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Width Subtyping

It’s safe to use an object with “extra” properties in a position that is annotated with a specific set of properties.

// @flow
function method(obj: { foo: string }) {
  // ...
}

method({
  foo: "test", // Works!
  bar: 42      // Works!
});

Within method, we know that obj has at least a property foo and the property access expression obj.foo will have type string.

This is a kind of subtyping commonly referred to as “width subtyping” because a type that is “wider” (i.e., has more properties) is a subtype of a narrower type.

So in the following example, obj2 is a subtype of obj1.

let obj1 = { foo: 'test' };
let obj2 = { foo: 'test', bar: 42 };

However, it’s often useful to know that a property is definitely absent.

// @flow
function method(obj: { foo: string } | { bar: number }) {
  if (obj.foo) {
    (obj.foo: string); // Error!
  }
}

The above code has a type error because Flow would also allow the call expression method({ foo: 1, bar: 2 }), because {foo:number,bar:number} is a subtype of {bar:number}, one of the members of the parameter’s union type.

For cases like this where it’s useful to assert the absence of a property, Flow provides a special syntax for “exact” object types.

// @flow
function method(obj: {| foo: string |} | {| bar: number |}) {
  if (obj.foo) {
    (obj.foo: string); // Works!
  }
}

Exact object types disable width subtyping, and do not allow additional properties to exist.

Using exact object types lets Flow know that no extra properties will exist at runtime, which allows refinements to get more specific.

// @flow
function method(obj: {| foo: string |} | {| bar: number |}) {
  if (obj.foo) {
    (obj.foo: string); // Works!
  }
}

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Licensed under the BSD License.
https://flow.org/en/docs/lang/width-subtyping