Pattern matching in C++ and D

Jacob Carlborg doob at
Sun Jan 12 07:50:16 UTC 2020

On 2020-01-07 15:00, Francesco Mecca wrote:
> I found a paper regarding a proposal for pattern matching in C++ on HN a 
> few days ago:
> Given the time I spent with OCaml and the OCaml compiler recently I find 
> that pattern matching is an essential feature for a modern language and 
> that there are cases in which the pattern matching compiler outputs 
> better code than nested handwritten if-else-if's.
> In D we have the Sumtype library that is an excellent library for 
> sumtypes and coincidentally provides pattern matching based on the type 
> of the value being matched.
> As outlined from the paper there are many other kinds of pattern that 
> could be very useful in current D code. I won't make examples here 
> because the paper is full of examples that are pretty easy to mentally 
> translate from C++ to D.
> In the "Design Decision" chapter of the paper the authors discuss about 
> not restricting side effects. In OCaml there are the same problems with 
> guards that could have side effects. Example:
> ```
> let function_with_side_effects x = ...
> let match x = match x with
>      | p1 -> e1
>      | p2 when function_with_side_effects x -> e2
>      | _ -> e3
> ```
> If x is modified by functions with side effects the pattern matching 
> could be not exhaustive and in the worst case the result undefined. The 
> same applies when a guard uses boolean comparison that has been 
> overridden by the developer.
> In D we can do better than that by forcing guard expressions to be pure.
> I also believe that ranges provides a better interface for a more 
> expressive pattern matching but I have to think more about that (the 
> paper shortly discuss that in section 10.2).

I would like to see pattern matching in D as well. I tried to implement 
a library version but hit some limitations in the language.

> The main shortcoming with D is that we don't have a builtin tuple type 
> and destructoring assignments.
> Timon Gehr was working on that 
> ( but 
> the last commit is 2 years old.

I don't see how this is a problem. Pattern matching in D would support 
the features that D supports. I mean, most functional languages have 
built-in support for lists. I don't think anyone would suggested to add 
support for built-in lists in D, just to be able to implement pattern 
matching. Just the same way as Scala supports pattern matching of 
classes, yet most functional languages don't, because they don't support 
classes in other parts of the language.

/Jacob Carlborg

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