Dotty Documentation


Implicit Conversions

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Implicit conversions are defined by delegates for the scala.Conversion class. This class is defined in package scala as follows:

abstract class Conversion[-T, +U] extends (T => U)

For example, here is an implicit conversion from String to Token:

delegate for Conversion[String, Token] {
  def apply(str: String): Token = new KeyWord(str)

Using an alias delegate this can be expressed more concisely as:

delegate for Conversion[String, Token] = new KeyWord(_)

An implicit conversion is applied automatically by the compiler in three situations:

  1. If an expression e has type T, and T does not conform to the expression's expected type S.
  2. In a selection e.m with e of type T, but T defines no member m.
  3. In an application e.m(args) with e of type T, if T does define some member(s) named m, but none of these members can be applied to the arguments args.

In the first case, the compiler looks for a delegate for scala.Conversion that maps an argument of type T to type S. In the second and third case, it looks for a delegate for scala.Conversion that maps an argument of type T to a type that defines a member m which can be applied to args if present. If such a delegate C is found, the expression e is replaced by C.apply(e).


  1. The Predef package contains "auto-boxing" conversions that map primitive number types to subclasses of java.lang.Number. For instance, the conversion from Int to java.lang.Integer can be defined as follows:
delegate int2Integer for Conversion[Int, java.lang.Integer] =
  1. The "magnet" pattern is sometimes used to express many variants of a method. Instead of defining overloaded versions of the method, one can also let the method take one or more arguments of specially defined "magnet" types, into which various argument types can be converted. E.g.
object Completions {

  // The argument "magnet" type
  enum CompletionArg {
    case Error(s: String)
    case Response(f: Future[HttpResponse])
    case Status(code: Future[StatusCode])
  object CompletionArg {

    // conversions defining the possible arguments to pass to `complete`
    // these always come with CompletionArg
    // They can be invoked explicitly, e.g.
    //   CompletionArg.fromStatusCode(statusCode)

    delegate fromString     for Conversion[String, CompletionArg]               = Error(_)
    delegate fromFuture     for Conversion[Future[HttpResponse], CompletionArg] = Response(_)
    delegate fromStatusCode for Conversion[Future[StatusCode], CompletionArg]   = Status(_)
  import CompletionArg._

  def complete[T](arg: CompletionArg) = arg match {
    case Error(s) => ...
    case Response(f) => ...
    case Status(code) => ...

This setup is more complicated than simple overloading of complete, but it can still be useful if normal overloading is not available (as in the case above, since we cannot have two overloaded methods that take Future[...] arguments), or if normal overloading would lead to a combinatorial explosion of variants.