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.

If an implicit method List[A] => Ordered[List[A]] is in scope, as well as an implicit method Int => Ordered[Int], the following operation on the two lists of type List[Int] is legal:

List(1, 2, 3) <= List(4, 5)

An implicit method Int => Ordered[Int] is provided automatically through scala.Predef.intWrapper. An example of an implicit method List[A] => Ordered[List[A]] is provided below.

import scala.language.implicitConversions

implicit def list2ordered[A](x: List[A])
    (implicit elem2ordered: A => Ordered[A]): Ordered[List[A]] =
  new Ordered[List[A]] { 
    //replace with a more useful implementation
    def compare(that: List[A]): Int = 1

The implicitly imported object scala.Predef declares several aliases to frequently used types (e.g. scala.collection.immutable.Map is aliased to Map) 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.

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