(double x) {
        return x * x;
    }
}

the A.f field is initialized with a delegate that refers to the second Square method because that method exactly matches the formal parameter list and return type of DoubleFunc. Had the second Square method not been present, a compile-time error would have occurred.

Anonymous object creation expressions

An anonymous_object_creation_expression is used to create an object of an anonymous type.

anonymous_object_creation_expression
    : 'new' anonymous_object_initializer
    ;

anonymous_object_initializer
    : '{' member_declarator_list? '}'
    | '{' member_declarator_list ',' '}'
    ;

member_declarator_list
    : member_declarator (',' member_declarator)*
    ;

member_declarator
    : simple_name
    | member_access
    | base_access
    | null_conditional_member_access
    | identifier '=' expression
    ;

An anonymous object initializer declares an anonymous type and returns an instance of that type. An anonymous type is a nameless class type that inherits directly from object. The members of an anonymous type are a sequence of read-only properties inferred from the anonymous object initializer used to create an instance of the type. Specifically, an anonymous object initializer of the form

new { p1 = e1, p2 = e2, ..., pn = en }

declares an anonymous type of the form

class __Anonymous1
{
    private readonly T1 f1;
    private readonly T2 f2;
    ...
    private readonly Tn fn;

    public __Anonymous1(T1 a1, T2 a2, ..., Tn an) {
        f1 = a1;
        f2 = a2;
        ...
        fn = an;
    }

    public T1 p1 { get { return f1; } }
    public T2 p2 { get { return f2; } }
    ...
    public Tn pn { get { return fn; } }

    public override bool Equals(object __o) { ... }
    public override int GetHashCode() { ... }
}

where each Tx is the type of the corresponding expression ex. The expression used in a member_declarator must have a type. Thus, it is a compile-time error for an expression in a member_declarator to be null or an anonymous function. It is also a compile-time error for the expression to have an unsafe type.

The names of an anonymous type and of the parameter to its Equals method are automatically generated by the compiler and cannot be referenced in program text.

Within the same program, two anonymous object initializers that specify a sequence of properties of the same names and compile-time types in the same order will produce instances of the same anonymous type.

In the example

var p1 = new { Name = "Lawnmower", Price = 495.00 };
var p2 = new { Name = "Shovel", Price = 26.95 };
p1 = p2;

the assignment on the last line is permitted because p1 and p2 are of the same anonymous type.

The Equals and GetHashcode methods on anonymous types override the methods inherited from object, and are defined in terms of the Equals and GetHashcode of the properties, so that two instances of the same anonymous type are equal if and only if all their properties are equal.

A member declarator can be abbreviated to a simple name (Type inference), a member access (Compile-time checking of dynamic overload resolution), a base access (Base access) or a null-conditional member access (Null-conditional expressions as projection initializers). This is called a projection initializer and is shorthand for a declaration of and assignment to a property with the same name. Specifically, member declarators of the forms

identifier
expr.identifier

are precisely equivalent to the following, respectively:

identifier = identifier
identifier = expr.identifier

Thus, in a projection initializer the identifier selects both the value and the field or property to which the value is assigned. Intuitively, a projection initializer projects not just a value, but also the name of the value.

The typeof operator

The typeof operator is used to obtain the System.Type object for a type.

typeof_expression
    : 'typeof' '(' type ')'
    | 'typeof' '(' unbound_type_name ')'
    | 'typeof' '(' 'void' ')'
    ;

unbound_type_name
    : identifier generic_dimension_specifier?
    | identifier '::' identifier generic_dimension_specifier?
    | unbound_type_name '.' identifier generic_dimension_specifier?
    ;

generic_dimension_specifier
    : '<' comma* '>'
    ;

comma
    : ','
    ;

The first form of typeof_expression consists of a typeof keyword followed by a parenthesized type. The result of an expression of this form is the System.Type object for the indicated type. There is only one System.Type object for any given type. This means that for a type T, typeof(T) == typeof(T) is always true. The type cannot be dynamic.

The second form of typeof_expression consists of a typeof keyword followed by a parenthesized unbound_type_name. An unbound_type_name is very similar to a type_name (Namespace and type names) except that an unbound_type_name contains generic_dimension_specifiers where a type_name contains type_argument_lists. When the operand of a typeof_expression is a sequence of tokens that satisfies the grammars of both unbound_type_name and type_name, namely when it contains neither a generic_dimension_specifier nor a type_argument_list, the sequence of tokens is considered to be a type_name. The meaning of an unbound_type_name is determined as follows:

  • Convert the sequence of tokens to a type_name by replacing each generic_dimension_specifier with a type_argument_list having the same number of commas and the keyword object as each type_argument.
  • Evaluate the resulting type_name, while ignoring all type parameter constraints.
  • The unbound_type_name resolves to the unbound generic type associated with the resulting constructed type (Bound and unbound types).

The result of the typeof_expression is the System.Type object for the resulting unbound generic type.

The third form of typeof_expression consists of a typeof keyword followed by a parenthesized void keyword. The result of an expression of this form is the System.Type object that represents the absence of a type. The type object returned by typeof(void) is distinct from the type object returned for any type. This special type object is useful in class libraries that allow reflection onto methods in the language, where those methods wish to have a way to represent the return type of any method, including void methods, with an instance of System.Type.

The typeof operator can be used on a type parameter. The result is the System.Type object for the run-time type that was bound to the type parameter. The typeof operator can also be used on a constructed type or an unbound generic type (Bound and unbound types). The System.Type object for an unbound generic type is not the same as the System.Type object of the instance type. The instance type is always a closed constructed type at run-time so its System.Type object depends on the run-time type arguments in use, while the unbound generic type has no type arguments.

The example

using System;

class X<T>
{
    public static void PrintTypes() {
        Type[] t = {
            typeof(int),
            typeof(System.Int32),
            typeof(string),
            typeof(double[]),
            typeof(void),
            typeof(T),
            typeof(X<T>),
            typeof(X<X<T>>),
            typeof(X<>)
        };
        for (int i = 0; i < t.Length; i++) {
            Console.WriteLine(t[i]);
        }
    }
}

class Test
{
    static void Main() {
        X<int>.PrintTypes();
    }
}

produces the following output:

System.Int32
System.Int32
System.String
System.Double[]
System.Void
System.Int32
X`1[System.Int32]
X`1[X`1[System.Int32]]
X`1[T]

Note that int and System.Int32 are the same type.

Also note that the result of typeof(X<>) does not depend on the type argument but the result of typeof(X<T>) does.

The checked and unchecked operators

The checked and unchecked operators are used to control the overflow checking context for integral-type arithmetic operations and conversions.

checked_expression
    : 'checked' '(' expression ')'
    ;

unchecked_expression
    : 'unchecked' '(' expression ')'
    ;

The checked operator evaluates the contained expression in a checked context, and the unchecked operator evaluates the contained expression in an unchecked context. A checked_expression or unchecked_expression corresponds exactly to a parenthesized_expression (Parenthesized expressions), except that the contained expression is evaluated in the given overflow checking context.

The overflow checking context can also be controlled through the checked and unchecked statements (The checked and unchecked statements).

The following operations are affected by the overflow checking context established by the checked and unchecked operators and statements:

When one of the above operations produce a result that is too large to represent in the destination type, the context in which the operation is performed controls the resulting behavior:

  • In a checked context, if the operation is a constant expression (Constant expressions), a compile-time error occurs. Otherwise, when the operation is performed at run-time, a System.OverflowException is thrown.
  • In an unchecked context, the result is truncated by discarding any high-order bits that do not fit in the destination type.

For non-constant expressions (expressions that are evaluated at run-time) that are not enclosed by any checked or unchecked operators or statements, the default overflow checking context is unchecked unless external factors (such as compiler switches and execution environment configuration) call for checked evaluation.

For constant expressions (expressions that can be fully evaluated at compile-time), the default overflow checking context is always checked. Unless a constant expression is explicitly placed in an unchecked context, overflows that occur during the compile-time evaluation of the expression always cause compile-time errors.

The body of an anonymous function is not affected by checked or unchecked contexts in which the anonymous function occurs.

In the example

class Test
{
    static readonly int x = 1000000;
    static readonly int y = 1000000;

    static int F() {
        return checked(x * y);      // Throws OverflowException
    }

    static int G() {
        return unchecked(x * y);    // Returns -727379968
    }

    static int H() {
        return x * y;               // Depends on default
    }
}

no compile-time errors are reported since neither of the expressions can be evaluated at compile-time. At run-time, the F method throws a System.OverflowException, and the G method returns -727379968 (the lower 32 bits of the out-of-range result). The behavior of the H method depends on the default overflow checking context for the compilation, but it is either the same as F or the same as G.

In the example

class Test
{
    const int x = 1000000;
    const int y = 1000000;

    static int F() {
        return checked(x * y);      // Compile error, overflow
    }

    static int G() {
        return unchecked(x * y);    // Returns -727379968
    }

    static int H() {
        return x * y;               // Compile error, overflow
    }
}

the overflows that occur when evaluating the constant expressions in F and H cause compile-time errors to be reported because the expressions are evaluated in a checked context. An overflow also occurs when evaluating the constant expression in G, but since the evaluation takes place in an unchecked context, the overflow is not reported.

The checked and unchecked operators only affect the overflow checking context for those operations that are textually contained within the "(" and ")" tokens. The operators have no effect on function members that are invoked as a result of evaluating the contained expression. In the example

class Test
{
    static int Multiply(int x, int y) {
        return x * y;
    }

    static int F() {
        return checked(Multiply(1000000, 1000000));
    }
}

the use of checked in F does not affect the evaluation of x * y in Multiply, so x * y is evaluated in the default overflow checking context.

The unchecked operator is convenient when writing constants of the signed integral types in hexadecimal notation. For example:

class Test
{
    public const int AllBits = unchecked((int)0xFFFFFFFF);

    public const int HighBit = unchecked((int)0x80000000);
}

Both of the hexadecimal constants above are of type uint. Because the constants are outside the int range, without the unchecked operator, the casts to int would produce compile-time errors.

The checked and unchecked operators and statements allow programmers to control certain aspects of some numeric calculations. However, the behavior of some numeric operators depends on their operands' data types. For example, multiplying two decimals always results in an exception on overflow even within an explicitly unchecked construct. Similarly, multiplying two floats never results in an exception on overflow even within an explicitly checked construct. In addition, other operators are never affected by the mode of checking, whether default or explicit.

Default value expressions

A default value expression is used to obtain the default value (Default values) of a type. Typically a default value expression is used for type parameters, since it may not be known if the type parameter is a value type or a reference type. (No conversion exists from the null literal to a type parameter unless the type parameter is known to be a reference type.)

default_value_expression
    : 'default' '(' type ')'
    ;

If the type in a default_value_expression evaluates at run-time to a reference type, the result is null converted to that type. If the type in a default_value_expression evaluates at run-time to a value type, the result is the value_type's default value (Default constructors).

A default_value_expression is a constant expression (Constant expressions) if the type is a reference type or a type parameter that is known to be a reference type (Type parameter constraints). In addition, a default_value_expression is a constant expression if the type is one of the following value types: sbyte, byte, short, ushort, int, uint, long, ulong, char, float, double, decimal, bool, or any enumeration type.

Nameof expressions

A nameof_expression is used to obtain the name of a program entity as a constant string.

nameof_expression
    : 'nameof' '(' named_entity ')'
    ;

named_entity
    : simple_name
    | named_entity_target '.' identifier type_argument_list?
    ;

named_entity_target
    : 'this'
    | 'base'
    | named_entity 
    | predefined_type 
    | qualified_alias_member
    ;

Grammatically speaking, the named_entity operand is always an expression. Because nameof is not a reserved keyword, a nameof expression is always syntactically ambiguous with an invocation of the simple name nameof. For compatibility reasons, if a name lookup (Simple names) of the name nameof succeeds, the expression is treated as an invocation_expression -- regardless of whether the invocation is legal. Otherwise it is a nameof_expression.

The meaning of the named_entity of a nameof_expression is the meaning of it as an expression; that is, either as a simple_name, a base_access or a member_access. However, where the lookup described in Simple names and Member access results in an error because an instance member was found in a static context, a nameof_expression produces no such error.

It is a compile-time error for a named_entity designating a method group to have a type_argument_list. It is a compile time error for a named_entity_target to have the type dynamic.

A nameof_expression is a constant expression of type string, and has no effect at runtime. Specifically, its named_entity is not evaluated, and is ignored for the purposes of definite assignment analysis (General rules for simple expressions). Its value is the last identifier of the named_entity before the optional final type_argument_list, transformed in the following way:

  • The prefix "@", if used, is removed.
  • Each unicode_escape_sequence is transformed into its corresponding Unicode character.
  • Any formatting_characters are removed.

These are the same transformations applied in Identifiers when testing equality between identifiers.

TODO: examples

Anonymous method expressions

An anonymous_method_expression is one of two ways of defining an anonymous function. These are further described in Anonymous function expressions.

Unary operators

The ?, +, -, !, ~, ++, --, cast, and await operators are called the unary operators.

unary_expression
    : primary_expression
    | null_conditional_expression
    | '+' unary_expression
    | '-' unary_expression
    | '!' unary_expression
    | '~' unary_expression
    | pre_increment_expression
    | pre_decrement_expression
    | cast_expression
    | await_expression
    | unary_expression_unsafe
    ;

If the operand of a unary_expression has the compile-time type dynamic, it is dynamically bound (Dynamic binding). In this case the compile-time type of the unary_expression is dynamic, and the resolution described below will take place at run-time using the run-time type of the operand.

Null-conditional operator

The null-conditional operator applies a list of operations to its operand only if that operand is non-null. Otherwise the result of applying the operator is null.

null_conditional_expression
    : primary_expression null_conditional_operations
    ;

null_conditional_operations
    : null_conditional_operations? '?' '.' identifier type_argument_list?
    | null_conditional_operations? '?' '[' argument_list ']'
    | null_conditional_operations '.' identifier type_argument_list?
    | null_conditional_operations '[' argument_list ']'
    | null_conditional_operations '(' argument_list? ')'
    ;

The list of operations can include member access and element access operations (which may themselves be null-conditional), as well as invocation.

For example, the expression a.b?[0]?.c() is a null_conditional_expression with a primary_expression a.b and null_conditional_operations ?[0] (null-conditional element access), ?.c (null-conditional member access) and () (invocation).

For a null_conditional_expression E with a primary_expression P, let E0 be the expression obtained by textually removing the leading ? from each of the null_conditional_operations of E that have one. Conceptually, E0 is the expression that will be evaluated if none of the null checks represented by the ?s do find a null.

Also, let E1 be the expression obtained by textually removing the leading ? from just the first of the null_conditional_operations in E. This may lead to a primary-expression (if there was just one ?) or to another null_conditional_expression.

For example, if E is the expression a.b?[0]?.c(), then E0 is the expression a.b[0].c() and E1 is the expression a.b[0]?.c().

If E0 is classified as nothing, then E is classified as nothing. Otherwise E is classified as a value.

E0 and E1 are used to determine the meaning of E:

  • If E occurs as a statement_expression the meaning of E is the same as the statement

    if ((object)P != null) E1;
    

    except that P is evaluated only once.

  • Otherwise, if E0 is classified as nothing a compile-time error occurs.

  • Otherwise, let T0 be the type of E0.

    • If T0 is a type parameter that is not known to be a reference type or a non-nullable value type, a compile-time error occurs.

    • If T0 is a non-nullable value type, then the type of E is T0?, and the meaning of E is the same as

      ((object)P == null) ? (T0?)null : E1
      

      except that P is evaluated only once.

    • Otherwise the type of E is T0, and the meaning of E is the same as

      ((object)P == null) ? null : E1
      

      except that P is evaluated only once.

If E1 is itself a null_conditional_expression, then these rules are applied again, nesting the tests for null until there are no further ?'s, and the expression has been reduced all the way down to the primary-expression E0.

For example, if the expression a.b?[0]?.c() occurs as a statement-expression, as in the statement:

a.b?[0]?.c();

its meaning is equivalent to:

if (a.b != null) a.b[0]?.c();

which again is equivalent to:

if (a.b != null) if (a.b[0] != null) a.b[0].c();

Except that a.b and a.b[0] are evaluated only once.

If it occurs in a context where its value is used, as in:

var x = a.b?[0]?.c();

and assuming that the type of the final invocation is not a non-nullable value type, its meaning is equivalent to:

var x = (a.b == null) ? null : (a.b[0] == null) ? null : a.b[0].c();

except that a.b and a.b[0] are evaluated only once.

Null-conditional expressions as projection initializers

A null-conditional expression is only allowed as a member_declarator in an anonymous_object_creation_expression (Anonymous object creation expressions) if it ends with an (optionally null-conditional) member access. Grammatically, this requirement can be expressed as:

null_conditional_member_access
    : primary_expression null_conditional_operations? '?' '.' identifier type_argument_list?
    | primary_expression null_conditional_operations '.' identifier type_argument_list?
    ;

This is a special case of the grammar for null_conditional_expression above. The production for member_declarator in Anonymous object creation expressions then includes only null_conditional_member_access.

Null-conditional expressions as statement expressions

A null-conditional expression is only allowed as a statement_expression (Expression statements) if it ends with an invocation. Grammatically, this requirement can be expressed as:

null_conditional_invocation_expression
    : primary_expression null_conditional_operations '(' argument_list? ')'
    ;

This is a special case of the grammar for null_conditional_expression above. The production for statement_expression in Expression statements then includes only null_conditional_invocation_expression.

Unary plus operator

For an operation of the form +x, unary operator overload resolution (Unary operator overload resolution) is applied to select a specific operator implementation. The operand is converted to the parameter type of the selected operator, and the type of the result is the return type of the operator. The predefined unary plus operators are:

int operator +(int x);
uint operator +(uint x);
long operator +(long x);
ulong operator +(ulong x);
float operator +(float x);
double operator +(double x);
decimal operator +(decimal x);

For each of these operators, the result is simply the value of the operand.

Unary minus operator

For an operation of the form -x, unary operator overload resolution (Unary operator overload resolution) is applied to select a specific operator implementation. The operand is converted to the parameter type of the selected operator, and the type of the result is the return type of the operator. The predefined negation operators are:

  • Integer negation:

    int operator -(int x);
    long operator -(long x);
    

    The result is computed by subtracting x from zero. If the value of of x is the smallest representable value of the operand type (-2^31 for int or -2^63 for long), then the mathematical negation of x is not representable within the operand type. If this occurs within a checked context, a System.OverflowException is thrown; if it occurs within an unchecked context, the result is the value of the operand and the overflow is not reported.

    If the operand of the negation operator is of type uint, it is converted to type long, and the type of the result is long. An exception is the rule that permits the int value -2147483648 (-2^31) to be written as a decimal integer literal (Integer literals).

    If the operand of the negation operator is of type ulong, a compile-time error occurs. An exception is the rule that permits the long value -9223372036854775808 (-2^63) to be written as a decimal integer literal (Integer literals).

  • Floating-point negation:

    float operator -(float x);
    double operator -(double x);
    

    The result is the value of x with its sign inverted. If x is NaN, the result is also NaN.

  • Decimal negation:

    decimal operator -(decimal x);
    

    The result is computed by subtracting x from zero. Decimal negation is equivalent to using the unary minus operator of type System.Decimal.

Logical negation operator

For an operation of the form !x, unary operator overload resolution (Unary operator overload resolution) is applied to select a specific operator implementation. The operand is converted to the parameter type of the selected operator, and the type of the result is the return type of the operator. Only one predefined logical negation operator exists:

bool operator !(bool x);

This operator computes the logical negation of the operand: If the operand is true, the result is false. If the operand is false, the result is true.

Bitwise complement operator

For an operation of the form ~x, unary operator overload resolution (Unary operator overload resolution) is applied to select a specific operator implementation. The operand is converted to the parameter type of the selected operator, and the type of the result is the return type of the operator. The predefined bitwise complement operators are:

int operator ~(int x);
uint operator ~(uint x);
long operator ~(long x);
ulong operator ~(ulong x);

For each of these operators, the result of the operation is the bitwise complement of x.

Every enumeration type E implicitly provides the following bitwise complement operator:

E operator ~(E x);

The result of evaluating ~x, where x is an expression of an enumeration type E with an underlying type U, is exactly the same as evaluating (E)(~(U)x), except that the conversion to E is always performed as if in an unchecked context (The checked and unchecked operators).

Prefix increment and decrement operators

pre_increment_expression
    : '++' unary_expression
    ;

pre_decrement_expression
    : '--' unary_expression
    ;

The operand of a prefix increment or decrement operation must be an expression classified as a variable, a property access, or an indexer access. The result of the operation is a value of the same type as the operand.

If the operand of a prefix increment or decrement operation is a property or indexer access, the property or indexer must have both a get and a set accessor. If this is not the case, a binding-time error occurs.

Unary operator overload resolution (Unary operator overload resolution) is applied to select a specific operator implementation. Predefined ++ and -- operators exist for the following types: sbyte, byte, short, ushort, int, uint, long, ulong, char, float, double, decimal, and any enum type. The predefined ++ operators return the value produced by adding 1 to the operand, and the predefined -- operators return the value produced by subtracting 1 from the operand. In a checked context, if the result of this addition or subtraction is outside the range of the result type and the result type is an integral type or enum type, a System.OverflowException is thrown.

The run-time processing of a prefix increment or decrement operation of the form ++x or --x consists of the following steps:

  • If x is classified as a variable:
    • x is evaluated to produce the variable.
    • The selected operator is invoked with the value of x as its argument.
    • The value returned by the operator is stored in the location given by the evaluation of x.
    • The value returned by the operator becomes the result of the operation.
  • If x is classified as a property or indexer access:
    • The instance expression (if x is not static) and the argument list (if x is an indexer access) associated with x are evaluated, and the results are used in the subsequent get and set accessor invocations.
    • The get accessor of x is invoked.
    • The selected operator is invoked with the value returned by the get accessor as its argument.
    • The set accessor of x is invoked with the value returned by the operator as its value argument.
    • The value returned by the operator becomes the result of the operation.

The ++ and -- operators also support postfix notation (Postfix increment and decrement operators). Typically, the result of x++ or x-- is the value of x before the operation, whereas the result of ++x or --x is the value of x after the operation. In either case, x itself has the same value after the operation.

An operator++ or operator-- implementation can be invoked using either postfix or prefix notation. It is not possible to have separate operator implementations for the two notations.

Cast expressions

A cast_expression is used to explicitly convert an expression to a given type.

cast_expression
    : '(' type ')' unary_expression
    ;

A cast_expression of the form (T)E, where T is a type and E is a unary_expression, performs an explicit conversion (Explicit conversions) of the value of E to type T. If no explicit conversion exists from E to T, a binding-time error occurs. Otherwise, the result is the value produced by the explicit conversion. The result is always classified as a value, even if E denotes a variable.

The grammar for a cast_expression leads to certain syntactic ambiguities. For example, the expression (x)-y could either be interpreted as a cast_expression (a cast of -y to type x) or as an additive_expression combined with a parenthesized_expression (which computes the value x - y).

To resolve cast_expression ambiguities, the following rule exists: A sequence of one or more tokens (White space) enclosed in parentheses is considered the start of a cast_expression only if at least one of the following are true:

  • The sequence of tokens is correct grammar for a type, but not for an expression.
  • The sequence of tokens is correct grammar for a type, and the token immediately following the closing parentheses is the token "~", the token "!", the token "(", an identifier (Unicode character escape sequences), a literal (Literals), or any keyword (Keywords) except as and is.

The term "correct grammar" above means only that the sequence of tokens must conform to the particular grammatical production. It specifically does not consider the actual meaning of any constituent identifiers. For example, if x and y are identifiers, then x.y is correct grammar for a type, even if x.y doesn't actually denote a type.

From the disambiguation rule it follows that, if x and y are identifiers, (x)y, (x)(y), and (x)(-y) are cast_expressions, but (x)-y is not, even if x identifies a type. However, if x is a keyword that identifies a predefined type (such as int), then all four forms are cast_expressions (because such a keyword could not possibly be an expression by itself).

Await expressions

The await operator is used to suspend evaluation of the enclosing async function until the asynchronous operation represented by the operand has completed.

await_expression
    : 'await' unary_expression
    ;

An await_expression is only allowed in the body of an async function (Iterators). Within the nearest enclosing async function, an await_expression may not occur in these places:

  • Inside a nested (non-async) anonymous function
  • Inside the block of a lock_statement
  • In an unsafe context

Note that an await_expression cannot occur in most places within a query_expression, because those are syntactically transformed to use non-async lambda expressions.

Inside of an async function, await cannot be used as an identifier. There is therefore no syntactic ambiguity between await-expressions and various expressions involving identifiers. Outside of async functions, await acts as a normal identifier.

The operand of an await_expression is called the task. It represents an asynchronous operation that may or may not be complete at the time the await_expression is evaluated. The purpose of the await operator is to suspend execution of the enclosing async function until the awaited task is complete, and then obtain its outcome.

Awaitable expressions

The task of an await expression is required to be awaitable. An expression t is awaitable if one of the following holds:

  • t is of compile time type dynamic
  • t has an accessible instance or extension method called GetAwaiter with no parameters and no type parameters, and a return type A for which all of the following hold:
    • A implements the interface System.Runtime.CompilerServices.INotifyCompletion (hereafter known as INotifyCompletion for brevity)
    • A has an accessible, readable instance property IsCompleted of type bool
    • A has an accessible instance method GetResult with no parameters and no type parameters

The purpose of the GetAwaiter method is to obtain an awaiter for the task. The type A is called the awaiter type for the await expression.

The purpose of the IsCompleted property is to determine if the task is already complete. If so, there is no need to suspend evaluation.

The purpose of the INotifyCompletion.OnCompleted method is to sign up a "continuation" to the task; i.e. a delegate (of type System.Action) that will be invoked once the task is complete.

The purpose of the GetResult method is to obtain the outcome of the task once it is complete. This outcome may be successful completion, possibly with a result value, or it may be an exception which is thrown by the GetResult method.

Classification of await expressions

The expression await t is classified the same way as the expression (t).GetAwaiter().GetResult(). Thus, if the return type of GetResult is void, the await_expression is classified as nothing. If it has a non-void return type T, the await_expression is classified as a value of type T.

Runtime evaluation of await expressions

At runtime, the expression await t is evaluated as follows:

  • An awaiter a is obtained by evaluating the expression (t).GetAwaiter().
  • A bool b is obtained by evaluating the expression (a).IsCompleted.
  • If b is false then evaluation depends on whether a implements the interface System.Runtime.CompilerServices.ICriticalNotifyCompletion (hereafter known as ICriticalNotifyCompletion for brevity). This check is done at binding time; i.e. at runtime if a has the compile time type dynamic, and at compile time otherwise. Let r denote the resumption delegate (Iterators):
    • If a does not implement ICriticalNotifyCompletion, then the expression (a as (INotifyCompletion)).OnCompleted(r) is evaluated.
    • If a does implement ICriticalNotifyCompletion, then the expression (a as (ICriticalNotifyCompletion)).UnsafeOnCompleted(r) is evaluated.
    • Evaluation is then suspended, and control is returned to the current caller of the async function.
  • Either immediately after (if b was true), or upon later invocation of the resumption delegate (if b was false), the expression (a).GetResult() is evaluated. If it returns a value, that value is the result of the await_expression. Otherwise the result is nothing.

An awaiter's implementation of the interface methods INotifyCompletion.OnCompleted and ICriticalNotifyCompletion.UnsafeOnCompleted should cause the delegate r to be invoked at most once. Otherwise, the behavior of the enclosing async function is undefined.

Arithmetic operators

The *, /, %, +, and - operators are called the arithmetic operators.

multiplicative_expression
    : unary_expression
    | multiplicative_expression '*' unary_expression
    | multiplicative_expression '/' unary_expression
    | multiplicative_expression '%' unary_expression
    ;

additive_expression
    : multiplicative_expression
    | additive_expression '+' multiplicative_expression
    | additive_expression '-' multiplicative_expression
    ;

If an operand of an arithmetic operator has the compile-time type dynamic, then the expression is dynamically bound (Dynamic binding). In this case the compile-time type of the expression is dynamic, and the resolution described below will take place at run-time using the run-time type of those operands that have the compile-time type dynamic.

Multiplication operator

For an operation of the form x * y, binary operator overload resolution (Binary operator overload resolution) is applied to select a specific operator implementation. The operands are converted to the parameter types of the selected operator, and the type of the result is the return type of the operator.

The predefined multiplication operators are listed below. The operators all compute the product of x and y.

  • Integer multiplication:

    int operator *(int x, int y);
    uint operator *(uint x, uint y);
    long operator *(long x, long y);
    ulong operator *(ulong x, ulong y);
    

    In a checked context, if the product is outside the range of the result type, a System.OverflowException is thrown. In an unchecked context, overflows are not reported and any significant high-order bits outside the range of the result type are discarded.

  • Floating-point multiplication:

    float operator *(float x, float y);
    double operator *(double x, double y);
    

    The product is computed according to the rules of IEEE 754 arithmetic. The following table lists the results of all possible combinations of nonzero finite values, zeros, infinities, and NaN's. In the table, x and y are positive finite values. z is the result of x * y. If the result is too large for the destination type, z is infinity. If the result is too small for the destination type, z is zero.

    +y -y +0 -0 +inf -inf NaN
    +x +z -z +0 -0 +inf -inf NaN
    -x -z +z -0 +0 -inf +inf NaN
    +0 +0 -0 +0 -0 NaN NaN NaN
    -0 -0 +0 -0 +0 NaN NaN NaN
    +inf +inf -inf NaN NaN +inf -inf NaN
    -inf -inf +inf NaN NaN -inf +inf NaN
    NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN
  • Decimal multiplication:

    decimal operator *(decimal x, decimal y);
    

    If the resulting value is too large to represent in the decimal format, a System.OverflowException is thrown. If the result value is too small to represent in the decimal format, the result is zero. The scale of the result, before any rounding, is the sum of the scales of the two operands.

    Decimal multiplication is equivalent to using the multiplication operator of type System.Decimal.

Division operator

For an operation of the form x / y, binary operator overload resolution (Binary operator overload resolution) is applied to select a specific operator implementation. The operands are converted to the parameter types of the selected operator, and the type of the result is the return type of the operator.

The predefined division operators are listed below. The operators all compute the quotient of x and y.

  • Integer division:

    int operator /(int x, int y);
    uint operator /(uint x, uint y);
    long operator /(long x, long y);
    ulong operator /(ulong x, ulong y);
    

    If the value of the right operand is zero, a System.DivideByZeroException is thrown.

    The division rounds the result towards zero. Thus the absolute value of the result is the largest possible integer that is less than or equal to the absolute value of the quotient of the two operands. The result is zero or positive when the two operands have the same sign and zero or negative when the two operands have opposite signs.

    If the left operand is the smallest representable int or long value and the right operand is -1, an overflow occurs. In a checked context, this causes a System.ArithmeticException (or a subclass thereof) to be thrown. In an unchecked context, it is implementation-defined as to whether a System.ArithmeticException (or a subclass thereof) is thrown or the overflow goes unreported with the resulting value being that of the left operand.

  • Floating-point division:

    float operator /(float x, float y);
    double operator /(double x, double y);
    

    The quotient is computed according to the rules of IEEE 754 arithmetic. The following table lists the results of all possible combinations of nonzero finite values, zeros, infinities, and NaN's. In the table, x and y are positive finite values. z is the result of x / y. If the result is too large for the destination type, z is infinity. If the result is too small for the destination type, z is zero.

    +y -y +0 -0 +inf -inf NaN
    +x +z -z +inf -inf +0 -0 NaN
    -x -z +z -inf +inf -0 +0 NaN
    +0 +0 -0 NaN NaN +0 -0 NaN
    -0 -0 +0 NaN NaN -0 +0 NaN
    +inf +inf -inf +inf -inf NaN NaN NaN
    -inf -inf +inf -inf +inf NaN NaN NaN
    NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN
  • Decimal division:

    decimal operator /(decimal x, decimal y);
    

    If the value of the right operand is zero, a System.DivideByZeroException is thrown. If the resulting value is too large to represent in the decimal format, a System.OverflowException is thrown. If the result value is too small to represent in the decimal format, the result is zero. The scale of the result is the smallest scale that will preserve a result equal to the nearest representable decimal value to the true mathematical result.

    Decimal division is equivalent to using the division operator of type System.Decimal.

Remainder operator

For an operation of the form x % y, binary operator overload resolution (Binary operator overload resolution) is applied to select a specific operator implementation. The operands are converted to the parameter types of the selected operator, and the type of the result is the return type of the operator.

The predefined remainder operators are listed below. The operators all compute the remainder of the division between x and y.

  • Integer remainder:

    int operator %(int x, int y);
    uint operator %(uint x, uint y);
    long operator %(long x, long y);
    ulong operator %(ulong x, ulong y);
    

    The result of x % y is the value produced by x - (x / y) * y. If y is zero, a System.DivideByZeroException is thrown.

    If the left operand is the smallest int or long value and the right operand is -1, a System.OverflowException is thrown. In no case does x % y throw an exception where x / y would not throw an exception.

  • Floating-point remainder:

    float operator %(float x, float y);
    double operator %(double x, double y);
    

    The following table lists the results of all possible combinations of nonzero finite values, zeros, infinities, and NaN's. In the table, x and y are positive finite values. z is the result of x % y and is computed as x - n * y, where n is the largest possible integer that is less than or equal to x / y. This method of computing the remainder is analogous to that used for integer operands, but differs from the IEEE 754 definition (in which n is the integer closest to x / y).

    +y -y +0 -0 +inf -inf NaN
    +x +z +z NaN NaN x x NaN
    -x -z -z NaN NaN -x -x NaN
    +0 +0 +0 NaN NaN +0 +0 NaN
    -0 -0 -0 NaN NaN -0 -0 NaN
    +inf NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN
    -inf NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN
    NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN
  • Decimal remainder:

    decimal operator %(decimal x, decimal y);
    

    If the value of the right operand is zero, a System.DivideByZeroException is thrown. The scale of the result, before any rounding, is the larger of the scales of the two operands, and the sign of the result, if non-zero, is the same as that of x.

    Decimal remainder is equivalent to using the remainder operator of type System.Decimal.

Addition operator

For an operation of the form x + y, binary operator overload resolution (Binary operator overload resolution) is applied to select a specific operator implementation. The operands are converted to the parameter types of the selected operator, and the type of the result is the return type of the operator.

The predefined addition operators are listed below. For numeric and enumeration types, the predefined addition operators compute the sum of the two operands. When one or both operands are of type string, the predefined addition operators concatenate the string representation of the operands.

  • Integer addition:

    int operator +(int x, int y);
    uint operator +(uint x, uint y);
    long operator +(long x, long y);
    ulong operator +(ulong x, ulong y);
    

    In a checked context, if the sum is outside the range of the result type, a System.OverflowException is thrown. In an unchecked context, overflows are not reported and any significant high-order bits outside the range of the result type are discarded.

  • Floating-point addition:

    float operator +(float x, float y);
    double operator +(double x, double y);
    

    The sum is computed according to the rules of IEEE 754 arithmetic. The following table lists the results of all possible combinations of nonzero finite values, zeros, infinities, and NaN's. In the table, x and y are nonzero finite values, and z is the result of x + y. If x and y have the same magnitude but opposite signs, z is positive zero. If x + y is too large to represent in the destination type, z is an infinity with the same sign as x + y.

    y +0 -0 +inf -inf NaN
    x z x x +inf -inf NaN
    +0 y +0 +0 +inf -inf NaN
    -0 y +0 -0 +inf -inf NaN
    +inf +inf +inf +inf +inf NaN NaN
    -inf -inf -inf -inf NaN -inf NaN
    NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN
  • Decimal addition:

    decimal operator +(decimal x, decimal y);
    

    If the resulting value is too large to represent in the decimal format, a System.OverflowException is thrown. The scale of the result, before any rounding, is the larger of the scales of the two operands.

    Decimal addition is equivalent to using the addition operator of type System.Decimal.

  • Enumeration addition. Every enumeration type implicitly provides the following predefined operators, where E is the enum type, and U is the underlying type of E:

    E operator +(E x, U y);
    E operator +(U x, E y);
    

    At run-time these operators are evaluated exactly as (E)((U)x + (U)y).

  • String concatenation:

    string operator +(string x, string y);
    string operator +(string x, object y);
    string operator +(object x, string y);
    

    These overloads of the binary + operator perform string concatenation. If an operand of string concatenation is null, an empty string is substituted. Otherwise, any non-string argument is converted to its string representation by invoking the virtual ToString method inherited from type object. If ToString returns null, an empty string is substituted.

    using System;
    
    class Test
    {
        static void Main() {
            string s = null;
            Console.WriteLine("s = >" + s + "<");        // displays s = ><
            int i = 1;
            Console.WriteLine("i = " + i);               // displays i = 1
            float f = 1.2300E+15F;
            Console.WriteLine("f = " + f);               // displays f = 1.23E+15
            decimal d = 2.900m;
            Console.WriteLine("d = " + d);               // displays d = 2.900
        }
    }
    

    The result of the string concatenation operator is a string that consists of the characters of the left operand followed by the characters of the right operand. The string concatenation operator never returns a null value. A System.OutOfMemoryException may be thrown if there is not enough memory available to allocate the resulting string.

  • Delegate combination. Every delegate type implicitly provides the following predefined operator, where D is the delegate type:

    D operator +(D x, D y);
    

    The binary + operator performs delegate combination when both operands are of some delegate type D. (If the operands have different delegate types, a binding-time error occurs.) If the first operand is null, the result of the operation is the value of the second operand (even if that is also null). Otherwise, if the second operand is null, then the result of the operation is the value of the first operand. Otherwise, the result of the operation is a new delegate instance that, when invoked, invokes the first operand and then invokes the second operand. For examples of delegate combination, see Subtraction operator and Delegate invocation. Since System.Delegate is not a delegate type, operator + is not defined for it.

Subtraction operator

For an operation of the form x - y, binary operator overload resolution (Binary operator overload resolution) is applied to select a specific operator implementation. The operands are converted to the parameter types of the selected operator, and the type of the result is the return type of the operator.

The predefined subtraction operators are listed below. The operators all subtract y from x.

  • Integer subtraction:

    int operator -(int x, int y);
    uint operator -(uint x, uint y);
    long operator -(long x, long y);
    ulong operator -(ulong x, ulong y);
    

    In a checked context, if the difference is outside the range of the result type, a System.OverflowException is thrown. In an unchecked context, overflows are not reported and any significant high-order bits outside the range of the result type are discarded.

  • Floating-point subtraction:

    float operator -(float x, float y);
    double operator -(double x, double y);
    

    The difference is computed according to the rules of IEEE 754 arithmetic. The following table lists the results of all possible combinations of nonzero finite values, zeros, infinities, and NaNs. In the table, x and y are nonzero finite values, and z is the result of x - y. If x and y are equal, z is positive zero. If x - y is too large to represent in the destination type, z is an infinity with the same sign as x - y.

    y +0 -0 +inf -inf NaN
    x z x x -inf +inf NaN
    +0 -y +0 +0 -inf +inf NaN
    -0 -y -0 +0 -inf +inf NaN
    +inf +inf +inf +inf NaN +inf NaN
    -inf -inf -inf -inf -inf NaN NaN
    NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN NaN
  • Decimal subtraction:

    decimal operator -(decimal x, decimal y);
    

    If the resulting value is too large to represent in the decimal format, a System.OverflowException is thrown. The scale of the result, before any rounding, is the larger of the scales of the two operands.

    Decimal subtraction is equivalent to using the subtraction operator of type System.Decimal.

  • Enumeration subtraction. Every enumeration type implicitly provides the following predefined operator, where E is the enum type, and U is the underlying type of E:

    U operator -(E x, E y);
    

    This operator is evaluated exactly as (U)((U)x - (U)y). In other words, the operator computes the difference between the ordinal values of x and y, and the type of the result is the underlying type of the enumeration.

    E operator -(E x, U y);
    

    This operator is evaluated exactly as (E)((U)x - y). In other words, the operator subtracts a value from the underlying type of the enumeration, yielding a value of the enumeration.

  • Delegate removal. Every delegate type implicitly provides the following predefined operator, where D is the delegate type:

    D operator -(D x, D y);
    

    The binary - operator performs delegate removal when both operands are of some delegate type D. If the operands have different delegate types, a binding-time error occurs. If the first operand is null, the result of the operation is null. Otherwise, if the second operand is null, then the result of the operation is the value of the first operand. Otherwise, both operands represent invocation lists (Delegate declarations) having one or more entries, and the result is a new invocation list consisting of the first operand's list with the second operand's entries removed from it, provided the second operand's list is a proper contiguous sublist of the first's. (To determine sublist equality, corresponding entries are compared as for the delegate equality operator (Delegate equality operators).) Otherwise, the result is the value of the left operand. Neither of the operands' lists is changed in the process. If the second operand's list matches multiple sublists of contiguous entries in the first operand's list, the right-most matching sublist of contiguous entries is removed. If removal results in an empty list, the result is null. For example:

    delegate void D(int x);
    
    class C
    {
        public static void M1(int i) { /* ... */ }
        public static void M2(int i) { /* ... */ }
    }
    
    class Test
    {
        static void Main() { 
            D cd1 = new D(C.M1);
            D cd2 = new D(C.M2);
            D cd3 = cd1 + cd2 + cd2 + cd1;   // M1 + M2 + M2 + M1
            cd3 -= cd1;                      // => M1 + M2 + M2
    
            cd3 = cd1 + cd2 + cd2 + cd1;     // M1 + M2 + M2 + M1
            cd3 -= cd1 + cd2;                // => M2 + M1
    
            cd3 = cd1 + cd2 + cd2 + cd1;     // M1 + M2 + M2 + M1
            cd3 -= cd2 + cd2;                // => M1 + M1
    
            cd3 = cd1 + cd2 + cd2 + cd1;     // M1 + M2 + M2 + M1
            cd3 -= cd2 + cd1;                // => M1 + M2
    
            cd3 = cd1 + cd2 + cd2 + cd1;     // M1 + M2 + M2 + M1
            cd3 -= cd1 + cd1;                // => M1 + M2 + M2 + M1
        }
    }
    

Shift operators

The << and >> operators are used to perform bit shifting operations.

shift_expression
    : additive_expression
    | shift_expression '<<' additive_expression
    | shift_expression right_shift additive_expression
    ;

If an operand of a shift_expression has the compile-time type dynamic, then the expression is dynamically bound (Dynamic binding). In this case the compile-time type of the expression is dynamic, and the resolution described below will take place at run-time using the run-time type of those operands that have the compile-time type dynamic.

For an operation of the form x << count or x >> count, binary operator overload resolution (Binary operator overload resolution) is applied to select a specific operator implementation. The operands are converted to the parameter types of the selected operator, and the type of the result is the return type of the operator.

When declaring an overloaded shift operator, the type of the first operand must always be the class or struct containing the operator declaration, and the type of the second operand must always be int.

The predefined shift operators are listed below.

  • Shift left:

    int operator <<(int x, int count);
    uint operator <<(uint x, int count);
    long operator <<(long x, int count);
    ulong operator <<(ulong x, int count);
    

    The << operator shifts x left by a number of bits computed as described below.

    The high-order bits outside the range of the result type of x are discarded, the remaining bits are shifted left, and the low-order empty bit positions are set to zero.

  • Shift right:

    int operator >>(int x, int count);
    uint operator >>(uint x, int count);
    long operator >>(long x, int count);
    ulong operator >>(ulong x, int count);
    

    The >> operator shifts x right by a number of bits computed as described below.

    When x is of type int or long, the low-order bits of x are discarded, the remaining bits are shifted right, and the high-order empty bit positions are set to zero if x is non-negative and set to one if x is negative.

    When x is of type uint or ulong, the low-order bits of x are discarded, the remaining bits are shifted right, and the high-order empty bit positions are set to zero.

For the predefined operators, the number of bits to shift is computed as follows:

  • When the type of x is int or uint, the shift count is given by the low-order five bits of count. In other words, the shift count is computed from count & 0x1F.
  • When the type of x is long or ulong, the shift count is given by the low-order six bits of count. In other words, the shift count is computed from count & 0x3F.

If the resulting shift count is zero, the shift operators simply return the value of x.

Shift operations never cause overflows and produce the same results in checked and unchecked contexts.

When the left operand of the >> operator is of a signed integral type, the operator performs an arithmetic shift right wherein the value of the most significant bit (the sign bit) of the operand is propagated to the high-order empty bit positions. When the left operand of the >> operator is of an unsigned integral type, the operator performs a logical shift right wherein high-order empty bit positions are always set to zero. To perform the opposite operation of that inferred from the operand type, explicit casts can be used. For example, if x is a variable of type int, the operation unchecked((int)((uint)x >> y)) performs a logical shift right of x.

Relational and type-testing operators

The ==, !=, <, >, <=, >=, is and as operators are called the relational and type-testing operators.

relational_expression
    : shift_expression
    | relational_expression '<' shift_expression
    | relational_expression '>' shift_expression
    | relational_expression '<=' shift_expression
    | relational_expression '>=' shift_expression
    | relational_expression 'is' type
    | relational_expression 'as' type
    ;

equality_expression
    : relational_expression
    | equality_expression '==' relational_expression
    | equality_expression '!=' relational_expression
    ;

The is operator is described in The is operator and the as operator is described in The as operator.

The ==, !=, <, >, <= and >= operators are comparison operators.

If an operand of a comparison operator has the compile-time type dynamic, then the expression is dynamically bound (Dynamic binding). In this case the compile-time type of the expression is dynamic, and the resolution described below will take place at run-time using the run-time type of those operands that have the compile-time type dynamic.

For an operation of the form x op y, where op is a comparison operator, overload resolution (Binary operator overload resolution) is applied to select a specific operator implementation. The operands are converted to the parameter types of the selected operator, and the type of the result is the return type of the operator.

The predefined comparison operators are described in the following sections. All predefined comparison operators return a result of type bool, as described in the following table.

Operation Result
x == y true if x is equal to y, false otherwise
x != y true if x is not equal to y, false otherwise
x < y true if x is less than y, false otherwise
x > y true if x is greater than y, false otherwise
x <= y true if x is less than or equal to y, false otherwise
x >= y true if x is greater than or equal to y, false otherwise

Integer comparison operators

The predefined integer comparison operators are:

bool operator ==(int x, int y);
bool operator ==(uint x, uint y);
bool operator ==(long x, long y);
bool operator ==(ulong x, ulong y);

bool operator !=(int x, int y);
bool operator !=(uint x, uint y);
bool operator !=(long x, long y);
bool operator !=(ulong x, ulong y);

bool operator <(int x, int y);
bool operator <(uint x, uint y);
bool operator <(long x, long y);
bool operator <(ulong x, ulong y);

bool operator >(int x, int y);
bool operator >(uint x, uint y);
bool operator >(long x, long y);
bool operator >(ulong x, ulong y);

bool operator <=(int x, int y);
bool operator <=(uint x, uint y);
bool operator <=(long x, long y);
bool operator <=(ulong x, ulong y);

bool operator >=(int x, int y);
bool operator >=(uint x, uint y);
bool operator >=(long x, long y);
bool operator >=(ulong x, ulong y);

Each of these operators compares the numeric values of the two integer operands and returns a bool value that indicates whether the particular relation is true or false.

Floating-point comparison operators

The predefined floating-point comparison operators are:

bool operator ==(float x, float y);
bool operator ==(double x, double y);

bool operator !=(float x, float y);
bool operator !=(double x, double y);

bool operator <(float x, float y);
bool operator <(double x, double y);

bool operator >(float x, float y);
bool operator >(double x, double y);

bool operator <=(float x, float y);
bool operator <=(double x, double y);

bool operator >=(float x, float y);
bool operator >=(double x, double y);

The operators compare the operands according to the rules of the IEEE 754 standard:

  • If either operand is NaN, the result is false for all operators except !=, for which the result is true. For any two operands, x != y always produces the same result as !(x == y). However, when one or both operands are NaN, the <, >, <=, and >= operators do not produce the same results as the logical negation of the opposite operator. For example, if either of x and y is NaN, then x < y is false, but !(x >= y) is true.

  • When neither operand is NaN, the operators compare the values of the two floating-point operands with respect to the ordering

    -inf < -max < ... < -min < -0.0 == +0.0 < +min < ... < +max < +inf
    

    where min and max are the smallest and largest positive finite values that can be represented in the given floating-point format. Notable effects of this ordering are:

    • Negative and positive zeros are considered equal.
    • A negative infinity is considered less than all other values, but equal to another negative infinity.
    • A positive infinity is considered greater than all other values, but equal to another positive infinity.

Decimal comparison operators

The predefined decimal comparison operators are:

bool operator ==(decimal x, decimal y);
bool operator !=(decimal x, decimal y);
bool operator <(decimal x, decimal y);
bool operator >(decimal x, decimal y);
bool operator <=(decimal x, decimal y);
bool operator >=(decimal x, decimal y);

Each of these operators compares the numeric values of the two decimal operands and returns a bool value that indicates whether the particular relation is true or false. Each decimal comparison is equivalent to using the corresponding relational or equality operator of type System.Decimal.

Boolean equality operators

The predefined boolean equality operators are:

bool operator ==(bool x, bool y);
bool operator !=(bool x, bool y);

The result of == is true if both x and y are true or if both x and y are false. Otherwise, the result is false.

The result of != is false if both x and y are true or if both x and y are false. Otherwise, the result is true. When the operands are of type bool, the != operator produces the same result as the ^ operator.

Enumeration comparison operators

Every enumeration type implicitly provides the following predefined comparison operators:

bool operator ==(E x, E y);
bool operator !=(E x, E y);
bool operator <(E x, E y);
bool operator >(E x, E y);
bool operator <=(E x, E y);
bool operator >=(E x, E y);

The result of evaluating x op y, where x and y are expressions of an enumeration type E with an underlying type U, and op is one of the comparison operators, is exactly the same as evaluating ((U)x) op ((U)y). In other words, the enumeration type comparison operators simply compare the underlying integral values of the two operands.

Reference type equality operators

The predefined reference type equality operators are:

bool operator ==(object x, object y);
bool operator !=(object x, object y);

The operators return the result of comparing the two references for equality or non-equality.

Since the predefined reference type equality operators accept operands of type object, they apply to all types that do not declare applicable operator == and operator != members. Conversely, any applicable user-defined equality operators effectively hide the predefined reference type equality operators.

The predefined reference type equality operators require one of the following:

  • Both operands are a value of a type known to be a reference_type or the literal null. Furthermore, an explicit reference conversion (Explicit reference conversions) exists from the type of either operand to the type of the other operand.
  • One operand is a value of type T where T is a type_parameter and the other operand is the literal null. Furthermore T does not have the value type constraint.

Unless one of these conditions are true, a binding-time error occurs. Notable implications of these rules are:

  • It is a binding-time error to use the predefined reference type equality operators to compare two references that are known to be different at binding-time. For example, if the binding-time types of the operands are two class types A and B, and if neither A nor B derives from the other, then it would be impossible for the two operands to reference the same object. Thus, the operation is considered a binding-time error.
  • The predefined reference type equality operators do not permit value type operands to be compared. Therefore, unless a struct type declares its own equality operators, it is not possible to compare values of that struct type.
  • The predefined reference type equality operators never cause boxing operations to occur for their operands. It would be meaningless to perform such boxing operations, since references to the newly allocated boxed instances would necessarily differ from all other references.
  • If an operand of a type parameter type T is compared to null, and the run-time type of T is a value type, the result of the comparison is false.

The following example checks whether an argument of an unconstrained type parameter type is null.

class C<T>
{
    void F(T x) {
        if (x == null) throw new ArgumentNullException();
        ...
    }
}

The x == null construct is permitted even though T could represent a value type, and the result is simply defined to be false when T is a value type.

For an operation of the form x == y or x != y, if any applicable operator == or operator != exists, the operator overload resolution (Binary operator overload resolution) rules will select that operator instead of the predefined reference type equality operator. However, it is always possible to select the predefined reference type equality operator by explicitly casting one or both of the operands to type object. The example

using System;

class Test
{
    static void Main() {
        string s = "Test";
        string t = string.Copy(s);
        Console.WriteLine(s == t);
        Console.WriteLine((object)s == t);
        Console.WriteLine(s == (object)t);
        Console.WriteLine((object)s == (object)t);
    }
}

produces the output

True
False
False
False

The s and t variables refer to two distinct string instances containing the same characters. The first comparison outputs True because the predefined string equality operator (String equality operators) is selected when both operands are of type string. The remaining comparisons all output False because the predefined reference type equality operator is selected when one or both of the operands are of type object.

Note that the above technique is not meaningful for value types. The example

class Test
{
    static void Main() {
        int i = 123;
        int j = 123;
        System.Console.WriteLine((object)i == (object)j);
    }
}

outputs False because the casts create references to two separate instances of boxed int values.

String equality operators

The predefined string equality operators are:

bool operator ==(string x, string y);
bool operator !=(string x, string y);

Two string values are considered equal when one of the following is true:

  • Both values are null.
  • Both values are non-null references to string instances that have identical lengths and identical characters in each character position.

The string equality operators compare string values rather than string references. When two separate string instances contain the exact same sequence of characters, the values of the strings are equal, but the references are different. As described in Reference type equality operators, the reference type equality operators can be used to compare string references instead of string values.

Delegate equality operators

Every delegate type implicitly provides the following predefined comparison operators:

bool operator ==(System.Delegate x, System.Delegate y);
bool operator !=(System.Delegate x, System.Delegate y);

Two delegate instances are considered equal as follows:

  • If either of the delegate instances is null, they are equal if and only if both are null.
  • If the delegates have different run-time type they are never equal.
  • If both of the delegate instances have an invocation list (Delegate declarations), those instances are equal if and only if their invocation lists are the same length, and each entry in one's invocation list is equal (as defined below) to the corresponding entry, in order, in the other's invocation list.

The following rules govern the equality of invocation list entries:

  • If two invocation list entries both refer to the same static method then the entries are equal.
  • If two invocation list entries both refer to the same non-static method on the same target object (as defined by the reference equality operators) then the entries are equal.
  • Invocation list entries produced from evaluation of semantically identical anonymous_method_expressions or lambda_expressions with the same (possibly empty) set of captured outer variable instances are permitted (but not required) to be equal.

Equality operators and null

The == and != operators permit one operand to be a value of a nullable type and the other to be the null literal, even if no predefined or user-defined operator (in unlifted or lifted form) exists for the operation.

For an operation of one of the forms

x == null
null == x
x != null
null != x

where x is an expression of a nullable type, if operator overload resolution (Binary operator overload resolution) fails to find an applicable operator, the result is instead computed from the HasValue property of x. Specifically, the first two forms are translated into !x.HasValue, and last two forms are translated into x.HasValue.

The is operator

The is operator is used to dynamically check if the run-time type of an object is compatible with a given type. The result of the operation E is T, where E is an expression and T is a type, is a boolean value indicating whether E can successfully be converted to type T by a reference conversion, a boxing conversion, or an unboxing conversion. The operation is evaluated as follows, after type arguments have been substituted for all type parameters:

  • If E is an anonymous function, a compile-time error occurs
  • If E is a method group or the null literal, of if the type of E is a reference type or a nullable type and the value of E is null, the result is false.
  • Otherwise, let D represent the dynamic type of E as follows:
    • If the type of E is a reference type, D is the run-time type of the instance reference by E.
    • If the type of E is a nullable type, D is the underlying type of that nullable type.
    • If the type of E is a non-nullable value type, D is the type of E.
  • The result of the operation depends on D and T as follows:
    • If T is a reference type, the result is true if D and T are the same type, if D is a reference type and an implicit reference conversion from D to T exists, or if D is a value type and a boxing conversion from D to T exists.
    • If T is a nullable type, the result is true if D is the underlying type of T.
    • If T is a non-nullable value type, the result is true if D and T are the same type.
    • Otherwise, the result is false.

Note that user defined conversions, are not considered by the is operator.

The as operator

The as operator is used to explicitly convert a value to a given reference type or nullable type. Unlike a cast expression (Cast expressions), the as operator never throws an exception. Instead, if the indicated conversion is not possible, the resulting value is null.

In an operation of the form E as T, E must be an expression and T must be a reference type, a type parameter known to be a reference type, or a nullable type. Furthermore, at least one of the following must be true, or otherwise a compile-time error occurs:

If the compile-time type of E is not dynamic, the operation E as T produces the same result as

E is T ? (T)(E) : (T)null

except that E is only evaluated once. The compiler can be expected to optimize E as T to perform at most one dynamic type check as opposed to the two dynamic type checks implied by the expansion above.

If the compile-time type of E is dynamic, unlike the cast operator the as operator is not dynamically bound (Dynamic binding). Therefore the expansion in this case is:

E is T ? (T)(object)(E) : (T)null

Note that some conversions, such as user defined conversions, are not possible with the as operator and should instead be performed using cast expressions.

In the example

class X
{

    public string F(object o) {
        return o as string;        // OK, string is a reference type
    }

    public T G<T>(object o) where T: Attribute {
        return o as T;             // Ok, T has a class constraint
    }

    public U H<U>(object o) {
        return o as U;             // Error, U is unconstrained 
    }
}

the type parameter T of G is known to be a reference type, because it has the class constraint. The type parameter U of H is not however; hence the use of the as operator in H is disallowed.

Logical operators

The &, ^, and | operators are called the logical operators.

and_expression
    : equality_expression
    | and_expression '&' equality_expression
    ;

exclusive_or_expression
    : and_expression
    | exclusive_or_expression '^' and_expression
    ;

inclusive_or_expression
    : exclusive_or_expression
    | inclusive_or_expression '|' exclusive_or_expression
    ;

If an operand of a logical operator has the compile-time type dynamic, then the expression is dynamically bound (Dynamic binding). In this case the compile-time type of the expression is dynamic, and the resolution described below will take place at run-time using the run-time type of those operands that have the compile-time type dynamic.

For an operation of the form x op y, where op is one of the logical operators, overload resolution (Binary operator overload resolution) is applied to select a specific operator implementation. The operands are converted to the parameter types of the selected operator, and the type of the result is the return type of the operator.

The predefined logical operators are described in the following sections.

Integer logical operators

The predefined integer logical operators are:

int operator &(int x, int y);
uint operator &(uint x, uint y);
long operator &(long x, long y);
ulong operator &(ulong x, ulong y);

int operator |(int x, int y);
uint operator |(uint x, uint y);
long operator |(long x, long y);
ulong operator |(ulong x, ulong y);

int operator ^(int x, int y);
uint operator ^(uint x, uint y);
long operator ^(long x, long y);
ulong operator ^(ulong x, ulong y);

The & operator computes the bitwise logical AND of the two operands, the | operator computes the bitwise logical OR of the two operands, and the ^ operator computes the bitwise logical exclusive OR of the two operands. No overflows are possible from these operations.

Enumeration logical operators

Every enumeration type E implicitly provides the following predefined logical operators:

E operator &(E x, E y);
E operator |(E x, E y);
E operator ^(E x, E y);

The result of evaluating x op y, where x and y are expressions of an enumeration type E with an underlying type U, and op is one of the logical operators, is exactly the same as evaluating (E)((U)x op (U)y). In other words, the enumeration type logical operators simply perform the logical operation on the underlying type of the two operands.

Boolean logical operators

The predefined boolean logical operators are:

bool operator &(bool x, bool y);
bool operator |(bool x, bool y);
bool operator ^(bool x, bool y);

The result of x & y is true if both x and y are true. Otherwise, the result is false.

The result of x | y is true if either x or y is true. Otherwise, the result is false.

The result of x ^ y is true if x is true and y is false, or x is false and y is true. Otherwise, the result is false. When the operands are of type bool, the ^ operator computes the same result as the != operator.

Nullable boolean logical operators

The nullable boolean type bool? can represent three values, true, false, and null, and is conceptually similar to the three-valued type used for boolean expressions in SQL. To ensure that the results produced by the & and | operators for bool? operands are consistent with SQL's three-valued logic, the following predefined operators are provided:

bool? operator &(bool? x, bool? y);
bool? operator |(bool? x, bool? y);

The following table lists the results produced by these operators for all combinations of the values true, false, and null.

x y x & y x | y
true true true true
true false false true
true null null true
false true false true
false false false false
false null false null
null true null true
null false false null
null null null null

Conditional logical operators

The && and || operators are called the conditional logical operators. They are also called the "short-circuiting" logical operators.

conditional_and_expression
    : inclusive_or_expression
    | conditional_and_expression '&&' inclusive_or_expression
    ;

conditional_or_expression
    : conditional_and_expression
    | conditional_or_expression '||' conditional_and_expression
    ;

The && and || operators are conditional versions of the & and | operators:

  • The operation x && y corresponds to the operation x & y, except that y is evaluated only if x is not false.
  • The operation x || y corresponds to the operation x | y, except that y is evaluated only if x is not true.

If an operand of a conditional logical operator has the compile-time type dynamic, then the expression is dynamically bound (Dynamic binding). In this case the compile-time type of the expression is dynamic, and the resolution described below will take place at run-time using the run-time type of those operands that have the compile-time type dynamic.

An operation of the form x && y or x || y is processed by applying overload resolution (Binary operator overload resolution) as if the operation was written x & y or x | y. Then,

It is not possible to directly overload the conditional logical operators. However, because the conditional logical operators are evaluated in terms of the regular logical operators, overloads of the regular logical operators are, with certain restrictions, also considered overloads of the conditional logical operators. This is described further in User-defined conditional logical operators.

Boolean conditional logical operators

When the operands of && or || are of type bool, or when the operands are of types that do not define an applicable operator & or operator |, but do define implicit conversions to bool, the operation is processed as follows:

  • The operation x && y is evaluated as x ? y : false. In other words, x is first evaluated and converted to type bool. Then, if x is true, y is evaluated and converted to type bool, and this becomes the result of the operation. Otherwise, the result of the operation is false.
  • The operation x || y is evaluated as x ? true : y. In other words, x is first evaluated and converted to type bool. Then, if x is true, the result of the operation is true. Otherwise, y is evaluated and converted to type bool, and this becomes the result of the operation.

User-defined conditional logical operators

When the operands of && or || are of types that declare an applicable user-defined operator & or operator |, both of the following must be true, where T is the type in which the selected operator is declared:

  • The return type and the type of each parameter of the selected operator must be T. In other words, the operator must compute the logical AND or the logical OR of two operands of type T, and must return a result of type T.
  • T must contain declarations of operator true and operator false.

A binding-time error occurs if either of these requirements is not satisfied. Otherwise, the && or || operation is evaluated by combining the user-defined operator true or operator false with the selected user-defined operator:

  • The operation x && y is evaluated as T.false(x) ? x : T.&(x, y), where T.false(x) is an invocation of the operator false declared in T, and T.&(x, y) is an invocation of the selected operator &. In other words, x is first evaluated and operator false is invoked on the result to determine if x is definitely false. Then, if x is definitely false, the result of the operation is the value previously computed for x. Otherwise, y is evaluated, and the selected operator & is invoked on the value previously computed for x and the value computed for y to produce the result of the operation.
  • The operation x || y is evaluated as T.true(x) ? x : T.|(x, y), where T.true(x) is an invocation of the operator true declared in T, and T.|(x,y) is an invocation of the selected operator|. In other words, x is first evaluated and operator true is invoked on the result to determine if x is definitely true. Then, if x is definitely true, the result of the operation is the value previously computed for x. Otherwise, y is evaluated, and the selected operator | is invoked on the value previously computed for x and the value computed for y to produce the result of the operation.

In either of these operations, the expression given by x is only evaluated once, and the expression given by y is either not evaluated or evaluated exactly once.

For an example of a type that implements operator true and operator false, see Database boolean type.

The null coalescing operator

The ?? operator is called the null coalescing operator.

null_coalescing_expression
    : conditional_or_expression
    | conditional_or_expression '??' null_coalescing_expression
    ;

A null coalescing expression of the form a ?? b requires a to be of a nullable type or reference type. If a is non-null, the result of a ?? b is a; otherwise, the result is b. The operation evaluates b only if a is null.

The null coalescing operator is right-associative, meaning that operations are grouped from right to left. For example, an expression of the form a ?? b ?? c is evaluated as a ?? (b ?? c). In general terms, an expression of the form E1 ?? E2 ?? ... ?? En returns the first of the operands that is non-null, or null if all operands are null.

The type of the expression a ?? b depends on which implicit conversions are available on the operands. In order of preference, the type of a ?? b is A0, A, or B, where A is the type of a (provided that a has a type), B is the type of b (provided that b has a type), and A0 is the underlying type of A if A is a nullable type, or A otherwise. Specifically, a ?? b is processed as follows:

  • If A exists and is not a nullable type or a reference type, a compile-time error occurs.
  • If b is a dynamic expression, the result type is dynamic. At run-time, a is first evaluated. If a is not null, a is converted to dynamic, and this becomes the result. Otherwise, b is evaluated, and this becomes the result.
  • Otherwise, if A exists and is a nullable type and an implicit conversion exists from b to A0, the result type is A0. At run-time, a is first evaluated. If a is not null, a is unwrapped to type A0, and this becomes the result. Otherwise, b is evaluated and converted to type A0, and this becomes the result.
  • Otherwise, if A exists and an implicit conversion exists from b to A, the result type is A. At run-time, a is first evaluated. If a is not null, a becomes the result. Otherwise, b is evaluated and converted to type A, and this becomes the result.
  • Otherwise, if b has a type B and an implicit conversion exists from a to B, the result type is B. At run-time, a is first evaluated. If a is not null, a is unwrapped to type A0 (if A exists and is nullable) and converted to type B, and this becomes the result. Otherwise, b is evaluated and becomes the result.
  • Otherwise, a and b are incompatible, and a compile-time error occurs.

Conditional operator

The ?: operator is called the conditional operator. It is at times also called the ternary operator.

conditional_expression
    : null_coalescing_expression
    | null_coalescing_expression '?' expression ':' expression
    ;

A conditional expression of the form b ? x : y first evaluates the condition b. Then, if b is true, x is evaluated and becomes the result of the operation. Otherwise, y is evaluated and becomes the result of the operation. A conditional expression never evaluates both x and y.

The conditional operator is right-associative, meaning that operations are grouped from right to left. For example, an expression of the form a ? b : c ? d : e is evaluated as a ? b : (c ? d : e).

The first operand of the ?: operator must be an expression that can be implicitly converted to bool, or an expression of a type that implements operator true. If neither of these requirements is satisfied, a compile-time error occurs.

The second and third operands, x and y, of the ?: operator control the type of the conditional expression.

  • If x has type X and y has type Y then
    • If an implicit conversion (Implicit conversions) exists from X to Y, but not from Y to X, then Y is the type of the conditional expression.
    • If an implicit conversion (Implicit conversions) exists from Y to X, but not from X to Y, then X is the type of the conditional expression.
    • Otherwise, no expression type can be determined, and a compile-time error occurs.
  • If only one of x and y has a type, and both x and y, of are implicitly convertible to that type, then that is the type of the conditional expression.
  • Otherwise, no expression type can be determined, and a compile-time error occurs.

The run-time processing of a conditional expression of the form b ? x : y consists of the following steps:

  • First, b is evaluated, and the bool value of b is determined:
    • If an implicit conversion from the type of b to bool exists, then this implicit conversion is performed to produce a bool value.
    • Otherwise, the operator true defined by the type of b is invoked to produce a bool value.
  • If the bool value produced by the step above is true, then x is evaluated and converted to the type of the conditional expression, and this becomes the result of the conditional expression.
  • Otherwise, y is evaluated and converted to the type of the conditional expression, and this becomes the result of the conditional expression.

Anonymous function expressions

An anonymous function is an expression that represents an "in-line" method definition. An anonymous function does not have a value or type in and of itself, but is convertible to a compatible delegate or expression tree type. The evaluation of an anonymous function conversion depends on the target type of the conversion: If it is a delegate type, the conversion evaluates to a delegate value referencing the method which the anonymous function defines. If it is an expression tree type, the conversion evaluates to an expression tree which represents the structure of the method as an object structure.

For historical reasons there are two syntactic flavors of anonymous functions, namely lambda_expressions and anonymous_method_expressions. For almost all purposes, lambda_expressions are more concise and expressive than anonymous_method_expressions, which remain in the language for backwards compatibility.

lambda_expression
    : anonymous_function_signature '=>' anonymous_function_body
    ;

anonymous_method_expression
    : 'delegate' explicit_anonymous_function_signature? block
    ;

anonymous_function_signature
    : explicit_anonymous_function_signature
    | implicit_anonymous_function_signature
    ;

explicit_anonymous_function_signature
    : '(' explicit_anonymous_function_parameter_list? ')'
    ;

explicit_anonymous_function_parameter_list
    : explicit_anonymous_function_parameter (',' explicit_anonymous_function_parameter)*
    ;

explicit_anonymous_function_parameter
    : anonymous_function_parameter_modifier? type identifier
    ;

anonymous_function_parameter_modifier
    : 'ref'
    | 'out'
    ;

implicit_anonymous_function_signature
    : '(' implicit_anonymous_function_parameter_list? ')'
    | implicit_anonymous_function_parameter
    ;

implicit_anonymous_function_parameter_list
    : implicit_anonymous_function_parameter (',' implicit_anonymous_function_parameter)*
    ;

implicit_anonymous_function_parameter
    : identifier
    ;

anonymous_function_body
    : expression
    | block
    ;

The => operator has the same precedence as assignment (=) and is right-associative.

An anonymous function with the async modifier is an async function and follows the rules described in Iterators.

The parameters of an anonymous function in the form of a lambda_expression can be explicitly or implicitly typed. In an explicitly typed parameter list, the type of each parameter is explicitly stated. In an implicitly typed parameter list, the types of the parameters are inferred from the context in which the anonymous function occurs—specifically, when the anonymous function is converted to a compatible delegate type or expression tree type, that type provides the parameter types (Anonymous function conversions).

In an anonymous function with a single, implicitly typed parameter, the parentheses may be omitted from the parameter list. In other words, an anonymous function of the form

( param ) => expr

can be abbreviated to

param => expr

The parameter list of an anonymous function in the form of an anonymous_method_expression is optional. If given, the parameters must be explicitly typed. If not, the anonymous function is convertible to a delegate with any parameter list not containing out parameters.

A block body of an anonymous function is reachable (End points and reachability) unless the anonymous function occurs inside an unreachable statement.

Some examples of anonymous functions follow below:

x => x + 1                              // Implicitly typed, expression body
x => { return x + 1; }                  // Implicitly typed, statement body
(int x) => x + 1                        // Explicitly typed, expression body
(int x) => { return x + 1; }            // Explicitly typed, statement body
(x, y) => x * y                         // Multiple parameters
() => Console.WriteLine()               // No parameters
async (t1,t2) => await t1 + await t2    // Async
delegate (int x) { return x + 1; }      // Anonymous method expression
delegate { return 1 + 1; }              // Parameter list omitted

The behavior of lambda_expressions and anonymous_method_expressions is the same except for the following points:

  • anonymous_method_expressions permit the parameter list to be omitted entirely, yielding convertibility to delegate types of any list of value parameters.
  • lambda_expressions permit parameter types to be omitted and inferred whereas anonymous_method_expressions require parameter types to be explicitly stated.
  • The body of a lambda_expression can be an expression or a statement block whereas the body of an anonymous_method_expression must be a statement block.
  • Only lambda_expressions have conversions to compatible expression tree types (Expression tree types).

Anonymous function signatures

The optional anonymous_function_signature of an anonymous function defines the names and optionally the types of the formal parameters for the anonymous function. The scope of the parameters of the anonymous function is the anonymous_function_body. (Scopes) Together with the parameter list (if given) the anonymous-method-body constitutes a declaration space (Declarations). It is thus a compile-time error for the name of a parameter of the anonymous function to match the name of a local variable, local constant or parameter whose scope includes the anonymous_method_expression or lambda_expression.

If an anonymous function has an explicit_anonymous_function_signature, then the set of compatible delegate types and expression tree types is restricted to those that have the same parameter types and modifiers in the same order. In contrast to method group conversions (Method group conversions), contra-variance of anonymous function parameter types is not supported. If an anonymous function does not have an anonymous_function_signature, then the set of compatible delegate types and expression tree types is restricted to those that have no out parameters.

Note that an anonymous_function_signature cannot include attributes or a parameter array. Nevertheless, an anonymous_function_signature may be compatible with a delegate type whose parameter list contains a parameter array.

Note also that conversion to an expression tree type, even if compatible, may still fail at compile-time (Expression tree types).

Anonymous function bodies

The body (expression or block) of an anonymous function is subject to the following rules:

  • If the anonymous function includes a signature, the parameters specified in the signature are available in the body. If the anonymous function has no signature it can be converted to a delegate type or expression type having parameters (Anonymous function conversions), but the parameters cannot be accessed in the body.
  • Except for ref or out parameters specified in the signature (if any) of the nearest enclosing anonymous function, it is a compile-time error for the body to access a ref or out parameter.
  • When the type of this is a struct type, it is a compile-time error for the body to access this. This is true whether the access is explicit (as in this.x) or implicit (as in x where x is an instance member of the struct). This rule simply prohibits such access and does not affect whether member lookup results in a member of the struct.
  • The body has access to the outer variables (Outer variables) of the anonymous function. Access of an outer variable will reference the instance of the variable that is active at the time the lambda_expression or anonymous_method_expression is evaluated (Evaluation of anonymous function expressions).
  • It is a compile-time error for the body to contain a goto statement, break statement, or continue statement whose target is outside the body or within the body of a contained anonymous function.
  • A return statement in the body returns control from an invocation of the nearest enclosing anonymous function, not from the enclosing function member. An expression specified in a return statement must be implicitly convertible to the return type of the delegate type or expression tree type to which the nearest enclosing lambda_expression or anonymous_method_expression is converted (Anonymous function conversions).

It is explicitly unspecified whether there is any way to execute the block of an anonymous function other than through evaluation and invocation of the lambda_expression or anonymous_method_expression. In particular, the compiler may choose to implement an anonymous function by synthesizing one or more named methods or types. The names of any such synthesized elements must be of a form reserved for compiler use.

Overload resolution and anonymous functions

Anonymous functions in an argument list participate in type inference and overload resolution. Please refer to Type inference and Overload resolution for the exact rules.

The following example illustrates the effect of anonymous functions on overload resolution.

class ItemList<T>: List<T>
{
    public int Sum(Func<T,int> selector) {
        int sum = 0;
        foreach (T item in this) sum += selector(item);
        return sum;
    }

    public double Sum(Func<T,double> selector) {
        double sum = 0;
        foreach (T item in this) sum += selector(item);
        return sum;
    }
}

The ItemList<T> class has two Sum methods. Each takes a selector argument, which extracts the value to sum over from a list item. The extracted value can be either an int or a double and the resulting sum is likewise either an int or a double.

The Sum methods could for example be used to compute sums from a list of detail lines in an order.

class Detail
{
    public int UnitCount;
    public double UnitPrice;
    ...
}

void ComputeSums() {
    ItemList<Detail> orderDetails = GetOrderDetails(...);
    int totalUnits = orderDetails.Sum(d => d.UnitCount);
    double orderTotal = orderDetails.Sum(d => d.UnitPrice * d.UnitCount);
    ...
}

In the first invocation of orderDetails.Sum, both Sum methods are applicable because the anonymous function d => d. UnitCount is compatible with both Func<Detail,int> and Func<Detail,double>. However, overload resolution picks the first Sum method because the conversion to Func<Detail,int> is better than the conversion to Func<Detail,double>.

In the second invocation of orderDetails.Sum, only the second Sum method is applicable because the anonymous function d => d.UnitPrice * d.UnitCount produces a value of type double. Thus, overload resolution picks the second Sum method for that invocation.

Anonymous functions and dynamic binding

An anonymous function cannot be a receiver, argument or operand of a dynamically bound operation.

Outer variables

Any local variable, value parameter, or parameter array whose scope includes the lambda_expression or anonymous_method_expression is called an outer variable of the anonymous function. In an instance function member of a class, the this value is considered a value parameter and is an outer variable of any anonymous function contained within the function member.

Captured outer variables

When an outer variable is referenced by an anonymous function, the outer variable is said to have been captured by the anonymous function. Ordinarily, the lifetime of a local variable is limited to execution of the block or statement with which it is associated (Local variables). However, the lifetime of a captured outer variable is extended at least until the delegate or expression tree created from the anonymous function becomes eligible for garbage collection.

In the example

using System;

delegate int D();

class Test
{
    static D F() {
        int x = 0;
        D result = () => ++x;
        return result;
    }

    static void Main() {
        D d = F();
        Console.WriteLine(d());
        Console.WriteLine(d());
        Console.WriteLine(d());
    }
}

the local variable x is captured by the anonymous function, and the lifetime of x is extended at least until the delegate returned from F becomes eligible for garbage collection (which doesn't happen until the very end of the program). Since each invocation of the anonymous function operates on the same instance of x, the output of the example is:

1
2
3

When a local variable or a value parameter is captured by an anonymous function, the local variable or parameter is no longer considered to be a fixed variable (Fixed and moveable variables), but is instead considered to be a moveable variable. Thus any unsafe code that takes the address of a captured outer variable must first use the fixed statement to fix the variable.

Note that unlike an uncaptured variable, a captured local variable can be simultaneously exposed to multiple threads of execution.

Instantiation of local variables

A local variable is considered to be instantiated when execution enters the scope of the variable. For example, when the following method is invoked, the local variable x is instantiated and initialized three times—once for each iteration of the loop.

static void F() {
    for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
        int x = i * 2 + 1;
        ...
    }
}

However, moving the declaration of x outside the loop results in a single instantiation of x:

static void F() {
    int x;
    for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
        x = i * 2 + 1;
        ...
    }
}

When not captured, there is no way to observe exactly how often a local variable is instantiated—because the lifetimes of the instantiations are disjoint, it is possible for each instantiation to simply use the same storage location. However, when an anonymous function captures a local variable, the effects of instantiation become apparent.

The example

using System;

delegate void D();

class Test
{
    static D[] F() {
        D[] result = new D[3];
        for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
            int x = i * 2 + 1;
            result[i] = () => { Console.WriteLine(x); };
        }
        return result;
    }

    static void Main() {
        foreach (D d in F()) d();
    }
}

produces the output:

1
3
5

However, when the declaration of x is moved outside the loop:

static D[] F() {
    D[] result = new D[3];
    int x;
    for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
        x = i * 2 + 1;
        result[i] = () => { Console.WriteLine(x); };
    }
    return result;
}

the output is:

5
5
5

If a for-loop declares an iteration variable, that variable itself is considered to be declared outside of the loop. Thus, if the example is changed to capture the iteration variable itself:

static D[] F() {
    D[] result = new D[3];
    for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
        result[i] = () => { Console.WriteLine(i); };
    }
    return result;
}

only one instance of the iteration variable is captured, which produces the output:

3
3
3

It is possible for anonymous function delegates to share some captured variables yet have separate instances of others. For example, if F is changed to

static D[] F() {
    D[] result = new D[3];
    int x = 0;
    for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
        int y = 0;
        result[i] = () => { Console.WriteLine("{0} {1}", ++x, ++y); };
    }
    return result;
}

the three delegates capture the same instance of x but separate instances of y, and the output is:

1 1
2 1
3 1

Separate anonymous functions can capture the same instance of an outer variable. In the example:

using System;

delegate void Setter(int value);

delegate int Getter();

class Test
{
    static void Main() {
        int x = 0;
        Setter s = (int value) => { x = value; };
        Getter g = () => { return x; };
        s(5);
        Console.WriteLine(g());
        s(10);
        Console.WriteLine(g());
    }
}

the two anonymous functions capture the same instance of the local variable x, and they can thus "communicate" through that variable. The output of the example is:

5
10

Evaluation of anonymous function expressions

An anonymous function F must always be converted to a delegate type D or an expression tree type E, either directly or through the execution of a delegate creation expression new D(F). This conversion determines the result of the anonymous function, as described in Anonymous function conversions.

Query expressions

Query expressions provide a language integrated syntax for queries that is similar to relational and hierarchical query languages such as SQL and XQuery.

query_expression
    : from_clause query_body
    ;

from_clause
    : 'from' type? identifier 'in' expression
    ;

query_body
    : query_body_clauses? select_or_group_clause query_continuation?
    ;

query_body_clauses
    : query_body_clause
    | query_body_clauses query_body_clause
    ;

query_body_clause
    : from_clause
    | let_clause
    | where_clause
    | join_clause
    | join_into_clause
    | orderby_clause
    ;

let_clause
    : 'let' identifier '=' expression
    ;

where_clause
    : 'where' boolean_expression
    ;

join_clause
    : 'join' type? identifier 'in' expression 'on' expression 'equals' expression
    ;

join_into_clause
    : 'join' type? identifier 'in' expression 'on' expression 'equals' expression 'into' identifier
    ;

orderby_clause
    : 'orderby' orderings
    ;

orderings
    : ordering (',' ordering)*
    ;

ordering
    : expression ordering_direction?
    ;

ordering_direction
    : 'ascending'
    | 'descending'
    ;

select_or_group_clause
    : select_clause
    | group_clause
    ;

select_clause
    : 'select' expression
    ;

group_clause
    : 'group' expression 'by' expression
    ;

query_continuation
    : 'into' identifier query_body
    ;

A query expression begins with a from clause and ends with either a select or group clause. The initial from clause can be followed by zero or more from, let, where, join or orderby clauses. Each from clause is a generator introducing a range variable which ranges over the elements of a sequence. Each let clause introduces a range variable representing a value computed by means of previous range variables. Each where clause is a filter that excludes items from the result. Each join clause compares specified keys of the source sequence with keys of another sequence, yielding matching pairs. Each orderby clause reorders items according to specified criteria.The final select or group clause specifies the shape of the result in terms of the range variables. Finally, an into clause can be used to "splice" queries by treating the results of one query as a generator in a subsequent query.

Ambiguities in query expressions

Query expressions contain a number of "contextual keywords", i.e., identifiers that have special meaning in a given context. Specifically these are from, where, join, on, equals, into, let, orderby, ascending, descending, select, group and by. In order to avoid ambiguities in query expressions caused by mixed use of these identifiers as keywords or simple names, these identifiers are considered keywords when occurring anywhere within a query expression.

For this purpose, a query expression is any expression that starts with "from identifier" followed by any token except ";", "=" or ",".

In order to use these words as identifiers within a query expression, they can be prefixed with "@" (Identifiers).

Query expression translation

The C# language does not specify the execution semantics of query expressions. Rather, query expressions are translated into invocations of methods that adhere to the query expression pattern (The query expression pattern). Specifically, query expressions are translated into invocations of methods named Where, Select, SelectMany, Join, GroupJoin, OrderBy, OrderByDescending, ThenBy, ThenByDescending, GroupBy, and Cast.These methods are expected to have particular signatures and result types, as described in The query expression pattern. These methods can be instance methods of the object being queried or extension methods that are external to the object, and they implement the actual execution of the query.

The translation from query expressions to method invocations is a syntactic mapping that occurs before any type binding or overload resolution has been performed. The translation is guaranteed to be syntactically correct, but it is not guaranteed to produce semantically correct C# code. Following translation of query expressions, the resulting method invocations are processed as regular method invocations, and this may in turn uncover errors, for example if the methods do not exist, if arguments have wrong types, or if the methods are generic and type inference fails.

A query expression is processed by repeatedly applying the following translations until no further reductions are possible. The translations are listed in order of application: each section assumes that the translations in the preceding sections have been performed exhaustively, and once exhausted, a section will not later be revisited in the processing of the same query expression.

Assignment to range variables is not allowed in query expressions. However a C# implementation is permitted to not always enforce this restriction, since this may sometimes not be possible with the syntactic translation scheme presented here.

Certain translations inject range variables with transparent identifiers denoted by *. The special properties of transparent identifiers are discussed further in Transparent identifiers.

Select and groupby clauses with continuations

A query expression with a continuation

from ... into x ...

is translated into

from x in ( from ... ) ...

The translations in the following sections assume that queries have no into continuations.

The example

from c in customers
group c by c.Country into g
select new { Country = g.Key, CustCount = g.Count() }

is translated into

from g in
    from c in customers
    group c by c.Country
select new { Country = g.Key, CustCount = g.Count() }

the final translation of which is

customers.
GroupBy(c => c.Country).
Select(g => new { Country = g.Key, CustCount = g.Count() })

Explicit range variable types

A from clause that explicitly specifies a range variable type

from T x in e

is translated into

from x in ( e ) . Cast < T > ( )

A join clause that explicitly specifies a range variable type

join T x in e on k1 equals k2

is translated into

join x in ( e ) . Cast < T > ( ) on k1 equals k2

The translations in the following sections assume that queries have no explicit range variable types.

The example

from Customer c in customers
where c.City == "London"
select c

is translated into

from c in customers.Cast<Customer>()
where c.City == "London"
select c

the final translation of which is

customers.
Cast<Customer>().
Where(c => c.City == "London")

Explicit range variable types are useful for querying collections that implement the non-generic IEnumerable interface, but not the generic IEnumerable<T> interface. In the example above, this would be the case if customers were of type ArrayList.

Degenerate query expressions

A query expression of the form

from x in e select x

is translated into

( e ) . Select ( x => x )

The example

from c in customers
select c

is translated into

customers.Select(c => c)

A degenerate query expression is one that trivially selects the elements of the source. A later phase of the translation removes degenerate queries introduced by other translation steps by replacing them with their source. It is important however to ensure that the result of a query expression is never the source object itself, as that would reveal the type and identity of the source to the client of the query. Therefore this step protects degenerate queries written directly in source code by explicitly calling Select on the source. It is then up to the implementers of Select and other query operators to ensure that these methods never return the source object itself.

From, let, where, join and orderby clauses

A query expression with a second from clause followed by a select clause

from x1 in e1
from x2 in e2
select v

is translated into

( e1 ) . SelectMany( x1 => e2 , ( x1 , x2 ) => v )

A query expression with a second from clause followed by something other than a select clause:

from x1 in e1
from x2 in e2
...

is translated into

from * in ( e1 ) . SelectMany( x1 => e2 , ( x1 , x2 ) => new { x1 , x2 } )
...

A query expression with a let clause

from x in e
let y = f
...

is translated into

from * in ( e ) . Select ( x => new { x , y = f } )
...

A query expression with a where clause

from x in e
where f
...

is translated into

from x in ( e ) . Where ( x => f )
...

A query expression with a join clause without an into followed by a select clause

from x1 in e1
join x2 in e2 on k1 equals k2
select v

is translated into

( e1 ) . Join( e2 , x1 => k1 , x2 => k2 , ( x1 , x2 ) => v )

A query expression with a join clause without an into followed by something other than a select clause

from x1 in e1
join x2 in e2 on k1 equals k2
...

is translated into

from * in ( e1 ) . Join( e2 , x1 => k1 , x2 => k2 , ( x1 , x2 ) => new { x1 , x2 })
...

A query expression with a join clause with an into followed by a select clause

from x1 in e1
join x2 in e2 on k1 equals k2 into g
select v

is translated into

( e1 ) . GroupJoin( e2 , x1 => k1 , x2 => k2 , ( x1 , g ) => v )

A query expression with a join clause with an into followed by something other than a select clause

from x1 in e1
join x2 in e2 on k1 equals k2 into g
...

is translated into

from * in ( e1 ) . GroupJoin( e2 , x1 => k1 , x2 => k2 , ( x1 , g ) => new { x1 , g })
...

A query expression with an orderby clause

from x in e
orderby k1 , k2 , ..., kn
...

is translated into

from x in ( e ) . 
OrderBy ( x => k1 ) . 
ThenBy ( x => k2 ) .
... .
ThenBy ( x => kn )
...

If an ordering clause specifies a descending direction indicator, an invocation of OrderByDescending or ThenByDescending is produced instead.

The following translations assume that there are no let, where, join or orderby clauses, and no more than the one initial from clause in each query expression.

The example

from c in customers
from o in c.Orders
select new { c.Name, o.OrderID, o.Total }

is translated into

customers.
SelectMany(c => c.Orders,
     (c,o) => new { c.Name, o.OrderID, o.Total }
)

The example

from c in customers
from o in c.Orders
orderby o.Total descending
select new { c.Name, o.OrderID, o.Total }

is translated into

from * in customers.
    SelectMany(c => c.Orders, (c,o) => new { c, o })
orderby o.Total descending
select new { c.Name, o.OrderID, o.Total }

the final translation of which is

customers.
SelectMany(c => c.Orders, (c,o) => new { c, o }).
OrderByDescending(x => x.o.Total).
Select(x => new { x.c.Name, x.o.OrderID, x.o.Total })

where x is a compiler generated identifier that is otherwise invisible and inaccessible.

The example

from o in orders
let t = o.Details.Sum(d => d.UnitPrice * d.Quantity)
where t >= 1000
select new { o.OrderID, Total = t }

is translated into

from * in orders.
    Select(o => new { o, t = o.Details.Sum(d => d.UnitPrice * d.Quantity) })
where t >= 1000 
select new { o.OrderID, Total = t }

the final translation of which is

orders.
Select(o => new { o, t = o.Details.Sum(d => d.UnitPrice * d.Quantity) }).
Where(x => x.t >= 1000).
Select(x => new { x.o.OrderID, Total = x.t })

where x is a compiler generated identifier that is otherwise invisible and inaccessible.

The example

from c in customers
join o in orders on c.CustomerID equals o.CustomerID
select new { c.Name, o.OrderDate, o.Total }

is translated into

customers.Join(orders, c => c.CustomerID, o => o.CustomerID,
    (c, o) => new { c.Name, o.OrderDate, o.Total })

The example

from c in customers
join o in orders on c.CustomerID equals o.CustomerID into co
let n = co.Count()
where n >= 10
select new { c.Name, OrderCount = n }

is translated into

from * in customers.
    GroupJoin(orders, c => c.CustomerID, o => o.CustomerID,
        (c, co) => new { c, co })
let n = co.Count()
where n >= 10 
select new { c.Name, OrderCount = n }

the final translation of which is

customers.
GroupJoin(orders, c => c.CustomerID, o => o.CustomerID,
    (c, co) => new { c, co }).
Select(x => new { x, n = x.co.Count() }).
Where(y => y.n >= 10).
Select(y => new { y.x.c.Name, OrderCount = y.n)

where x and y are compiler generated identifiers that are otherwise invisible and inaccessible.

The example

from o in orders
orderby o.Customer.Name, o.Total descending
select o

has the final translation

orders.
OrderBy(o => o.Customer.Name).
ThenByDescending(o => o.Total)

Select clauses

A query expression of the form

from x in e select v

is translated into

( e ) . Select ( x => v )

except when v is the identifier x, the translation is simply

( e )

For example

from c in customers.Where(c => c.City == "London")
select c

is simply translated into

customers.Where(c => c.City == "London")

Groupby clauses

A query expression of the form

from x in e group v by k

is translated into

( e ) . GroupBy ( x => k , x => v )

except when v is the identifier x, the translation is

( e ) . GroupBy ( x => k )

The example

from c in customers
group c.Name by c.Country

is translated into

customers.
GroupBy(c => c.Country, c => c.Name)

Transparent identifiers

Certain translations inject range variables with transparent identifiers denoted by *. Transparent identifiers are not a proper language feature; they exist only as an intermediate step in the query expression translation process.

When a query translation injects a transparent identifier, further translation steps propagate the transparent identifier into anonymous functions and anonymous object initializers. In those contexts, transparent identifiers have the following behavior:

  • When a transparent identifier occurs as a parameter in an anonymous function, the members of the associated anonymous type are automatically in scope in the body of the anonymous function.
  • When a member with a transparent identifier is in scope, the members of that member are in scope as well.
  • When a transparent identifier occurs as a member declarator in an anonymous object initializer, it introduces a member with a transparent identifier.
  • In the translation steps described above, transparent identifiers are always introduced together with anonymous types, with the intent of capturing multiple range variables as members of a single object. An implementation of C# is permitted to use a different mechanism than anonymous types to group together multiple range variables. The following translation examples assume that anonymous types are used, and show how transparent identifiers can be translated away.

The example

from c in customers
from o in c.Orders
orderby o.Total descending
select new { c.Name, o.Total }

is translated into

from * in customers.
    SelectMany(c => c.Orders, (c,o) => new { c, o })
orderby o.Total descending
select new { c.Name, o.Total }

which is further translated into

customers.
SelectMany(c => c.Orders, (c,o) => new { c, o }).
OrderByDescending(* => o.Total).
Select(* => new { c.Name, o.Total })

which, when transparent identifiers are erased, is equivalent to

customers.
SelectMany(c => c.Orders, (c,o) => new { c, o }).
OrderByDescending(x => x.o.Total).
Select(x => new { x.c.Name, x.o.Total })

where x is a compiler generated identifier that is otherwise invisible and inaccessible.

The example

from c in customers
join o in orders on c.CustomerID equals o.CustomerID
join d in details on o.OrderID equals d.OrderID
join p in products on d.ProductID equals p.ProductID
select new { c.Name, o.OrderDate, p.ProductName }

is translated into

from * in customers.
    Join(orders, c => c.CustomerID, o => o.CustomerID, 
        (c, o) => new { c, o })
join d in details on o.OrderID equals d.OrderID
join p in products on d.ProductID equals p.ProductID
select new { c.Name, o.OrderDate, p.ProductName }

which is further reduced to

customers.
Join(orders, c => c.CustomerID, o => o.CustomerID, (c, o) => new { c, o }).
Join(details, * => o.OrderID, d => d.OrderID, (*, d) => new { *, d }).
Join(products, * => d.ProductID, p => p.ProductID, (*, p) => new { *, p }).
Select(* => new { c.Name, o.OrderDate, p.ProductName })

the final translation of which is

customers.
Join(orders, c => c.CustomerID, o => o.CustomerID,
    (c, o) => new { c, o }).
Join(details, x => x.o.OrderID, d => d.OrderID,
    (x, d) => new { x, d }).
Join(products, y => y.d.ProductID, p => p.ProductID,
    (y, p) => new { y, p }).
Select(z => new { z.y.x.c.Name, z.y.x.o.OrderDate, z.p.ProductName })

where x, y, and z are compiler generated identifiers that are otherwise invisible and inaccessible.

The query expression pattern

The Query expression pattern establishes a pattern of methods that types can implement to support query expressions. Because query expressions are translated to method invocations by means of a syntactic mapping, types have considerable flexibility in how they implement the query expression pattern. For example, the methods of the pattern can be implemented as instance methods or as extension methods because the two have the same invocation syntax, and the methods can request delegates or expression trees because anonymous functions are convertible to both.

The recommended shape of a generic type C<T> that supports the query expression pattern is shown below. A generic type is used in order to illustrate the proper relationships between parameter and result types, but it is possible to implement the pattern for non-generic types as well.

delegate R Func<T1,R>(T1 arg1);

delegate R Func<T1,T2,R>(T1 arg1, T2 arg2);

class C
{
    public C<T> Cast<T>();
}

class C<T> : C
{
    public C<T> Where(Func<T,bool> predicate);

    public C<U> Select<U>(Func<T,U> selector);

    public C<V> SelectMany<U,V>(Func<T,C<U>> selector,
        Func<T,U,V> resultSelector);

    public C<V> Join<U,K,V>(C<U> inner, Func<T,K> outerKeySelector,
        Func<U,K> innerKeySelector, Func<T,U,V> resultSelector);

    public C<V> GroupJoin<U,K,V>(C<U> inner, Func<T,K> outerKeySelector,
        Func<U,K> innerKeySelector, Func<T,C<U>,V> resultSelector);

    public O<T> OrderBy<K>(Func<T,K> keySelector);

    public O<T> OrderByDescending<K>(Func<T,K> keySelector);

    public C<G<K,T>> GroupBy<K>(Func<T,K> keySelector);

    public C<G<K,E>> GroupBy<K,E>(Func<T,K> keySelector,
        Func<T,E> elementSelector);
}

class O<T> : C<T>
{
    public O<T> ThenBy<K>(Func<T,K> keySelector);

    public O<T> ThenByDescending<K>(Func<T,K> keySelector);
}

class G<K,T> : C<T>
{
    public K Key { get; }
}

The methods above use the generic delegate types Func<T1,R> and Func<T1,T2,R>, but they could equally well have used other delegate or expression tree types with the same relationships in parameter and result types.

Notice the recommended relationship between C<T> and O<T> which ensures that the ThenBy and ThenByDescending methods are available only on the result of an OrderBy or OrderByDescending. Also notice the recommended shape of the result of GroupBy -- a sequence of sequences, where each inner sequence has an additional Key property.

The System.Linq namespace provides an implementation of the query operator pattern for any type that implements the System.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable<T> interface.

Assignment operators

The assignment operators assign a new value to a variable, a property, an event, or an indexer element.

assignment
    : unary_expression assignment_operator expression
    ;

assignment_operator
    : '='
    | '+='
    | '-='
    | '*='
    | '/='
    | '%='
    | '&='
    | '|='
    | '^='
    | '<<='
    | right_shift_assignment
    ;

The left operand of an assignment must be an expression classified as a variable, a property access, an indexer access, or an event access.

The = operator is called the simple assignment operator. It assigns the value of the right operand to the variable, property, or indexer element given by the left operand. The left operand of the simple assignment operator may not be an event access (except as described in Field-like events). The simple assignment operator is described in Simple assignment.

The assignment operators other than the = operator are called the compound assignment operators. These operators perform the indicated operation on the two operands, and then assign the resulting value to the variable, property, or indexer element given by the left operand. The compound assignment operators are described in Compound assignment.

The += and -= operators with an event access expression as the left operand are called the event assignment operators. No other assignment operator is valid with an event access as the left operand. The event assignment operators are described in Event assignment.

The assignment operators are right-associative, meaning that operations are grouped from right to left. For example, an expression of the form a = b = c is evaluated as a = (b = c).

Simple assignment

The = operator is called the simple assignment operator.

If the left operand of a simple assignment is of the form E.P or E[Ei] where E has the compile-time type dynamic, then the assignment is dynamically bound (Dynamic binding). In this case the compile-time type of the assignment expression is dynamic, and the resolution described below will take place at run-time based on the run-time type of E.

In a simple assignment, the right operand must be an expression that is implicitly convertible to the type of the left operand. The operation assigns the value of the right operand to the variable, property, or indexer element given by the left operand.

The result of a simple assignment expression is the value assigned to the left operand. The result has the same type as the left operand and is always classified as a value.

If the left operand is a property or indexer access, the property or indexer must have a set accessor. If this is not the case, a binding-time error occurs.

The run-time processing of a simple assignment of the form x = y consists of the following steps:

  • If x is classified as a variable:
    • x is evaluated to produce the variable.
    • y is evaluated and, if required, converted to the type of x through an implicit conversion (Implicit conversions).
    • If the variable given by x is an array element of a reference_type, a run-time check is performed to ensure that the value computed for y is compatible with the array instance of which x is an element. The check succeeds if y is null, or if an implicit reference conversion (Implicit reference conversions) exists from the actual type of the instance referenced by y to the actual element type of the array instance containing x. Otherwise, a System.ArrayTypeMismatchException is thrown.
    • The value resulting from the evaluation and conversion of y is stored into the location given by the evaluation of x.
  • If x is classified as a property or indexer access:
    • The instance expression (if x is not static) and the argument list (if x is an indexer access) associated with x are evaluated, and the results are used in the subsequent set accessor invocation.
    • y is evaluated and, if required, converted to the type of x through an implicit conversion (Implicit conversions).
    • The set accessor of x is invoked with the value computed for y as its value argument.

The array co-variance rules (Array covariance) permit a value of an array type A[] to be a reference to an instance of an array type B[], provided an implicit reference conversion exists from B to A. Because of these rules, assignment to an array element of a reference_type requires a run-time check to ensure that the value being assigned is compatible with the array instance. In the example

string[] sa = new string[10];
object[] oa = sa;

oa[0] = null;               // Ok
oa[1] = "Hello";            // Ok
oa[2] = new ArrayList();    // ArrayTypeMismatchException

the last assignment causes a System.ArrayTypeMismatchException to be thrown because an instance of ArrayList cannot be stored in an element of a string[].

When a property or indexer declared in a struct_type is the target of an assignment, the instance expression associated with the property or indexer access must be classified as a variable. If the instance expression is classified as a value, a binding-time error occurs. Because of Member access, the same rule also applies to fields.

Given the declarations:

struct Point
{
    int x, y;

    public Point(int x, int y) {
        this.x = x;
        this.y = y;
    }

    public int X {
        get { return x; }
        set { x = value; }
    }

    public int Y {
        get { return y; }
        set { y = value; }
    }
}

struct Rectangle
{
    Point a, b;

    public Rectangle(Point a, Point b) {
        this.a = a;
        this.b = b;
    }

    public Point A {
        get { return a; }
        set { a = value; }
    }

    public Point B {
        get { return b; }
        set { b = value; }
    }
}

in the example

Point p = new Point();
p.X = 100;
p.Y = 100;
Rectangle r = new Rectangle();
r.A = new Point(10, 10);
r.B = p;

the assignments to p.X, p.Y, r.A, and r.B are permitted because p and r are variables. However, in the example

Rectangle r = new Rectangle();
r.A.X = 10;
r.A.Y = 10;
r.B.X = 100;
r.B.Y = 100;

the assignments are all invalid, since r.A and r.B are not variables.

Compound assignment

If the left operand of a compound assignment is of the form E.P or E[Ei] where E has the compile-time type dynamic, then the assignment is dynamically bound (Dynamic binding). In this case the compile-time type of the assignment expression is dynamic, and the resolution described below will take place at run-time based on the run-time type of E.

An operation of the form x op= y is processed by applying binary operator overload resolution (Binary operator overload resolution) as if the operation was written x op y. Then,

  • If the return type of the selected operator is implicitly convertible to the type of x, the operation is evaluated as x = x op y, except that x is evaluated only once.
  • Otherwise, if the selected operator is a predefined operator, if the return type of the selected operator is explicitly convertible to the type of x, and if y is implicitly convertible to the type of x or the operator is a shift operator, then the operation is evaluated as x = (T)(x op y), where T is the type of x, except that x is evaluated only once.
  • Otherwise, the compound assignment is invalid, and a binding-time error occurs.

The term "evaluated only once" means that in the evaluation of x op y, the results of any constituent expressions of x are temporarily saved and then reused when performing the assignment to x. For example, in the assignment A()[B()] += C(), where A is a method returning int[], and B and C are methods returning int, the methods are invoked only once, in the order A, B, C.

When the left operand of a compound assignment is a property access or indexer access, the property or indexer must have both a get accessor and a set accessor. If this is not the case, a binding-time error occurs.

The second rule above permits x op= y to be evaluated as x = (T)(x op y) in certain contexts. The rule exists such that the predefined operators can be used as compound operators when the left operand is of type sbyte, byte, short, ushort, or char. Even when both arguments are of one of those types, the predefined operators produce a result of type int, as described in Binary numeric promotions. Thus, without a cast it would not be possible to assign the result to the left operand.

The intuitive effect of the rule for predefined operators is simply that x op= y is permitted if both of x op y and x = y are permitted. In the example

byte b = 0;
char ch = '\0';
int i = 0;

b += 1;             // Ok
b += 1000;          // Error, b = 1000 not permitted
b += i;             // Error, b = i not permitted
b += (byte)i;       // Ok

ch += 1;            // Error, ch = 1 not permitted
ch += (char)1;      // Ok

the intuitive reason for each error is that a corresponding simple assignment would also have been an error.

This also means that compound assignment operations support lifted operations. In the example

int? i = 0;
i += 1;             // Ok

the lifted operator +(int?,int?) is used.

Event assignment

If the left operand of a += or -= operator is classified as an event access, then the expression is evaluated as follows:

  • The instance expression, if any, of the event access is evaluated.
  • The right operand of the += or -= operator is evaluated, and, if required, converted to the type of the left operand through an implicit conversion (Implicit conversions).
  • An event accessor of the event is invoked, with argument list consisting of the right operand, after evaluation and, if necessary, conversion. If the operator was +=, the add accessor is invoked; if the operator was -=, the remove accessor is invoked.

An event assignment expression does not yield a value. Thus, an event assignment expression is valid only in the context of a statement_expression (Expression statements).

Expression

An expression is either a non_assignment_expression or an assignment.

expression
    : non_assignment_expression
    | assignment
    ;

non_assignment_expression
    : conditional_expression
    | lambda_expression
    | query_expression
    ;

Constant expressions

A constant_expression is an expression that can be fully evaluated at compile-time.

constant_expression
    : expression
    ;

A constant expression must be the null literal or a value with one of the following types: sbyte, byte, short, ushort, int, uint, long, ulong, char, float, double, decimal, bool, object, string, or any enumeration type. Only the following constructs are permitted in constant expressions:

  • Literals (including the null literal).
  • References to const members of class and struct types.
  • References to members of enumeration types.
  • References to const parameters or local variables
  • Parenthesized sub-expressions, which are themselves constant expressions.
  • Cast expressions, provided the target type is one of the types listed above.
  • checked and unchecked expressions
  • Default value expressions
  • Nameof expressions
  • The predefined +, -, !, and ~ unary operators.
  • The predefined +, -, *, /, %, <<, >>, &, |, ^, &&, ||, ==, !=, <, >, <=, and >= binary operators, provided each operand is of a type listed above.
  • The ?: conditional operator.

The following conversions are permitted in constant expressions:

  • Identity conversions
  • Numeric conversions
  • Enumeration conversions
  • Constant expression conversions
  • Implicit and explicit reference conversions, provided that the source of the conversions is a constant expression that evaluates to the null value.

Other conversions including boxing, unboxing and implicit reference conversions of non-null values are not permitted in constant expressions. For example:

class C {
    const object i = 5;         // error: boxing conversion not permitted
    const object str = "hello"; // error: implicit reference conversion
}

the initialization of i is an error because a boxing conversion is required. The initialization of str is an error because an implicit reference conversion from a non-null value is required.

Whenever an expression fulfills the requirements listed above, the expression is evaluated at compile-time. This is true even if the expression is a sub-expression of a larger expression that contains non-constant constructs.

The compile-time evaluation of constant expressions uses the same rules as run-time evaluation of non-constant expressions, except that where run-time evaluation would have thrown an exception, compile-time evaluation causes a compile-time error to occur.

Unless a constant expression is explicitly placed in an unchecked context, overflows that occur in integral-type arithmetic operations and conversions during the compile-time evaluation of the expression always cause compile-time errors (Constant expressions).

Constant expressions occur in the contexts listed below. In these contexts, a compile-time error occurs if an expression cannot be fully evaluated at compile-time.

An implicit constant expression conversion (Implicit constant expression conversions) permits a constant expression of type int to be converted to sbyte, byte, short, ushort, uint, or ulong, provided the value of the constant expression is within the range of the destination type.

Boolean expressions

A boolean_expression is an expression that yields a result of type bool; either directly or through application of operator true in certain contexts as specified in the following.

boolean_expression
    : expression
    ;

The controlling conditional expression of an if_statement (The if statement), while_statement (The while statement), do_statement (The do statement), or for_statement (The for statement) is a boolean_expression. The controlling conditional expression of the ?: operator (Conditional operator) follows the same rules as a boolean_expression, but for reasons of operator precedence is classified as a conditional_or_expression.

A boolean_expression E is required to be able to produce a value of type bool, as follows:

  • If E is implicitly convertible to bool then at runtime that implicit conversion is applied.
  • Otherwise, unary operator overload resolution (Unary operator overload resolution) is used to find a unique best implementation of operator true on E, and that implementation is applied at runtime.
  • If no such operator is found, a binding-time error occurs.

The DBBool struct type in Database boolean type provides an example of a type that implements operator true and operator false.