auto specifier (since C++11)

< cpp‎ | language

For variables, specifies that the type of the variable that is being declared will be automatically deduced from its initializer. For functions, specifies that the return type is a trailing return type or will be deduced from its return statements (since C++14) for non-type template parameters, specifies that the type will be deduced from the argument (since C++17).


[edit] Syntax

auto variable initializer (1) (since C++11)
auto function -> return type (2) (since C++11)
auto function (3) (since C++14)
decltype(auto) variable initializer (4) (since C++14)
decltype(auto) function (5) (since C++14)
auto :: (6) (concepts TS)
cv(optional) auto ref(optional) parameter (7) (since C++14)
template < auto Parameter > (8) (since C++17)
cv(optional) auto ref(optional) [ identifier-list ] initializer ; (9) (since C++17)

[edit] Explanation

1) When declaring variables in block scope, in namespace scope, in initialization statements of for loops, etc., the keyword auto may be used as the type specifier.
Once the type of the initializer has been determined, the compiler determines the type that will replace the keyword auto using the rules for template argument deduction from a function call (see template argument deduction#Other contexts for details). The keyword auto may be accompanied by modifiers, such as const or &, which will participate in the type deduction. For example, given const auto& i = expr;, the type of i is exactly the type of the argument u in an imaginary template template<class U> void f(const U& u) if the function call f(expr) was compiled. Therefore, auto&& may be deduced either as an lvalue reference or rvalue reference according to the initializer, which is used in range-based for loop.
If auto is used to declare multiple variables, the deduced types must match. For example, the declaration auto i = 0, d = 0.0; is ill-formed, while the declaration auto i = 0, *p = &i; is well-formed and the auto is deduced as int.
2) In a function declaration that uses the trailing return type syntax, the keyword auto does not perform automatic type detection. It only serves as a part of the syntax.
3) In a function declaration that does not use the trailing return type syntax, the keyword auto indicates that the return type will be deduced from the operand of its return statement using the rules for template argument deduction.
4) If the declared type of the variable is decltype(auto), the keyword auto is replaced with the expression (or expression list) of its initializer, and the actual type is deduced using the rules for decltype.
5) If the return type of the function is declared decltype(auto), the keyword auto is replaced with the operand of its return statement, and the actual return type is deduced using the rules for decltype.
6) A nested-name-specifier of the form auto:: is a placeholder that is replaced by a class or enumeration type following the rules for constrained type placeholder deduction.
7) A parameter declaration in a lambda expression. (since C++14) A function parameter declaration. (concepts TS)
8) If a template parameter is declared auto, its type is deduced from the corresponding argument.

[edit] Notes

Until C++11, auto had the semantic of a storage duration specifier.

Mixing auto variables and functions in one declaration, as in auto f() -> int, i = 0; is not allowed.

[edit] Example

#include <iostream>
#include <utility>
template<class T, class U>
auto add(T t, U u) { return t + u; } // the return type is the type of operator+(T, U)
// perfect forwarding of a function call must use decltype(auto)
// in case the function it calls returns by reference
template<class F, class... Args>
decltype(auto) PerfectForward(F fun, Args&&... args) 
    return fun(std::forward<Args>(args)...); 
template<auto n> // C++17 auto parameter declaration
auto f() -> std::pair<decltype(n), decltype(n)> // auto can't deduce from brace-init-list
    return {n, n};
int main()
    auto a = 1 + 2;            // type of a is int
    auto b = add(1, 1.2);      // type of b is double
    static_assert(std::is_same_v<decltype(a), int>);
    static_assert(std::is_same_v<decltype(b), double>);
    decltype(auto) c1 = a;   // type of c1 is int, holding a copy of a
    decltype(auto) c2 = (a); // type of c2 is int&, an alias of a
    std::cout << "a, before modification through c2 = " << a << '\n';
    std::cout << "a, after modification through c2 = " << a << '\n';
    auto [v, w] = f<0>(); //structured binding declaration
    auto d = {1, 2}; // OK: type of d is std::initializer_list<int>
    auto n = {5};    // OK: type of n is std::initializer_list<int>
//  auto e{1, 2};    // Error as of C++17, std::initializer_list<int> before
    auto m{5};       // OK: type of m is int as of C++17, initializer_list<int> before
//  decltype(auto) z = { 1, 2 } // Error: {1, 2} is not an expression
    // auto is commonly used for unnamed types such as the types of lambda expressions
    auto lambda = [](int x) { return x + 3; };
//  auto int x; // valid C++98, error as of C++11
//  auto x;     // valid C, error in C++

Possible output:

a, before modification through c2 = 3
a, after modification through c2 = 4