Match

Often, a simple [if]if/else isn’t enough, because you have more than two possible options. Also, conditions can get quite complex. Rust has a keyword, match, that allows you to replace complicated if/else groupings with something more powerful. Check it out:

let x = 5;

match x {
    1 => println!("one"),
    2 => println!("two"),
    3 => println!("three"),
    4 => println!("four"),
    5 => println!("five"),
    _ => println!("something else"),
}

match takes an expression and then branches based on its value. Each ‘arm’ of the branch is of the form val => expression. When the value matches, that arm’s expression will be evaluated. It’s called match because of the term ‘pattern matching’, which match is an implementation of. There’s a separate section on patterns that covers all the patterns that are possible here.

One of the many advantages of match is it enforces ‘exhaustiveness checking’. For example if we remove the last arm with the underscore _, the compiler will give us an error:

error: non-exhaustive patterns: `_` not covered

Rust is telling us that we forgot a value. The compiler infers from x that it can have any positive 32bit value; for example 1 to 2,147,483,647. The _ acts as a 'catch-all', and will catch all possible values that aren't specified in an arm of match. As you can see with the previous example, we provide match arms for integers 1-5, if x is 6 or any other value, then it is caught by _.

match is also an expression, which means we can use it on the right-hand side of a let binding or directly where an expression is used:

let x = 5;

let number = match x {
    1 => "one",
    2 => "two",
    3 => "three",
    4 => "four",
    5 => "five",
    _ => "something else",
};

Sometimes it’s a nice way of converting something from one type to another; in this example the integers are converted to String.

Matching on enums

Another important use of the match keyword is to process the possible variants of an enum:

enum Message {
    Quit,
    ChangeColor(i32, i32, i32),
    Move { x: i32, y: i32 },
    Write(String),
}

fn quit() { /* ... */ }
fn change_color(r: i32, g: i32, b: i32) { /* ... */ }
fn move_cursor(x: i32, y: i32) { /* ... */ }

fn process_message(msg: Message) {
    match msg {
        Message::Quit => quit(),
        Message::ChangeColor(r, g, b) => change_color(r, g, b),
        Message::Move { x: x, y: y } => move_cursor(x, y),
        Message::Write(s) => println!("{}", s),
    };
}

Again, the Rust compiler checks exhaustiveness, so it demands that you have a match arm for every variant of the enum. If you leave one off, it will give you a compile-time error unless you use _ or provide all possible arms.

Unlike the previous uses of match, you can’t use the normal if statement to do this. You can use the [if let]if-let statement, which can be seen as an abbreviated form of match.