where (generic type constraint) (C# Reference)

The where clause in a generic definition specifies constraints on the types that are used as arguments for type parameters in a generic type, method, delegate, or local function. Constraints can specify interfaces, base classes, or require a generic type to be a reference, value, or unmanaged type. They declare capabilities that the type argument must have, and must be placed after any declared base class or implemented interfaces.

For example, you can declare a generic class, AGenericClass, such that the type parameter T implements the IComparable<T> interface:

public class AGenericClass<T> where T : IComparable<T> { }


For more information on the where clause in a query expression, see where clause.

The where clause can also include a base class constraint. The base class constraint states that a type to be used as a type argument for that generic type has the specified class as a base class, or is that base class. If the base class constraint is used, it must appear before any other constraints on that type parameter. Some types are disallowed as a base class constraint: Object, Array, and ValueType. The following example shows the types that can now be specified as a base class:

public class UsingEnum<T> where T : System.Enum { }

public class UsingDelegate<T> where T : System.Delegate { }

public class Multicaster<T> where T : System.MulticastDelegate { }

In a nullable context, the nullability of the base class type is enforced. If the base class is non-nullable (for example Base), the type argument must be non-nullable. If the base class is nullable (for example Base?), the type argument may be either a nullable or non-nullable reference type. The compiler issues a warning if the type argument is a nullable reference type when the base class is non-nullable.

The where clause can specify that the type is a class or a struct. The struct constraint removes the need to specify a base class constraint of System.ValueType. The System.ValueType type may not be used as a base class constraint. The following example shows both the class and struct constraints:

class MyClass<T, U>
    where T : class
    where U : struct
{ }

In a nullable context, the class constraint requires a type to be a non-nullable reference type. To allow nullable reference types, use the class? constraint, which allows both nullable and non-nullable reference types.

The where clause may include the notnull constraint. The notnull constraint limits the type parameter to non-nullable types. The type may be a value type or a non-nullable reference type. The notnull constraint is available for code compiled in a nullable enable context. Unlike other constraints, if a type argument violates the notnull constraint, the compiler generates a warning instead of an error. Warnings are only generated in a nullable enable context.

The addition of nullable reference types introduces a potential ambiguity in the meaning of T? in generic methods. If T is a struct, T? is the same as System.Nullable<T>. However, if T is a reference type, T? means that null is a valid value. The ambiguity arises because overriding methods can't include constraints. The new default constraint resolves this ambiguity. You'll add it when a base class or interface declares two overloads of a method, one that specifies the struct constraint, and one that doesn't have either the struct or class constraint applied:

public abstract class B
    public void M<T>(T? item) where T : struct { }
    public abstract void M<T>(T? item);


You use the default constraint to specify that your derived class overrides the method without the constraint in your derived class, or explicit interface implementation. It's only valid on methods that override base methods, or explicit interface implementations:

public class D : B
    // Without the "default" constraint, the compiler tries to override the first method in B
    public override void M<T>(T? item) where T : default { }


Generic declarations that include the notnull constraint can be used in a nullable oblivious context, but compiler does not enforce the constraint.

#nullable enable
    class NotNullContainer<T>
        where T : notnull
#nullable restore

The where clause may also include an unmanaged constraint. The unmanaged constraint limits the type parameter to types known as unmanaged types. The unmanaged constraint makes it easier to write low-level interop code in C#. This constraint enables reusable routines across all unmanaged types. The unmanaged constraint can't be combined with the class or struct constraint. The unmanaged constraint enforces that the type must be a struct:

class UnManagedWrapper<T>
    where T : unmanaged
{ }

The where clause may also include a constructor constraint, new(). That constraint makes it possible to create an instance of a type parameter using the new operator. The new() Constraint lets the compiler know that any type argument supplied must have an accessible parameterless constructor. For example:

public class MyGenericClass<T> where T : IComparable<T>, new()
    // The following line is not possible without new() constraint:
    T item = new T();

The new() constraint appears last in the where clause. The new() constraint can't be combined with the struct or unmanaged constraints. All types satisfying those constraints must have an accessible parameterless constructor, making the new() constraint redundant.

With multiple type parameters, use one where clause for each type parameter, for example:

public interface IMyInterface { }

namespace CodeExample
    class Dictionary<TKey, TVal>
        where TKey : IComparable<TKey>
        where TVal : IMyInterface
        public void Add(TKey key, TVal val) { }

You can also attach constraints to type parameters of generic methods, as shown in the following example:

public void MyMethod<T>(T t) where T : IMyInterface { }

Notice that the syntax to describe type parameter constraints on delegates is the same as that of methods:

delegate T MyDelegate<T>() where T : new();

For information on generic delegates, see Generic Delegates.

For details on the syntax and use of constraints, see Constraints on Type Parameters.

C# language specification

For more information, see the C# Language Specification. The language specification is the definitive source for C# syntax and usage.

See also