Move constructors

< cpp‎ | language
C++ language
General topics
Flow control
Conditional execution statements
Iteration statements (loops)
range-for (C++11)
Jump statements
Function declaration
Lambda function expression
inline specifier
Dynamic exception specifications (until C++17*)
noexcept specifier (C++11)
decltype (C++11)
auto (C++11)
constexpr (C++11)
consteval (C++20)
constinit (C++20)
Storage duration specifiers
Alternative representations
Boolean - Integer - Floating-point
Character - String - nullptr (C++11)
User-defined (C++11)
Attributes (C++11)
typedef declaration
Type alias declaration (C++11)
Memory allocation
Class-specific function properties
explicit (C++11)

Special member functions
Default constructor
Copy constructor
Move constructor (C++11)

A move constructor is a constructor which can be called with an argument of the same class type and copies the content of the argument, possibly mutating the argument.


[edit] Syntax

class-name (parameter-list ); (1)
class-name (parameter-list ) function-body (2)
class-name (single-parameter-list ) = default; (3)
class-name (parameter-list ) = delete; (4)
class-name ::class-name (parameter-list ) function-body (5)
class-name ::class-name (single-parameter-list ) = default; (6)
class-name - the class whose move constructor is being declared
parameter-list - a non-empty parameter list satisfying all following conditions:
  • given the class type as T, the first parameter is of type T&&, const T&&, volatile T&& or const volatile T&&, and
  • either there are no other parameters, or all other parameters have default arguments
single-parameter-list - a parameter list of only one parameter, which is of type T&&, const T&&, volatile T&& or const volatile T&& and does not have a default argument
function-body - the function body of the move constructor

[edit] Explanation

1) Declaration of a move constructor inside of class definition.
2-4) Definition of a move constructor inside of class definition.
3) The move constructor is explicitly-defaulted.
4) The move constructor is deleted.
5,6) Definition of a move constructor outside of class definition (the class must contain a declaration (1)).
6) The move constructor is explicitly-defaulted.
struct X
    X(X&& other); // move constructor
//  X(X other);   // Error: incorrect parameter type
union Y
    Y(Y&& other, int num = 1); // move constructor with multiple parameters
//  Y(Y&& other, int num);     // Error: `num` has no default argument

The move constructor is typically called when an object is initialized (by direct-initialization or copy-initialization) from rvalue (xvalue or prvalue)(until C++17)xvalue(since C++17) of the same type, including

  • initialization: T a = std::move(b); or T a(std::move(b));, where b is of type T;
  • function argument passing: f(std::move(a));, where a is of type T and f is void f(T t);
  • function return: return a; inside a function such as T f(), where a is of type T which has a move constructor.

When the initializer is a prvalue, the move constructor call is often optimized out(until C++17)never made(since C++17), see copy elision.

Move constructors typically "steal" the resources held by the argument (e.g. pointers to dynamically-allocated objects, file descriptors, TCP sockets, I/O streams, running threads, etc.) rather than make copies of them, and leave the argument in some valid but otherwise indeterminate state. For example, moving from a std::string or from a std::vector may result in the argument being left empty. However, this behavior should not be relied upon. For some types, such as std::unique_ptr, the moved-from state is fully specified.

[edit] Implicitly-declared move constructor

If no user-defined move constructors are provided for a class type, and all of the following is true:

Then the compiler will declare a move constructor as a non-explicit inline public member of its class with the signature T::T(T&&).

A class can have multiple move constructors, e.g. both T::T(const T&&) and T::T(T&&). If some user-defined move constructors are present, the user may still force the generation of the implicitly declared move constructor with the keyword default.

The implicitly-declared (or defaulted on its first declaration) move constructor has an exception specification as described in dynamic exception specification(until C++17)noexcept specification(since C++17).

[edit] Implicitly-defined move constructor

If the implicitly-declared move constructor is neither deleted nor trivial, it is defined (that is, a function body is generated and compiled) by the compiler if odr-used or needed for constant evaluation. For union types, the implicitly-defined move constructor copies the object representation (as by std::memmove). For non-union class types, the move constructor performs full member-wise move of the object's direct base subobjects and member subobjects, in their initialization order, using direct initialization with an xvalue argument. For each non-static data member of a reference type, the move constructor binds the reference to the same object or function to which the source reference is bound.

If this satisfies the requirements of a constexpr constructor(until C++23)constructor function(since C++23), the generated move constructor is constexpr.

[edit] Deleted move constructor

The implicitly-declared or explicitly-defaulted move constructor for class T is defined as deleted if T has a potentially constructed subobject of class type M (or possibly multi-dimensional array thereof) such that

  • M has a destructor that is deleted or inaccessible from the copy constructor, or
  • the overload resolution as applied to find M's move constructor
  • does not result in a usable candidate, or
  • in the case of the subobject being a variant member, selects a non-trivial function.

A deleted move constructor is ignored by overload resolution (otherwise it would prevent copy-initialization from rvalue).

[edit] Trivial move constructor

The move constructor for class T is trivial if all of the following is true:

  • it is not user-provided (meaning, it is implicitly-defined or defaulted);
  • T has no virtual member functions;
  • T has no virtual base classes;
  • the move constructor selected for every direct base of T is trivial;
  • the move constructor selected for every non-static class type (or array of class type) member of T is trivial.

A trivial move constructor is a constructor that performs the same action as the trivial copy constructor, that is, makes a copy of the object representation as if by std::memmove. All data types compatible with the C language (POD types) are trivially movable.

[edit] Eligible move constructor

A move constructor is eligible if it is not deleted.

(until C++20)

A move constructor is eligible if all following conditions are satisfied:

  • It is not deleted.
  • Its associated constraints (if any) are satisfied.
  • Among all move constructors whose associated constraints are satisfied, it is more constrained than any other move constructor.
(since C++20)

Triviality of eligible move constructors determines whether the class is an implicit-lifetime type, and whether the class is a trivially copyable type.

[edit] Notes

To make the strong exception guarantee possible, user-defined move constructors should not throw exceptions. For example, std::vector relies on std::move_if_noexcept to choose between move and copy when the elements need to be relocated.

If both copy and move constructors are provided and no other constructors are viable, overload resolution selects the move constructor if the argument is an rvalue of the same type (an xvalue such as the result of std::move or a prvalue such as a nameless temporary(until C++17)), and selects the copy constructor if the argument is an lvalue (named object or a function/operator returning lvalue reference). If only the copy constructor is provided, all argument categories select it (as long as it takes a reference to const, since rvalues can bind to const references), which makes copying the fallback for moving, when moving is unavailable.

A constructor is called a move constructor when it takes an rvalue reference as a parameter. It is not obligated to move anything, the class is not required to have a resource to be moved and a move constructor may not be able to move a resource as in the allowable (but maybe not sensible) case where the parameter is a const rvalue reference (const T&&).

[edit] Example

#include <iomanip>
#include <iostream>
#include <string>
#include <utility>
struct A
    std::string s;
    int k;
    A() : s("test"), k(-1) {}
    A(const A& o) : s(o.s), k(o.k) { std::cout << "move failed!\n"; }
    A(A&& o) noexcept :
        s(std::move(o.s)),       // explicit move of a member of class type
        k(std::exchange(o.k, 0)) // explicit move of a member of non-class type
A f(A a)
    return a;
struct B : A
    std::string s2;
    int n;
    // implicit move constructor B::(B&&)
    // calls A's move constructor
    // calls s2's move constructor
    // and makes a bitwise copy of n
struct C : B
    ~C() {} // destructor prevents implicit move constructor C::(C&&)
struct D : B
    D() {}
    ~D() {}           // destructor would prevent implicit move constructor D::(D&&)
    D(D&&) = default; // forces a move constructor anyway
int main()
    std::cout << "Trying to move A\n";
    A a1 = f(A()); // return by value move-constructs the target
                   // from the function parameter
    std::cout << "Before move, a1.s = " << std::quoted(a1.s)
        << " a1.k = " << a1.k << '\n';
    A a2 = std::move(a1); // move-constructs from xvalue
    std::cout << "After move, a1.s = " << std::quoted(a1.s)
        << " a1.k = " << a1.k << '\n';
    std::cout << "\nTrying to move B\n";
    B b1;
    std::cout << "Before move, b1.s = " << std::quoted(b1.s) << "\n";
    B b2 = std::move(b1); // calls implicit move constructor
    std::cout << "After move, b1.s = " << std::quoted(b1.s) << "\n";
    std::cout << "\nTrying to move C\n";
    C c1;
    C c2 = std::move(c1); // calls copy constructor
    std::cout << "\nTrying to move D\n";
    D d1;
    D d2 = std::move(d1);


Trying to move A
Before move, a1.s = "test" a1.k = -1
After move, a1.s = "" a1.k = 0
Trying to move B
Before move, b1.s = "test"
After move, b1.s = ""
Trying to move C
move failed!
Trying to move D

[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 1353 C++11 the conditions where defaulted move constructors are
defined as deleted did not consider multi-dimensional array types
consider these types
CWG 1402 C++11 a defaulted move constructor that would call
a non-trivial copy constructor was defined as
deleted; a defaulted move constructor that is
deleted still participated in overload resolution
allows call to such copy
constructor; made ignored
in overload resolution
CWG 1491 C++11 a defaulted move constructor of a class with a non-static data
member of rvalue reference type was defined as deleted
not deleted in this case
CWG 2094 C++11 a volatile subobject made a defaulted
move constructor non-trivial (CWG issue 496)
triviality not affected
CWG 2595 C++20 a move constructor was not eligible if there is
another move constructor which is more constrained
but does not satisfy its associated constraints
it can be eligible in this case

[edit] See also