Dynamic exception specification (until C++17)

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Lists the exceptions that a function might directly or indirectly throw.


[edit] Syntax

throw(type-id-list (optional)) (1) (deprecated in C++11)
(removed in C++17)
1) Explicit dynamic exception specification.
type-id-list - comma-separated list of type-ids, a type-id representing a pack expansion is followed by an ellipsis (...)(since C++11)

An explicit dynamic exception specification shall appear only on a function declarator for a function type, pointer to function type, reference to function type, or pointer to member function type that is the top-level type of a declaration or definition, or on such a type appearing as a parameter or return type in a function declarator.

void f() throw(int);            // OK: function declaration
void (*pf)() throw (int);       // OK: pointer to function declaration
void g(void pfa() throw(int));  // OK: pointer to function parameter declaration
typedef int (*pf)() throw(int); // Error: typedef declaration

[edit] Explanation

If a function is declared with type T listed in its dynamic exception specification, the function may throw exceptions of that type or a type derived from it.

Incomplete types, pointers or references to incomplete types other than cv void*, and rvalue reference types(since C++11) are not allowed in the exception specification. Array and function types, if used, are adjusted to corresponding pointer types, top level cv-qualifications are also dropped. parameter packs are allowed(since C++11).

A dynamic exception specification whose set of adjusted types is empty (after any packs are expanded)(since C++11) is non-throwing. A function with a non-throwing dynamic exception specification does not allow any exceptions.

A dynamic exception specification is not considered part of a function’s type.

If the function throws an exception of the type not listed in its exception specification, the function std::unexpected is called. The default function calls std::terminate, but it may be replaced by a user-provided function (via std::set_unexpected) which may call std::terminate or throw an exception. If the exception thrown from std::unexpected is accepted by the exception specification, stack unwinding continues as usual. If it isn't, but std::bad_exception is allowed by the exception specification, std::bad_exception is thrown. Otherwise, std::terminate is called.

[edit] Instantiation

The dynamic exception specification of a function template specialization is not instantiated along with the function declaration; it is instantiated only when needed (as defined below).

The dynamic exception specification of an implicitly-declared special member function is also evaluated only when needed (in particular, implicit declaration of a member function of a derived class does not require the exception-specification of a base member function to be instantiated).

When the dynamic exception specification of a function template specialization is needed, but has not yet been instantiated, the dependent names are looked up and any templates used in the expression are instantiated as if for the declaration of the specialization.

A dynamic exception specification of a function is considered to be needed in the following contexts:

  • in an expression, where the function is selected by overload resolution
  • the function is odr-used
  • the function would be odr-used but appears in an unevaluated operand
template<class T>
T f() throw(std::array<char, sizeof(T)>);
int main()
    decltype(f<void>()) *p; // f unevaluated, but exception specification is needed
                            // error because instantiation of the exception specification
                            // calculates sizeof(void)
  • the specification is needed to compare to another function declaration (e.g. on a virtual function overrider or on an explicit specialization of a function template)
  • in a function definition
  • the specification is needed because a defaulted special member function needs to check it in order to decide its own exception specification (this takes place only when the specification of the defaulted special member function is, itself, needed).

[edit] Potential exceptions

Each function f, pointer to function pf, and pointer to member function pmf has a set of potential exceptions, which consists of types that might be thrown. Set of all types indicates that any exception may be thrown. This set is defined as follows:

1) If the declaration of f, pf, or pmf uses a dynamic exception specification that does not allow all exceptions(until C++11), the set consists of the types listed in that specification.
2) Otherwise, if the declaration of f, pf, or pmf uses noexcept(true), the set is empty.
(since C++11)
3) Otherwise, the set is the set of all types.

Note: for implicitly-declared special member functions (constructors, assignment operators, and destructors) and for the inheriting constructors(since C++11), the set of potential exceptions is a combination of the sets of the potential exceptions of everything they would call: constructors/assignment operators/destructors of non-variant non-static data members, direct bases, and, where appropriate, virtual bases (including default argument expressions, as always).

Each expression e has a set of potential exceptions. The set is empty if e is a core constant expression, otherwise, it is the union of the sets of potential exceptions of all immediate subexpressions of e (including default argument expressions), combined with another set that depends on the form of e, as follows:

1) If e is a function call expression, let g denote the function, function pointer, or pointer to member function that is that is called, then
  • if the declaration of g uses a dynamic exception specification, the set of potential exceptions of g is added to the set;
(since C++11)
  • otherwise, the set is the set of all types.
2) If e calls a function implicitly (it's an operator expression and the operator is overloaded, it is a new-expression and the allocation function is overloaded, or it is a full expression and the destructor of a temporary is called), then the set is the set of that function.
3) If e is a throw-expression, the set is the exception that would be initialized by its operand, or the set of all types for the re-throwing throw-expression (with no operand).
4) If e is a dynamic_cast to a reference to a polymorphic type, the set consists of std::bad_cast.
5) If e is a typeid applied to a dereferenced pointer to a polymorphic type, the set consists of std::bad_typeid.
6) If e is a new-expression with a non-constant array size, and the selected allocation function has a non-empty set of potential exceptions, the set consists of std::bad_array_new_length.
(since C++11)
void f() throw(int); // f()'s set is "int"
void g();            // g()'s set is the set of all types
struct A { A(); };                  // "new A"'s set is the set of all types
struct B { B() noexcept; };         // "B()"'s set is empty
struct D() { D() throw (double); }; // new D's set is the set of all types

All implicitly-declared member functions and inheriting constructors (since C++11)have exception specifications, selected as follows:

  • If the set of potential exceptions is the set of all types, the implicit exception specification allows all exceptions (the exception specification is considered present, even though it is inexpressible in code and behaves as if there is no exception specification)(until C++11)is noexcept(false)(since C++11).
  • Otherwise, If the set of potential exceptions is not empty, the implicit exception specification lists every type from the set.
  • Otherwise, the implicit exception specification is throw()(until C++11)noexcept(true)(since C++11).
struct A
    A(int = (A(5), 0)) noexcept;
    A(const A&) throw();
    A(A&&) throw();
    ~A() throw(X);
struct B
    B() throw();
    B(const B&) = default; // exception specification is "noexcept(true)"
    B(B&&, int = (throw Y(), 0)) noexcept;
    ~B() throw(Y);
int n = 7;
struct D : public A, public B
    // May throw an exception of a type that would match a handler of type
    // std​::​bad_array_new_length, but does not throw a bad allocation exception
    (void*) new (std::nothrow) int[n];
    // D may have the following implicitly-declared members:
    // D::D() throw(X, std::bad_array_new_length);
    // D::D(const D&) noexcept(true);
    // D::D(D&&) throw(Y);
    // D::~D() throw(X, Y);

[edit] Notes

Clang considers the rule of instantiation of dynamic exception specification is changed in C++11 by CWG1330, see LLVM #56349.

[edit] Example

Note: best be compiled in C++98 mode to avoid warnings. Incompatible with C++17 and newer revisions.

#include <cstdlib>
#include <exception>
#include <iostream>
class X {};
class Y {};
class Z : public X {};
class W {};
void f() throw(X, Y) 
    bool n = false;
    if (n)
        throw X(); // OK, would call std::terminate()
    if (n)
        throw Z(); // also OK
    throw W(); // will call std::unexpected()
void handler()
    std::cerr << "That was unexpected!\n"; // flush needed
int main()


That was unexpected!

[edit] Defect reports

The following behavior-changing defect reports were applied retroactively to previously published C++ standards.

DR Applied to Behavior as published Correct behavior
CWG 25 C++98 the behavior of assignment and initialization
between pointers to members with different
exception specifications was unspecified
apply the restriction
for function pointers
and references
CWG 973 C++98 exception specification may contain functions types, but the
corresponding function pointer conversion was not specified
CWG 1330 C++98 an exception specification might be eagerly instantiated it is only instantiated only if needed
CWG 1267 C++11 rvalue reference types were allowed in exception specifications not allowed
CWG 1351 C++98
default argument (C++98) and default member initializer
(C++11) were ignored in implicit exception specification
made considered
CWG 1777 C++11 throw(T...) was not a non-throwing
specification even if T is an empty pack
it is non-throwing
if the pack is empty
CWG 2191 C++98 the set of potential exceptions of a typeid expression
might contain bad_typeid even if it cannot be thrown
contains bad_typeid
only if it can be thrown

[edit] See also

noexcept specifier(C++11) specifies whether a function could throw exceptions[edit]