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Implicit Conversions

An implicit conversion, also called view, is a conversion that is applied by the compiler in several situations:

  1. When an expression e of type T is encountered, but the compiler needs an expression of type S.
  2. When an expression e.m where e has type T but T defines no member m is encountered.

In those cases, the compiler looks in the implicit scope for a conversion that can convert an expression of type T to an expression of type S (or to a type that defines a member m in the second case).

This conversion can be either:

  1. An implicit def of type T => S or (=> T) => S
  2. An implicit value of type scala.Conversion[T, S]

Defining an implicit conversion will emit a warning unless the import scala.language.implicitConversions is in scope, or the flag -language:implicitConversions is given to the compiler.


The first example is taken from scala.Predef. Thanks to this implicit conversion, it is possible to pass a scala.Int to a Java method that expects a java.lang.Integer

import scala.language.implicitConversions
implicit def int2Integer(x: Int): java.lang.Integer =

The second example shows how to use Conversion to define an Ordering for an arbitrary type, given existing Orderings for other types:

import scala.language.implicitConversions
implicit def ordT[T, S](
    implicit conv: Conversion[T, S],
             ordS: Ordering[S]
   ): Ordering[T] =
   // `ordS` compares values of type `S`, but we can convert from `T` to `S`
  (x: T, y: T) => ordS.compare(x, y)

class A(val x: Int) // The type for which we want an `Ordering`

// Convert `A` to a type for which an `Ordering` is available:
implicit val AToInt: Conversion[A, Int] = _.x

implicitly[Ordering[Int]] // Ok, exists in the standard library
implicitly[Ordering[A]] // Ok, will use the implicit conversion from
                        // `A` to `Int` and the `Ordering` for `Int`.

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