The Basics

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Work with common kinds of data and write basic syntax.

Swift is a programming language for iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS app development. If you have experience developing in C or Objective-C, many parts of Swift will be familiar to you.

Swift provides its own versions of all fundamental C and Objective-C types, including Int for integers, Double and Float for floating-point values, Bool for Boolean values, and String for textual data. Swift also provides powerful versions of the three primary collection types, ArraySet, and Dictionary, as described in Collection Types.

Like C, Swift uses variables to store and refer to values by an identifying name. Swift also makes extensive use of variables whose values can’t be changed. These are known as constants, and are much more powerful than constants in C. Constants are used throughout Swift to make code safer and clearer in intent when you work with values that don’t need to change.

In addition to familiar types, Swift introduces advanced types not found in Objective-C, such as tuples. Tuples enable you to create and pass around groupings of values. You can use a tuple to return multiple values from a function as a single compound value.

Swift also introduces optional types, which handle the absence of a value. Optionals say either “there is a value, and it equals x” or “there isn’t a value at all”.

Swift is a type-safe language, which means the language helps you to be clear about the types of values your code can work with. If part of your code requires a String, type safety prevents you from passing it an Int by mistake. Likewise, type safety prevents you from accidentally passing an optional String to a piece of code that requires a non-optional String. Type safety helps you catch and fix errors as early as possible in the development process.

Constants and Variables

Constants and variables associate a name (such as maximumNumberOfLoginAttempts or welcomeMessage) with a value of a particular type (such as the number 10 or the string "Hello"). The value of a constant can’t be changed once it’s set, whereas a variable can be set to a different value in the future.

Declaring Constants and Variables

Constants and variables must be declared before they’re used. You declare constants with the let keyword and variables with the var keyword. Here’s an example of how constants and variables can be used to track the number of login attempts a user has made:

let maximumNumberOfLoginAttempts = 10
var currentLoginAttempt = 0

This code can be read as:

“Declare a new constant called maximumNumberOfLoginAttempts, and give it a value of 10. Then, declare a new variable called currentLoginAttempt, and give it an initial value of 0.”

In this example, the maximum number of allowed login attempts is declared as a constant, because the maximum value never changes. The current login attempt counter is declared as a variable, because this value must be incremented after each failed login attempt.

If a stored value in your code won’t change, always declare it as a constant with the let keyword. Use variables only for storing values that change.

When you declare a constant or a variable, you can give it a value as part of that declaration, like the examples above. Alternatively, you can assign its initial value later in the program, as long as it’s guaranteed to have a value before the first time you read from it.

var environment = "development"
let maximumNumberOfLoginAttempts: Int
// maximumNumberOfLoginAttempts has no value yet.

if environment == "development" {
    maximumNumberOfLoginAttempts = 100
} else {
    maximumNumberOfLoginAttempts = 10
// Now maximumNumberOfLoginAttempts has a value, and can be read.

In this example, the maximum number of login attempts is constant, and its value depends on the environment. In the development environment, it has a value of 100; in any other environment, its value is 10. Both branches of the if statement initialize maximumNumberOfLoginAttempts with some value, guaranteeing that the constant always gets a value. For information about how Swift checks your code when you set an initial value this way, see Constant Declaration.

You can declare multiple constants or multiple variables on a single line, separated by commas:

var x = 0.0, y = 0.0, z = 0.0

Type Annotations

You can provide a type annotation when you declare a constant or variable, to be clear about the kind of values the constant or variable can store. Write a type annotation by placing a colon after the constant or variable name, followed by a space, followed by the name of the type to use.

This example provides a type annotation for a variable called welcomeMessage, to indicate that the variable can store String values:

var welcomeMessage: String

The colon in the declaration means “…of type…,” so the code above can be read as:

“Declare a variable called welcomeMessage that’s of type String.”

The phrase “of type String” means “can store any String value.” Think of it as meaning “the type of thing” (or “the kind of thing”) that can be stored.

The welcomeMessage variable can now be set to any string value without error:

welcomeMessage = "Hello"

You can define multiple related variables of the same type on a single line, separated by commas, with a single type annotation after the final variable name:

var red, green, blue: Double


It’s rare that you need to write type annotations in practice. If you provide an initial value for a constant or variable at the point that it’s defined, Swift can almost always infer the type to be used for that constant or variable, as described in Type Safety and Type Inference. In the welcomeMessage example above, no initial value is provided, and so the type of the welcomeMessage variable is specified with a type annotation rather than being inferred from an initial value.

Naming Constants and Variables

Constant and variable names can contain almost any character, including Unicode characters:

let π = 3.14159
let 你好 = "你好世界"
let 🐶🐮 = "dogcow"

Constant and variable names can’t contain whitespace characters, mathematical symbols, arrows, private-use Unicode scalar values, or line- and box-drawing characters. Nor can they begin with a number, although numbers may be included elsewhere within the name.

Once you’ve declared a constant or variable of a certain type, you can’t declare it again with the same name, or change it to store values of a different type. Nor can you change a constant into a variable or a variable into a constant.


If you need to give a constant or variable the same name as a reserved Swift keyword, surround the keyword with backticks (`) when using it as a name. However, avoid using keywords as names unless you have absolutely no choice.

You can change the value of an existing variable to another value of a compatible type. In this example, the value of friendlyWelcome is changed from "Hello!" to "Bonjour!":

var friendlyWelcome = "Hello!"
friendlyWelcome = "Bonjour!"
// friendlyWelcome is now "Bonjour!"

Unlike a variable, the value of a constant can’t be changed after it’s set. Attempting to do so is reported as an error when your code is compiled:

let languageName = "Swift"
languageName = "Swift++"
// This is a compile-time error: languageName cannot be changed.

Printing Constants and Variables

You can print the current value of a constant or variable with the print(_:separator:terminator:) function:

// Prints "Bonjour!"

The print(_:separator:terminator:) function is a global function that prints one or more values to an appropriate output. In Xcode, for example, the print(_:separator:terminator:) function prints its output in Xcode’s “console” pane. The separator and terminator parameter have default values, so you can omit them when you call this function. By default, the function terminates the line it prints by adding a line break. To print a value without a line break after it, pass an empty string as the terminator — for example, print(someValue, terminator: ""). For information about parameters with default values, see Default Parameter Values.

Swift uses string interpolation to include the name of a constant or variable as a placeholder in a longer string, and to prompt Swift to replace it with the current value of that constant or variable. Wrap the name in parentheses and escape it with a backslash before the opening parenthesis:

print("The current value of friendlyWelcome is \(friendlyWelcome)")
// Prints "The current value of friendlyWelcome is Bonjour!"


All options you can use with string interpolation are described in String Interpolation.


Use comments to include nonexecutable text in your code, as a note or reminder to yourself. Comments are ignored by the Swift compiler when your code is compiled.

Comments in Swift are very similar to comments in C. Single-line comments begin with two forward-slashes (//):

// This is a comment.

Multiline comments start with a forward-slash followed by an asterisk (/*) and end with an asterisk followed by a forward-slash (*/):

/* This is also a comment
but is written over multiple lines. */

Unlike multiline comments in C, multiline comments in Swift can be nested inside other multiline comments. You write nested comments by starting a multiline comment block and then starting a second multiline comment within the first block. The second block is then closed, followed by the first block:

/* This is the start of the first multiline comment.
    /* This is the second, nested multiline comment. */
This is the end of the first multiline comment. */

Nested multiline comments enable you to comment out large blocks of code quickly and easily, even if the code already contains multiline comments.


Unlike many other languages, Swift doesn’t require you to write a semicolon (;) after each statement in your code, although you can do so if you wish. However, semicolons are required if you want to write multiple separate statements on a single line:

let cat = "🐱"; print(cat)
// Prints "🐱"


Integers are whole numbers with no fractional component, such as 42 and -23. Integers are either signed (positive, zero, or negative) or unsigned (positive or zero).

Swift provides signed and unsigned integers in 8, 16, 32, and 64 bit forms. These integers follow a naming convention similar to C, in that an 8-bit unsigned integer is of type UInt8, and a 32-bit signed integer is of type Int32. Like all types in Swift, these integer types have capitalized names.

Integer Bounds

You can access the minimum and maximum values of each integer type with its min and max properties:

let minValue = UInt8.min  // minValue is equal to 0, and is of type UInt8
let maxValue = UInt8.max  // maxValue is equal to 255, and is of type UInt8

The values of these properties are of the appropriate-sized number type (such as UInt8 in the example above) and can therefore be used in expressions alongside other values of the same type.


In most cases, you don’t need to pick a specific size of integer to use in your code. Swift provides an additional integer type, Int, which has the same size as the current platform’s native word size:

・On a 32-bit platform, Int is the same size as Int32.

・On a 64-bit platform, Int is the same size as Int64.

Unless you need to work with a specific size of integer, always use Int for integer values in your code. This aids code consistency and interoperability. Even on 32-bit platforms, Int can store any value between -2,147,483,648 and 2,147,483,647, and is large enough for many integer ranges.


Swift also provides an unsigned integer type, UInt, which has the same size as the current platform’s native word size:

・On a 32-bit platform, UInt is the same size as UInt32.

・On a 64-bit platform, UInt is the same size as UInt64.


Use UInt only when you specifically need an unsigned integer type with the same size as the platform’s native word size. If this isn’t the case, Int is preferred, even when the values to be stored are known to be nonnegative. A consistent use of Int for integer values aids code interoperability, avoids the need to convert between different number types, and matches integer type inference, as described in Type Safety and Type Inference.

Floating-Point Numbers

Floating-point numbers are numbers with a fractional component, such as 3.141590.1, and -273.15.

Floating-point types can represent a much wider range of values than integer types, and can store numbers that are much larger or smaller than can be stored in an Int. Swift provides two signed floating-point number types:

Double represents a 64-bit floating-point number.

Float represents a 32-bit floating-point number.


Double has a precision of at least 15 decimal digits, whereas the precision of Float can be as little as 6 decimal digits. The appropriate floating-point type to use depends on the nature and range of values you need to work with in your code. In situations where either type would be appropriate, Double is preferred.

Type Safety and Type Inference

Swift is a type-safe language. A type safe language encourages you to be clear about the types of values your code can work with. If part of your code requires a String, you can’t pass it an Int by mistake.

Because Swift is type safe, it performs type checks when compiling your code and flags any mismatched types as errors. This enables you to catch and fix errors as early as possible in the development process.

Type-checking helps you avoid errors when you’re working with different types of values. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to specify the type of every constant and variable that you declare. If you don’t specify the type of value you need, Swift uses type inference to work out the appropriate type. Type inference enables a compiler to deduce the type of a particular expression automatically when it compiles your code, simply by examining the values you provide.

Because of type inference, Swift requires far fewer type declarations than languages such as C or Objective-C. Constants and variables are still explicitly typed, but much of the work of specifying their type is done for you.

Type inference is particularly useful when you declare a constant or variable with an initial value. This is often done by assigning a literal value (or literal) to the constant or variable at the point that you declare it. (A literal value is a value that appears directly in your source code, such as 42 and 3.14159 in the examples below.)

For example, if you assign a literal value of 42 to a new constant without saying what type it is, Swift infers that you want the constant to be an Int, because you have initialized it with a number that looks like an integer:

let meaningOfLife = 42
// meaningOfLife is inferred to be of type Int

Likewise, if you don’t specify a type for a floating-point literal, Swift infers that you want to create a Double:

let pi = 3.14159
// pi is inferred to be of type Double

Swift always chooses Double (rather than Float) when inferring the type of floating-point numbers.

If you combine integer and floating-point literals in an expression, a type of Double will be inferred from the context:

let anotherPi = 3 + 0.14159
// anotherPi is also inferred to be of type Double

The literal value of 3 has no explicit type in and of itself, and so an appropriate output type of Double is inferred from the presence of a floating-point literal as part of the addition.

Numeric Literals

Integer literals can be written as:

・A decimal number, with no prefix

・A binary number, with a 0b prefix

・An octal number, with a 0o prefix

・A hexadecimal number, with a 0x prefix

All of these integer literals have a decimal value of 17:

let decimalInteger = 17
let binaryInteger = 0b10001       // 17 in binary notation
let octalInteger = 0o21           // 17 in octal notation
let hexadecimalInteger = 0x11     // 17 in hexadecimal notation

Floating-point literals can be decimal (with no prefix), or hexadecimal (with a 0x prefix). They must always have a number (or hexadecimal number) on both sides of the decimal point. Decimal floats can also have an optional exponent, indicated by an uppercase or lowercase e; hexadecimal floats must have an exponent, indicated by an uppercase or lowercase p.

For decimal numbers with an exponent of x, the base number is multiplied by 10ˣ:

1.25e2 means 1.25 x 10², or 125.0.

1.25e-2 means 1.25 x 10⁻², or 0.0125.

For hexadecimal numbers with an exponent of x, the base number is multiplied by 2ˣ:

All of these floating-point literals have a decimal value of 12.1875:

let decimalDouble = 12.1875
let exponentDouble = 1.21875e1
let hexadecimalDouble = 0xC.3p0

Numeric literals can contain extra formatting to make them easier to read. Both integers and floats can be padded with extra zeros and can contain underscores to help with readability. Neither type of formatting affects the underlying value of the literal:

let paddedDouble = 000123.456
let oneMillion = 1_000_000
let justOverOneMillion = 1_000_000.000_000_1

Numeric Type Conversion

Use the Int type for all general-purpose integer constants and variables in your code, even if they’re known to be nonnegative. Using the default integer type in everyday situations means that integer constants and variables are immediately interoperable in your code and will match the inferred type for integer literal values.

Use other integer types only when they’re specifically needed for the task at hand, because of explicitly sized data from an external source, or for performance, memory usage, or other necessary optimization. Using explicitly sized types in these situations helps to catch any accidental value overflows and implicitly documents the nature of the data being used.

Integer Conversion

The range of numbers that can be stored in an integer constant or variable is different for each numeric type. An Int8 constant or variable can store numbers between -128 and 127, whereas a UInt8 constant or variable can store numbers between 0 and 255. A number that won’t fit into a constant or variable of a sized integer type is reported as an error when your code is compiled:

let cannotBeNegative: UInt8 = -1
// UInt8 can't store negative numbers, and so this will report an error
let tooBig: Int8 = Int8.max + 1
// Int8 can't store a number larger than its maximum value,
// and so this will also report an error

Because each numeric type can store a different range of values, you must opt in to numeric type conversion on a case-by-case basis. This opt-in approach prevents hidden conversion errors and helps make type conversion intentions explicit in your code.

To convert one specific number type to another, you initialize a new number of the desired type with the existing value. In the example below, the constant twoThousand is of type UInt16, whereas the constant one is of type UInt8. They can’t be added together directly, because they’re not of the same type. Instead, this example calls UInt16(one) to create a new UInt16 initialized with the value of one, and uses this value in place of the original:

let twoThousand: UInt16 = 2_000
let one: UInt8 = 1
let twoThousandAndOne = twoThousand + UInt16(one)

Because both sides of the addition are now of type UInt16, the addition is allowed. The output constant (twoThousandAndOne) is inferred to be of type UInt16, because it’s the sum of two UInt16 values.

SomeType(ofInitialValue) is the default way to call the initializer of a Swift type and pass in an initial value. Behind the scenes, UInt16 has an initializer that accepts a UInt8 value, and so this initializer is used to make a new UInt16 from an existing UInt8. You can’t pass in any type here, however — it has to be a type for which UInt16 provides an initializer. Extending existing types to provide initializers that accept new types (including your own type definitions) is covered in Extensions.

Integer and Floating-Point Conversion

Conversions between integer and floating-point numeric types must be made explicit:

let three = 3
let pointOneFourOneFiveNine = 0.14159
let pi = Double(three) + pointOneFourOneFiveNine
// pi equals 3.14159, and is inferred to be of type Double

Here, the value of the constant three is used to create a new value of type Double, so that both sides of the addition are of the same type. Without this conversion in place, the addition would not be allowed.

Floating-point to integer conversion must also be made explicit. An integer type can be initialized with a Double or Float value:

let integerPi = Int(pi)
// integerPi equals 3, and is inferred to be of type Int

Floating-point values are always truncated when used to initialize a new integer value in this way. This means that 4.75 becomes 4, and -3.9 becomes -3.


The rules for combining numeric constants and variables are different from the rules for numeric literals. The literal value 3 can be added directly to the literal value 0.14159, because number literals don’t have an explicit type in and of themselves. Their type is inferred only at the point that they’re evaluated by the compiler.

Type Aliases

Type aliases define an alternative name for an existing type. You define type aliases with the typealias keyword.

Type aliases are useful when you want to refer to an existing type by a name that’s contextually more appropriate, such as when working with data of a specific size from an external source:

typealias AudioSample = UInt16

Once you define a type alias, you can use the alias anywhere you might use the original name:

var maxAmplitudeFound = AudioSample.min
// maxAmplitudeFound is now 0

Here, AudioSample is defined as an alias for UInt16. Because it’s an alias, the call to AudioSample.min actually calls UInt16.min, which provides an initial value of 0 for the maxAmplitudeFound variable.


Swift has a basic Boolean type, called Bool. Boolean values are referred to as logical, because they can only ever be true or false. Swift provides two Boolean constant values, true and false:

let orangesAreOrange = true
let turnipsAreDelicious = false

The types of orangesAreOrange and turnipsAreDelicious have been inferred as Bool from the fact that they were initialized with Boolean literal values. As with Int and Double above, you don’t need to declare constants or variables as Bool if you set them to true or false as soon as you create them. Type inference helps make Swift code more concise and readable when it initializes constants or variables with other values whose type is already known.

Boolean values are particularly useful when you work with conditional statements such as the if statement:

if turnipsAreDelicious {
    print("Mmm, tasty turnips!")
} else {
    print("Eww, turnips are horrible.")
// Prints "Eww, turnips are horrible."

Conditional statements such as the if statement are covered in more detail in Control Flow.

Swift’s type safety prevents non-Boolean values from being substituted for Bool. The following example reports a compile-time error:

let i = 1
if i {
    // this example will not compile, and will report an error

However, the alternative example below is valid:

let i = 1
if i == 1 {
    // this example will compile successfully

The result of the i == 1 comparison is of type Bool, and so this second example passes the type-check. Comparisons like i == 1 are discussed in Basic Operators.

As with other examples of type safety in Swift, this approach avoids accidental errors and ensures that the intention of a particular section of code is always clear.


Tuples group multiple values into a single compound value. The values within a tuple can be of any type and don’t have to be of the same type as each other.

In this example, (404, "Not Found") is a tuple that describes an HTTP status code. An HTTP status code is a special value returned by a web server whenever you request a web page. A status code of 404 Not Found is returned if you request a webpage that doesn’t exist.

let http404Error = (404, "Not Found")
// http404Error is of type (Int, String), and equals (404, "Not Found")

The (404, "Not Found") tuple groups together an Int and a String to give the HTTP status code two separate values: a number and a human-readable description. It can be described as “a tuple of type (Int, String)”.

You can create tuples from any permutation of types, and they can contain as many different types as you like. There’s nothing stopping you from having a tuple of type (Int, Int, Int), or (String, Bool), or indeed any other permutation you require.

You can decompose a tuple’s contents into separate constants or variables, which you then access as usual:

let (statusCode, statusMessage) = http404Error
print("The status code is \(statusCode)")
// Prints "The status code is 404"
print("The status message is \(statusMessage)")
// Prints "The status message is Not Found"

If you only need some of the tuple’s values, ignore parts of the tuple with an underscore (_) when you decompose the tuple:

let (justTheStatusCode, _) = http404Error
print("The status code is \(justTheStatusCode)")
// Prints "The status code is 404"

Alternatively, access the individual element values in a tuple using index numbers starting at zero:

print("The status code is \(http404Error.0)")
// Prints "The status code is 404"
print("The status message is \(http404Error.1)")
// Prints "The status message is Not Found"

You can name the individual elements in a tuple when the tuple is defined:

let http200Status = (statusCode: 200, description: "OK")

If you name the elements in a tuple, you can use the element names to access the values of those elements:

print("The status code is \(http200Status.statusCode)")
// Prints "The status code is 200"
print("The status message is \(http200Status.description)")
// Prints "The status message is OK"

Tuples are particularly useful as the return values of functions. A function that tries to retrieve a web page might return the (Int, String) tuple type to describe the success or failure of the page retrieval. By returning a tuple with two distinct values, each of a different type, the function provides more useful information about its outcome than if it could only return a single value of a single type. For more information, see Functions with Multiple Return Values.


Tuples are useful for simple groups of related values. They’re not suited to the creation of complex data structures. If your data structure is likely to be more complex, model it as a class or structure, rather than as a tuple. For more information, see Structures and Classes.


You use optionals in situations where a value may be absent. An optional represents two possibilities: Either there is a value of a specified type, and you can unwrap the optional to access that value, or there isn’t a value at all.

As an example of a value that might be missing, Swift’s Int type has an initializer that tries to convert a String value into an Int value. However, only some strings can be converted into integers. The string "123" can be converted into the numeric value 123, but the string "hello, world" doesn’t have a corresponding numeric value. The example below uses the initializer to try to convert a String into an Int:

let possibleNumber = "123"
let convertedNumber = Int(possibleNumber)
// The type of convertedNumber is "optional Int"

Because the initializer in the code above might fail, it returns an optional Int, rather than an Int.

To write an optional type, you write a question mark (?) after the name of the type that the optional contains — for example, the type of an optional Int is Int?. An optional Int always contains either some Int value or no value at all. It can’t contain anything else, like a Bool or String value.


You set an optional variable to a valueless state by assigning it the special value nil:

var serverResponseCode: Int? = 404
// serverResponseCode contains an actual Int value of 404
serverResponseCode = nil
// serverResponseCode now contains no value

If you define an optional variable without providing a default value, the variable is automatically set to nil:

var surveyAnswer: String?
// surveyAnswer is automatically set to nil

You can use an if statement to find out whether an optional contains a value by comparing the optional against nil. You perform this comparison with the “equal to” operator (==) or the “not equal to” operator (!=).

If an optional has a value, it’s considered as “not equal to” nil:

let possibleNumber = "123"
let convertedNumber = Int(possibleNumber)

if convertedNumber != nil {
    print("convertedNumber contains some integer value.")
// Prints "convertedNumber contains some integer value."

You can’t use nil with non-optional constants or variables. If a constant or variable in your code needs to work with the absence of a value under certain conditions, declare it as an optional value of the appropriate type. A constant or variable that’s declared as a non-optional value is guaranteed to never contain a nil value. If you try to assign nil to a non-optional value, you’ll get a compile-time error.

This separation of optional and non-optional values lets you explicitly mark what information can be missing, and makes it easier to write code that handle missing values. You can’t accidentally treat an optional as if it were non-optional because this mistake produces an error at compile time. After you unwrap the value, none of the other code that works with that value needs to check for nil, so there’s no need to repeatedly check the same value in different parts of your code.

When you access an optional value, your code always handles both the nil and non-nil case. There are several things you can do when a value is missing, as described in the following sections:

・Skip the code that operates on the value when it’s nil.

・Propagate the nil value, by returning nil or using the ?. operator described in Optional Chaining.

・Provide a fallback value, using the ?? operator.

・Stop program execution, using the ! operator.


In Objective-C, nil is a pointer to a nonexistent object. In Swift, nil isn’t a pointer — it’s the absence of a value of a certain type. Optionals of any type can be set to nil, not just object types.

Optional Binding

You use optional binding to find out whether an optional contains a value, and if so, to make that value available as a temporary constant or variable. Optional binding can be used with ifguard, and while statements to check for a value inside an optional, and to extract that value into a constant or variable, as part of a single action. For more information about ifguard, and while statements, see Control Flow.

Write an optional binding for an if statement as follows:

if let <#constantName#> = <#someOptional#> {

You can rewrite the possibleNumber example from the Optionals section to use optional binding rather than forced unwrapping:

if let actualNumber = Int(possibleNumber) {
    print("The string \"\(possibleNumber)\" has an integer value of \(actualNumber)")
} else {
    print("The string \"\(possibleNumber)\" couldn't be converted to an integer")
// Prints "The string "123" has an integer value of 123"

This code can be read as:

“If the optional Int returned by Int(possibleNumber) contains a value, set a new constant called actualNumber to the value contained in the optional.”

If the conversion is successful, the actualNumber constant becomes available for use within the first branch of the if statement. It has already been initialized with the value contained within the optional, and has the corresponding non-optional type. In this case, the type of possibleNumber is Int?, so the type of actualNumber is Int.

If you don’t need to refer to the original, optional constant or variable after accessing the value it contains, you can use the same name for the new constant or variable:

let myNumber = Int(possibleNumber)
// Here, myNumber is an optional integer
if let myNumber = myNumber {
    // Here, myNumber is a non-optional integer
    print("My number is \(myNumber)")
// Prints "My number is 123"

This code starts by checking whether myNumber contains a value, just like the code in the previous example. If myNumber has a value, the value of a new constant named myNumber is set to that value. Inside the body of the if statement, writing myNumber refers to that new non-optional constant. Writing myNumber before or after the if statement refers to the original optional integer constant.

Because this kind of code is so common, you can use a shorter spelling to unwrap an optional value: Write just the name of the constant or variable that you’re unwrapping. The new, unwrapped constant or variable implicitly uses the same name as the optional value.

if let myNumber {
    print("My number is \(myNumber)")
// Prints "My number is 123"

You can use both constants and variables with optional binding. If you wanted to manipulate the value of myNumber within the first branch of the if statement, you could write if var myNumber instead, and the value contained within the optional would be made available as a variable rather than a constant. Changes you make to myNumber inside the body of the if statement apply only to that local variable, not to the original, optional constant or variable that you unwrapped.

You can include as many optional bindings and Boolean conditions in a single if statement as you need to, separated by commas. If any of the values in the optional bindings are nil or any Boolean condition evaluates to false, the whole if statement’s condition is considered to be false. The following if statements are equivalent:

if let firstNumber = Int("4"), let secondNumber = Int("42"), firstNumber < secondNumber && secondNumber < 100 {
    print("\(firstNumber) < \(secondNumber) < 100")
// Prints "4 < 42 < 100"

if let firstNumber = Int("4") {
    if let secondNumber = Int("42") {
        if firstNumber < secondNumber && secondNumber < 100 {
            print("\(firstNumber) < \(secondNumber) < 100")
// Prints "4 < 42 < 100"

Constants and variables created with optional binding in an if statement are available only within the body of the if statement. In contrast, the constants and variables created with a guard statement are available in the lines of code that follow the guard statement, as described in Early Exit.

Providing a Fallback Value

Another way to handle a missing value is to supply a default value using the nil-coalescing operator (??). If the optional on the left of the ?? isn’t nil, that value is unwrapped and used. Otherwise, the value on the right of ?? is used. For example, the code below greets someone by name if one is specified, and uses a generic greeting when the name is nil.

let name: String? = nil
let greeting = "Hello, " + (name ?? "friend") + "!"
// Prints "Hello, friend!"

For more information about using ?? to provide a fallback value, see Nil-Coalescing Operator.

Force Unwrapping

When nil represents an unrecoverable failure, such a programmer error or corrupted state, you can access the underlying value by adding an exclamation mark (!) to the end of the optional’s name. This is known as force unwrapping the optional’s value. When you force unwrap a non-nil value, the result is its unwrapped value. Force unwrapping a nil value triggers a runtime error.

The ! is, effectively, a shorter spelling of fatalError(_:file:line:)( For example, the code below shows two equivalent approaches:

let possibleNumber = "123"
let convertedNumber = Int(possibleNumber)

let number = convertedNumber!

guard let number = convertedNumber else {
    fatalError("The number was invalid")

Both versions of the code above depend on convertedNumber always containing a value. Writing that requirement as part of the code, using either of the approaches above, lets your code check that the requirement is true at runtime.

For more information about enforcing data requirements and checking assumptions at runtime, see Assertions and Preconditions.

Implicitly Unwrapped Optionals

As described above, optionals indicate that a constant or variable is allowed to have “no value”. Optionals can be checked with an if statement to see if a value exists, and can be conditionally unwrapped with optional binding to access the optional’s value if it does exist.

Sometimes it’s clear from a program’s structure that an optional will always have a value, after that value is first set. In these cases, it’s useful to remove the need to check and unwrap the optional’s value every time it’s accessed, because it can be safely assumed to have a value all of the time.

These kinds of optionals are defined as implicitly unwrapped optionals. You write an implicitly unwrapped optional by placing an exclamation point (String!) rather than a question mark (String?) after the type that you want to make optional. Rather than placing an exclamation point after the optional’s name when you use it, you place an exclamation point after the optional’s type when you declare it.

Implicitly unwrapped optionals are useful when an optional’s value is confirmed to exist immediately after the optional is first defined and can definitely be assumed to exist at every point thereafter. The primary use of implicitly unwrapped optionals in Swift is during class initialization, as described in Unowned References and Implicitly Unwrapped Optional Properties.

Don’t use an implicitly unwrapped optional when there’s a possibility of a variable becoming nil at a later point. Always use a normal optional type if you need to check for a nil value during the lifetime of a variable.

An implicitly unwrapped optional is a normal optional behind the scenes, but can also be used like a non-optional value, without the need to unwrap the optional value each time it’s accessed. The following example shows the difference in behavior between an optional string and an implicitly unwrapped optional string when accessing their wrapped value as an explicit String:

let possibleString: String? = "An optional string."
let forcedString: String = possibleString! // Requires explicit unwrapping

let assumedString: String! = "An implicitly unwrapped optional string."
let implicitString: String = assumedString // Unwrapped automatically

You can think of an implicitly unwrapped optional as giving permission for the optional to be force-unwrapped if needed. When you use an implicitly unwrapped optional value, Swift first tries to use it as an ordinary optional value; if it can’t be used as an optional, Swift force-unwraps the value. In the code above, the optional value assumedString is force-unwrapped before assigning its value to implicitString because implicitString has an explicit, non-optional type of String. In code below, optionalString doesn’t have an explicit type so it’s an ordinary optional.

let optionalString = assumedString
// The type of optionalString is "String?" and assumedString isn't force-unwrapped.

If an implicitly unwrapped optional is nil and you try to access its wrapped value, you’ll trigger a runtime error. The result is exactly the same as if you write an exclamation point to force unwrap a normal optional that doesn’t contain a value.

You can check whether an implicitly unwrapped optional is nil the same way you check a normal optional:

if assumedString != nil {
// Prints "An implicitly unwrapped optional string."

You can also use an implicitly unwrapped optional with optional binding, to check and unwrap its value in a single statement:

if let definiteString = assumedString {
// Prints "An implicitly unwrapped optional string."

Error Handling

You use error handling to respond to error conditions your program may encounter during execution.

In contrast to optionals, which can use the presence or absence of a value to communicate success or failure of a function, error handling allows you to determine the underlying cause of failure, and, if necessary, propagate the error to another part of your program.

When a function encounters an error condition, it throws an error. That function’s caller can then catch the error and respond appropriately.

func canThrowAnError() throws {
    // this function may or may not throw an error

A function indicates that it can throw an error by including the throws keyword in its declaration. When you call a function that can throw an error, you prepend the try keyword to the expression.

Swift automatically propagates errors out of their current scope until they’re handled by a catch clause.

do {
    try canThrowAnError()
    // no error was thrown
} catch {
    // an error was thrown

do statement creates a new containing scope, which allows errors to be propagated to one or more catch clauses.

Here’s an example of how error handling can be used to respond to different error conditions:

func makeASandwich() throws {
    // ...

do {
    try makeASandwich()
} catch SandwichError.outOfCleanDishes {
} catch SandwichError.missingIngredients(let ingredients) {

In this example, the makeASandwich() function will throw an error if no clean dishes are available or if any ingredients are missing. Because makeASandwich() can throw an error, the function call is wrapped in a try expression. By wrapping the function call in a do statement, any errors that are thrown will be propagated to the provided catch clauses.

If no error is thrown, the eatASandwich() function is called. If an error is thrown and it matches the SandwichError.outOfCleanDishes case, then the washDishes() function will be called. If an error is thrown and it matches the SandwichError.missingIngredients case, then the buyGroceries(_:) function is called with the associated [String] value captured by the catch pattern.

Throwing, catching, and propagating errors is covered in greater detail in Error Handling.

Assertions and Preconditions

Assertions and preconditions are checks that happen at runtime. You use them to make sure an essential condition is satisfied before executing any further code. If the Boolean condition in the assertion or precondition evaluates to true, code execution continues as usual. If the condition evaluates to false, the current state of the program is invalid; code execution ends, and your app is terminated.

You use assertions and preconditions to express the assumptions you make and the expectations you have while coding, so you can include them as part of your code. Assertions help you find mistakes and incorrect assumptions during development, and preconditions help you detect issues in production.

In addition to verifying your expectations at runtime, assertions and preconditions also become a useful form of documentation within the code. Unlike the error conditions discussed in Error Handling above, assertions and preconditions aren’t used for recoverable or expected errors. Because a failed assertion or precondition indicates an invalid program state, there’s no way to catch a failed assertion. Recovering from an invalid state is impossible. When an assertion fails, at least one piece of the program’s data is invalid — but you don’t know why it’s invalid or whether an additional state is also invalid.

Using assertions and preconditions isn’t a substitute for designing your code in such a way that invalid conditions are unlikely to arise. However, using them to enforce valid data and state causes your app to terminate more predictably if an invalid state occurs, and helps make the problem easier to debug. When assumptions aren’t checked, you might not notice this kind problem until much later when code elsewhere starts failing visibly, and after user data has been silently corrupted. Stopping execution as soon as an invalid state is detected also helps limit the damage caused by that invalid state.

The difference between assertions and preconditions is in when they’re checked: Assertions are checked only in debug builds, but preconditions are checked in both debug and production builds. In production builds, the condition inside an assertion isn’t evaluated. This means you can use as many assertions as you want during your development process, without impacting performance in production.

Debugging with Assertions

You write an assertion by calling the assert(_:_:file:line:)( function from the Swift standard library. You pass this function an expression that evaluates to true or false and a message to display if the result of the condition is false. For example:

let age = -3
assert(age >= 0, "A person's age can't be less than zero.")
// This assertion fails because -3 isn't >= 0.

In this example, code execution continues if age >= 0 evaluates to true, that is, if the value of age is nonnegative. If the value of age is negative, as in the code above, then age >= 0 evaluates to false, and the assertion fails, terminating the application.

You can omit the assertion message — for example, when it would just repeat the condition as prose.

assert(age >= 0)

If the code already checks the condition, you use the assertionFailure(_:file:line:)( function to indicate that an assertion has failed. For example:

if age > 10 {
    print("You can ride the roller-coaster or the ferris wheel.")
} else if age >= 0 {
    print("You can ride the ferris wheel.")
} else {
    assertionFailure("A person's age can't be less than zero.")

Enforcing Preconditions

Use a precondition whenever a condition has the potential to be false, but must definitely be true for your code to continue execution. For example, use a precondition to check that a subscript isn’t out of bounds, or to check that a function has been passed a valid value.

You write a precondition by calling the precondition(_:_:file:line:)( function. You pass this function an expression that evaluates to true or false and a message to display if the result of the condition is false. For example:

// In the implementation of a subscript...
precondition(index > 0, "Index must be greater than zero.")

You can also call the preconditionFailure(_:file:line:)( function to indicate that a failure has occurred — for example, if the default case of a switch was taken, but all valid input data should have been handled by one of the switch’s other cases.


If you compile in unchecked mode (-Ounchecked), preconditions aren’t checked. The compiler assumes that preconditions are always true, and it optimizes your code accordingly. However, the fatalError(_:file:line:) function always halts execution, regardless of optimization settings.

You can use the fatalError(_:file:line:) function during prototyping and early development to create stubs for functionality that hasn’t been implemented yet, by writing fatalError("Unimplemented") as the stub implementation. Because fatal errors are never optimized out, unlike assertions or preconditions, you can be sure that execution always halts if it encounters a stub implementation.

Beta Software

This documentation contains preliminary information about an API or technology in development. This information is subject to change, and software implemented according to this documentation should be tested with final operating system software.

Learn more about using Apple’s beta software(