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Scala 3 — Book

Control Structures


Scala has the control structures you find in other programming languages, and also has powerful for expressions and match expressions:

  • if/else
  • for loops and expressions
  • match expressions
  • while loops
  • try/catch

These structures are demonstrated in the following examples.


Scala’s if/else control structure looks similar to other languages:

if x < 0 then
else if x == 0

Note that this really is an expression—not a statement. This means that it returns a value, so you can assign the result to a variable:

val x = if a < b then a else b

As you’ll see throughout this book, all Scala control structures can be used as expressions.

An expression returns a result, while a statement does not. Statements are typically used for their side-effects, such as using println to print to the console.

for loops and expressions

The for keyword is used to create a for loop. This example shows how to print every element in a List:

val ints = List(1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

for i <- ints do println(i)

The code i <- ints is referred to as a generator, and the code that follows the do keyword is the body of the loop.

The old syntax for this control structure was:

for (i <- ints) println(i)


You can also use one or more if expressions inside a for loop. These are referred to as guards. This example prints all of the numbers in ints that are greater than 2:

  i <- ints
  if i > 2

You can use multiple generators and guards. This loop iterates over the numbers 1 to 3, and for each number it also iterates over the characters a to c. However, it also has two guards, so the only time the print statement is called is when i has the value 2 and j is the character b:

  i <- 1 to 3
  j <- 'a' to 'c'
  if i == 2
  if j == 'b'
  println(s"i = $i, j = $j")   // prints: "i = 2, j = b"

for expressions

The for keyword has even more power: When you use the yield keyword instead of do, you create for expressions which are used to calculate and yield results.

A few examples demonstrate this. Using the same ints list as the previous example, this code creates a new list, where the value of each element in the new list is twice the value of the elements in the original list:

scala> val doubles = for i <- nums yield i * 2
val doubles: List[Int] = List(2, 4, 6, 8, 10)

Scala’s control structure syntax is flexible, and that for expression can be written in several other ways, depending on your preference:

val doubles = for i <- nums yield i * 2     // style shown above
val doubles = for (i <- nums) yield i * 2
val doubles = for (i <- nums) yield (i * 2)
val doubles = for { i <- nums } yield (i * 2)

This example shows how to capitalize the first character in each string in the list:

val names = List("chris", "ed", "maurice")
val capNames = for name <- names yield name.capitalize

Finally, this for expression iterates over a list of strings, and returns the length of each string, but only if that length is greater than 4:

val fruits = List("apple", "banana", "lime", "orange")

val fruitLengths = for
  f <- fruits
  if f.length > 4
  // you can use multiple lines
  // of code here

// fruitLengths: List[Int] = List(5, 6, 6)

for loops and expressions are covered in more detail in the Control Structures sections of this book, and in the Reference documentation.

match expressions

Scala has a match expression, which in its most basic use is like a Java switch statement:

val i = 1

// later in the code ...
i match
  case 1 => println("one")
  case 2 => println("two")
  case _ => println("other")

However, match really is an expression, meaning that it returns a result based on the pattern match, which you can bind to a variable:

val result = i match
  case 1 => "one"
  case 2 => "two"
  case _ => "other"

match isn’t limited to working with just integer values, it can be used with any data type:

val p = Person("Fred")

// later in the code
p match
  case Person(name) if name == "Fred" =>
    println(s"$name says, Yubba dubba doo")

  case Person(name) if name == "Bam Bam" =>
    println(s"$name says, Bam bam!")

  case _ => println("Watch the Flintstones!")

In fact, a match expression can be used to test a variable against many different types of patterns. This example shows (a) how to use a match expression as the body of a method, and (b) how to match all the different types shown:

// getClassAsString is a method that takes a single argument of any type.
def getClassAsString(x: Any): String = x match
  case s: String => s"'$s' is a String"
  case i: Int => "Int"
  case d: Double => "Double"
  case l: List[_] => "List"
  case _ => "Unknown"

// examples
getClassAsString(1)               // Int
getClassAsString("hello")         // 'hello' is a String
getClassAsString(List(1, 2, 3))   // List

There’s much more to pattern matching in Scala. Patterns can be nested, results of patterns can be bound, and pattern matching can even be user-defined. See the pattern matching examples in the Control Structures chapter for more details.


Scala’s try/catch/finally control structure lets you catch exceptions. It’s similar to Java, but its syntax is consistent with match expressions:

  case ioe: IOException => println("Got an IOException.")
  case nfe: NumberFormatException => println("Got a NumberFormatException.")
  println("Clean up your resources here.")

while loops

Scala also has a while loop construct. It’s one-line syntax looks like this:

while x >= 0 do x = f(x)

Again, Scala’s control structure syntax is flexible, and you can write this code in different ways depending on your preferences:

while (x >= 0) do x = f(x)
while (x >= 0) { x = f(x) }

The while loop multiline syntax looks like this:

var x = 1

// without parentheses
  x < 3
  x += 1

// with parentheses
while (x < 3)
  x += 1

Custom control structures

Thanks to features like by-name parameters, infix notation, fluent interfaces, optional parentheses, extension methods, and higher-order functions, you can also create your own code that works just like a control structure. You’ll learn more about this in the Control Structures section.

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