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Array covariance




For any two reference-types A and B, if an implicit reference conversion (§6.1.6) or explicit reference conversion (§6.2.4) exists from A to B, then the same reference conversion also exists from the array type A[R] to the array type B[R], where R is any given rank-specifier (but the same for both array types). This relationship is known as array covariance. Array covariance in particular means that a value of an array type A[R] may actually be a reference to an instance of an array type B[R], provided an implicit reference conversion exists from B to A.

Because of array covariance, assignments to elements of reference type arrays include a run-time check which ensures that the value being assigned to the array element is actually of a permitted type (§7.17.1). For example:

class Test
{
static void Fill(object[] array, int index, int count, object value) {
for (int i = index; i < index + count; i++) array[i] = value;
}

static void Main() {
string[] strings = new string[100];
Fill(strings, 0, 100, "Undefined");
Fill(strings, 0, 10, null);
Fill(strings, 90, 10, 0);
}
}

The assignment to array[i] in the Fill method implicitly includes a run-time check which ensures that the object referenced by value is either null or an instance that is compatible with the actual element type of array. In Main, the first two invocations of Fill succeed, but the third invocation causes a System.ArrayTypeMismatchException to be thrown upon executing the first assignment to array[i]. The exception occurs because a boxed int cannot be stored in a string array.

Array covariance specifically does not extend to arrays of value-types. For example, no conversion exists that permits an int[] to be treated as an object[].







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