# Match expressions

The match expression provides branching control that is based on the comparison of an expression with a set of patterns.

## Syntax

// Match expression.
match test-expression with
| pattern1 [ when condition ] -> result-expression1
| pattern2 [ when condition ] -> result-expression2
| ...

// Pattern matching function.
function
| pattern1 [ when condition ] -> result-expression1
| pattern2 [ when condition ] -> result-expression2
| ...


## Remarks

The pattern matching expressions allow for complex branching based on the comparison of a test expression with a set of patterns. In the match expression, the test-expression is compared with each pattern in turn, and when a match is found, the corresponding result-expression is evaluated and the resulting value is returned as the value of the match expression.

The pattern matching function shown in the previous syntax is a lambda expression in which pattern matching is performed immediately on the argument. The pattern matching function shown in the previous syntax is equivalent to the following.

fun arg ->
match arg with
| pattern1 [ when condition ] -> result-expression1
| pattern2 [ when condition ] -> result-expression2
| ...


For more information about lambda expressions, see Lambda Expressions: The fun Keyword.

The whole set of patterns should cover all the possible matches of the input variable. Frequently, you use the wildcard pattern (_) as the last pattern to match any previously unmatched input values.

The following code illustrates some of the ways in which the match expression is used. For a reference and examples of all the possible patterns that can be used, see Pattern Matching.

let list1 = [ 1; 5; 100; 450; 788 ]

// Pattern matching by using the cons pattern and a list
// pattern that tests for an empty list.
let rec printList listx =
match listx with
| [] -> printfn ""

printList list1

// Pattern matching with multiple alternatives on the same line.
let filter123 x =
match x with
| 1 | 2 | 3 -> printfn "Found 1, 2, or 3!"
| a -> printfn "%d" a

// The same function written with the pattern matching
// function syntax.
let filterNumbers =
function | 1 | 2 | 3 -> printfn "Found 1, 2, or 3!"
| a -> printfn "%d" a


## Guards on patterns

You can use a when clause to specify an additional condition that the variable must satisfy to match a pattern. Such a clause is referred to as a guard. The expression following the when keyword is not evaluated unless a match is made to the pattern associated with that guard.

The following example illustrates the use of a guard to specify a numeric range for a variable pattern. Note that multiple conditions are combined by using Boolean operators.

let rangeTest testValue mid size =
match testValue with
| var1 when var1 >= mid - size/2 && var1 <= mid + size/2 -> printfn "The test value is in range."
| _ -> printfn "The test value is out of range."

rangeTest 10 20 5
rangeTest 10 20 10
rangeTest 10 20 40


Note that because values other than literals cannot be used in the pattern, you must use a when clause if you have to compare some part of the input against a value. This is shown in the following code:

// This example uses patterns that have when guards.
let detectValue point target =
match point with
| (a, b) when a = target && b = target -> printfn "Both values match target %d." target
| (a, b) when a = target -> printfn "First value matched target in (%d, %d)" target b
| (a, b) when b = target -> printfn "Second value matched target in (%d, %d)" a target
| _ -> printfn "Neither value matches target."
detectValue (0, 0) 0
detectValue (1, 0) 0
detectValue (0, 10) 0
detectValue (10, 15) 0


Note that when a union pattern is covered by a guard, the guard applies to all of the patterns, not just the last one. For example, given the following code, the guard when a > 12 applies to both A a and B a:

type Union =
| A of int
| B of int

let foo() =
let test = A 42
match test with
| A a
| B a when a > 41 -> a // the guard applies to both patterns
| _ -> 1

foo() // returns 42