Re: Covariant return types doesn't work (with g++ 4.1.2)

James Kanze <>
Tue, 12 Feb 2008 00:27:02 -0800 (PST)
<> wrote:

On Feb 11, 9:16 am, James Kanze <> wrote:

On Feb 10, 7:57 pm, "Alf P. Steinbach" <> wrote:

* Thomas J. Gritzan: wrote:

class virt_base


    virtual virt_base* cut()
       returnnew virt_base();


class virt_derived
: public virt_base


    virtual virt_derived* cut()
       returnnew virt_derived();



Thecovariantreturntypelets you override a function with
a more strict function, i.e. a function returning a derived
type. However,typechecking is done at compile time, so
your compiler has to know, that the object you are calling
cut() on is a virt_derived.

int main()
    virt_base* my_virt_derived = new virt_derived();

Change this to
      virt_derived* my_virt_derived = new virt_derived();

That would make the code compile, but would defeat the pupose
of the code.

What is the purpose of the code? (That's meant to be an honest
question. As far as I can tell, co-variantreturntypes are a
solution looking for a problem---I've yet to find any reasonable
use for them.)

Thanks for you and all replies - The purpose of the code was,
originally, to assign a member v-func that() to each classes which I
would like to get a pointer of THAT particular type when using them. I
did it like


virtual derived* that()
    return this;

virtual const derived* that() const
    return this;

and wished it return a derived* pointer which I could
dereference to the full-sized object rather than being sliced
to base.

Pointers aren't sliced. The pointer still points to an object
with the dynamic type derived, even if it is a base*.

I still don't really understand what you are trying to do.
Something like
    Derived* pDerived = pBase->that() ;
doesn't make sense (at least in this context). If you have a
pointer to base, then it isn't necessarily a derived, and if you
know it is in fact a derived, then you can cast the pointer
directly---you don't need co-variant returns. (If you really,
really know, you can use static_cast. Generally speaking,
however, dynamic_cast is better.)

And of course, cases where you want a pointer to the derived
type are not the general rule anyway.

I implemented a generic pool-based container which can
copy&store polymorphic objects and it works well - but I need
to know which is which when I pull them out of the container,
thus the idea of using covariant return types.

But how would covariant return types help you?

If I have to rely on a downcast to get the correct pointer,
IMHO I am not using cov return types at all - I still have to
know (at compile time) which object I am going to cast it.

But you have to know anyway, since that is the target type.

I currently use member flags to identify this and set up
if-else if cascade, which is ugly; I thought cov return types
could resolve this nicely but found out it didn't work.

You can use an if-else of dynamic_cast, if you want. But I'd
wonder if such a polymorphic container is a good solution to
begin with. (There are cases where it is, but it isn't the
usual case.) At any rate, if you want to use the derived
interface, you have to know that the object really is a derived.
You simply cannot do it otherwise, since the object might not be
a derived. And the standard solution for that is dynamic_cast.

James Kanze (GABI Software)
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