Generic Functions

Rust supports generics, which lets you abstract algorithms or data structures (such as sorting or a binary tree) over the types used or stored.

/// Pick `even` or `odd` depending on the value of `n`.
fn pick<T>(n: i32, even: T, odd: T) -> T {
    if n % 2 == 0 {
    } else {

fn main() {
    println!("picked a number: {:?}", pick(97, 222, 333));
    println!("picked a tuple: {:?}", pick(28, ("dog", 1), ("cat", 2)));
This slide should take about 5 minutes.
  • Rust infers a type for T based on the types of the arguments and return value.

  • This is similar to C++ templates, but Rust partially compiles the generic function immediately, so that function must be valid for all types matching the constraints. For example, try modifying pick to return even + odd if n == 0. Even if only the pick instantiation with integers is used, Rust still considers it invalid. C++ would let you do this.

  • Generic code is turned into non-generic code based on the call sites. This is a zero-cost abstraction: you get exactly the same result as if you had hand-coded the data structures without the abstraction.