Tour of Scala

Implicit Conversions


An implicit conversion from type S to type T is defined by an implicit value which has function type S => T, or by an implicit method convertible to a value of that type.

Implicit conversions are applied in two situations:

  • If an expression e is of type S, and S does not conform to the expression’s expected type T.
  • In a selection e.m with e of type S, if the selector m does not denote a member of S.

In the first case, a conversion c is searched for which is applicable to e and whose result type conforms to T. In the second case, a conversion c is searched for which is applicable to e and whose result contains a member named m.

The following operation on the two lists xs and ys of type List[Int] is legal:

xs <= ys

assuming the implicit methods list2ordered and int2ordered defined below are in scope:

implicit def list2ordered[A](x: List[A])
    (implicit elem2ordered: A => Ordered[A]): Ordered[List[A]] =
  new Ordered[List[A]] { /* .. */ }

implicit def int2ordered(x: Int): Ordered[Int] =
  new Ordered[Int] { /* .. */ }

The implicitly imported object scala.Predef declares several predefined types (e.g. Pair) and methods (e.g. assert) but also several implicit conversions.

For example, when calling a Java method that expects a java.lang.Integer, you are free to pass it a scala.Int instead. That’s because Predef includes the following implicit conversions:

import scala.language.implicitConversions

implicit def int2Integer(x: Int) =

Because implicit conversions can have pitfalls if used indiscriminately the compiler warns when compiling the implicit conversion definition.

To turn off the warnings take either of these actions:

  • Import scala.language.implicitConversions into the scope of the implicit conversion definition
  • Invoke the compiler with -language:implicitConversions

No warning is emitted when the conversion is applied by the compiler.