JDK-8250623 : JEP 394: Pattern Matching for instanceof
  • Type: JEP
  • Component: specification
  • Sub-Component: language
  • Priority: P3
  • Status: Closed
  • Resolution: Delivered
  • Fix Versions: 16
  • Submitted: 2020-07-27
  • Updated: 2022-06-10
  • Resolved: 2021-02-04
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Sub Tasks
JDK-8250624 :  
JDK-8250625 :  
JDK-8262138 :  

Enhance the Java programming language with _pattern matching_ for the
`instanceof` operator.
[Pattern matching](https://cr.openjdk.java.net/~briangoetz/amber/pattern-match.html)
allows common logic in a program, namely the conditional extraction of
components from objects, to be expressed more concisely and safely.


Pattern matching for `instanceof` was proposed by
[JEP 305](https://openjdk.java.net/jeps/305) and delivered in
[JDK 14](https://openjdk.java.net/projects/jdk/14) as a
[preview feature](https://openjdk.java.net/jeps/12). It was re-proposed by
[JEP 375](https://openjdk.java.net/jeps/375) and delivered in
[JDK 15](https://openjdk.java.net/projects/jdk/15) for a second round of preview.

This JEP proposes to finalize the feature in JDK 16, with the following refinements:

- Lift the restriction that pattern variables are implicitly final, to reduce
  asymmetries between local variables and pattern variables.

- Make it a compile-time error for a pattern `instanceof` expression to
  compare an expression of type _S_ against a pattern of type _T_, where _S_ is
  a subtype of _T_. (This `instanceof` expression will always succeed and is
  then pointless. The opposite case, where a pattern match will always fail, is
  already a compile-time error.)

Other refinements may be incorporated based on further feedback.


Nearly every program includes some sort of logic that combines testing
if an expression has a certain type or structure, and then
conditionally extracting components of its state for further
processing.  For example, all Java programmers are familiar with the
`instanceof`-and-cast idiom:

    if (obj instanceof String) {
        String s = (String) obj;    // grr...

There are three things going on here: a test (is `obj` a `String`?), a
conversion (casting `obj` to `String`), and the declaration of a new
local variable (`s`) so that we can use the string value.  This pattern is
straightforward and understood by all Java programmers, but is
suboptimal for several reasons.  It is tedious; doing both the type
test and cast should be unnecessary (what else would you do after an
`instanceof` test?). This boilerplate — in particular, the three
occurrences of the type `String` — obfuscates the more significant
logic that follows.  But most importantly, the repetition provides
opportunities for errors to creep unnoticed into programs.

Rather than reach for ad-hoc solutions, we believe it is time for Java
to embrace _pattern matching_.  Pattern matching allows the desired
"shape" of an object to be expressed concisely (the _pattern_), and
for various statements and expressions to test that "shape" against
their input (the _matching_). Many languages, from Haskell to C#,
have embraced pattern matching for its brevity and safety.


A _pattern_ is a combination of (1) a _predicate_, or test, that can be applied to a
target, and (2) a set of local variables, known as _pattern variables_, that are
extracted from the target only if the predicate successfully applies
to it.

A _type pattern_ consists of a predicate that specifies a type,
along with a single pattern variable.

The `instanceof` operator
([JLS 15.20.2](https://docs.oracle.com/javase/specs/jls/se15/html/jls-15.html#jls-15.20.2))
is extended to take a type pattern instead of just a type.

This allows us to refactor the tedious code above to the following:

    if (obj instanceof String s) {
        // Let pattern matching do the work!

(In this code, the phrase `String s` is the type pattern.) The meaning is
intuitive. The `instanceof` operator matches the target `obj` to the type
pattern as follows: If `obj` is an instance of `String`, then it is cast to
`String` and the value is assigned to the variable `s`.

The conditionality of pattern matching — if a value does not match a pattern,
then the pattern variable is not assigned a value — means that we have to consider
carefully the scope of the pattern variable. We could do something simple and
say that the scope of the pattern variable is the containing statement and all
subsequent statements in the enclosing block. But this has unfortunate
_poisoning_ consequences, for example:

    if (a instanceof Point p) {
    if (b instanceof Point p) {         // ERROR - p is in scope

In other words, by the second statement the pattern variable `p` would be in a
poisoned state — it is in scope, but it should not be accessible since it may not
be assigned a value. But even though it shouldn't be accessed, since it is in
scope, we can't just declare it again. This means that a pattern variable can
become poisoned after it is declared, so programmers would have to think of
lots of distinct names for their pattern variables.

Rather than using a coarse approximation for the scope of pattern variables,
pattern variables instead use the concept of _flow scoping_. A pattern variable
is only in scope where the compiler can deduce that the pattern has definitely
matched and the variable will have been assigned a value. This analysis is flow
sensitive and works in a similar way to existing flow analyses such as
[definite assignment](https://docs.oracle.com/javase/specs/jls/se15/html/jls-16.html).
Returning to our example:

    if (a instanceof Point p) {
        // p is in scope
    // p not in scope here
    if (b instanceof Point p) {     // Sure!

The motto is: "A pattern variable is in scope where it has definitely matched".
This allows for the safe reuse of pattern variables and is both intuitive
and familiar, since Java developers are already used to flow sensitive

When the conditional expression of the `if` statement grows more complicated
than a single `instanceof`, the scope of the pattern variable grows accordingly.
For example, in this code:

    if (obj instanceof String s && s.length() > 5) {
        flag = s.contains("jdk");

the pattern variable `s` is in scope on the right hand side of the `&&`
operator, as well as in the true block. (The right hand side of the `&&`
operator is only evaluated if the pattern match succeeded and assigned
a value to `s`.) On the other hand, the following code does not compile:

    if (obj instanceof String s || s.length() > 5) {    // Error!

Because of the semantics of the `||` operator, the pattern variable `s` might
not have been assigned and so the flow analysis dictates that the variable `s`
is not in scope on the right hand side of the `||` operator.

The use of pattern matching in `instanceof` should significantly reduce
the overall number of explicit casts in Java programs. Type test
patterns are particularly useful when writing equality methods.
Consider the following equality method taken from Item 10 of
[_Effective Java_](https://www.oreilly.com/library/view/effective-java-3rd/9780134686097/):

    public final boolean equals(Object o) {
        return (o instanceof CaseInsensitiveString) &&
            ((CaseInsensitiveString) o).s.equalsIgnoreCase(s);

Using a type pattern means it can be rewritten to the clearer:

    public final boolean equals(Object o) {
        return (o instanceof CaseInsensitiveString cis) &&

Other `equals` methods are even more dramatically improved. Consider the class
`Point` from above, where we might write an `equals` method as follows:

    public final boolean equals(Object o) {
        if (!(o instanceof Point))
            return false;
        Point other = (Point) o;
        return x == other.x
            && y == other.y;

Using pattern matching instead, we can combine these multiple statements into a
single expression, eliminating the repetition and simplifying the control flow:

    public final boolean equals(Object o) {
        return (o instanceof Point other)
            && x == other.x
            && y == other.y;

The flow scoping analysis for pattern variables is sensitive to the notion of
whether a statement can
[complete normally](https://docs.oracle.com/javase/specs/jls/se15/html/jls-14.html#jls-14.22).
For example, consider the following method:

    public void onlyForStrings(Object o) throws MyException {
        if (!(o instanceof String s))
            throw new MyException();
        // s is in scope

This method tests whether its parameter `o` is a `String`, and throws an
exception if not. It is only possible to reach the `println` statement if the
conditional statement has completed normally. Because the contained statement of
the conditional statement can never complete normally, this can only occur if
the conditional expression has evaluated to the value `false`, which, in turn,
means that the pattern matching has succeeded. Accordingly, the scope of the
pattern variable `s` safely includes the statements following the conditional
statement in the method block.

Pattern variables are just a special case of local variables, and aside from the
definition of their scope, in all other respects pattern variables are treated
as local variables. In particular, this means that (1) they can be assigned to,
and (2) they can shadow a field declaration. For example:

    class Example1 {
        String s;

        void test1(Object o) {
            if (o instanceof String s) {
                System.out.println(s);      // Field s is shadowed
                s = s + "\n";               // Assignment to pattern variable
            System.out.println(s);          // Refers to field s

However, the flow scoping nature of pattern variables means that some care must
be taken to determine whether a name refers to a pattern variable declaration
shadowing a field declaration or to the field declaration itself.

    class Example2 {
        Point p;

        void test2(Object o) {
            if (o instanceof Point p) {
                // p refers to the pattern variable
            } else {
                // p refers to the field

The `instanceof`
is extended accordingly:

     _RelationalExpression_ `instanceof` _ReferenceType_  
     _RelationalExpression_ `instanceof` _Pattern_

     _ReferenceType_  _Identifier_

### Future Work

Future JEPs will enhance the Java programming language with richer forms of
patterns, such as deconstruction patterns for record classes, and pattern
matching for other language constructs, such as `switch` expressions and


The benefits of type patterns could be obtained by
_flow typing_ in `if` statements, or by a _type switch_ construct.
Pattern matching generalizes both of these constructs.

The patch for the change is successfully reviewed: https://github.com/openjdk/jdk/pull/559 The CSR has been provisional, and is finalized now: https://bugs.openjdk.java.net/browse/JDK-8254235

I’ve done a copy-editing pass. Please look it over, make any necessary corrections, and then assign the issue to me and I’ll move it to Candidate.

To be considered for Candidate, a JEP needs one or more Reviewers. Please seek one or more Reviewers, record their names in the “Reviewed By” field, and then resubmit this JEP.