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Understanding TypeScript Generics - A Comprehensive Guide

· 4 min read


As TypeScript has become increasingly popular in the JavaScript ecosystem, it's important to understand the key features that the language offers. One of the most powerful features in TypeScript is generics.

What Are Generics?

In simple terms, generics are a way to create reusable code components that work over several types instead of a single one. This enables users to consume these components and use their own types.

A good analogy to explain generics is the concept of a placeholder. Just like a placeholder, which holds a space for an actual value, a generic type holds the spot for any type.

Generics were first popularized in languages such as C# and Java. In TypeScript, they have been included to improve type safety and code efficiency. The main goal of generics is to make components capable of working with any data type without losing the information about what that data type is.

Why Use Generics?

Generics are particularly useful when we want to encapsulate logic that is not specific to a particular data type. The logic can be reused with multiple types as the need arises.

Consider an example where we have to write a function that accepts an array of items and returns the first item. Without generics, we would either have to give the function a specific type, limiting its reusability, or assign it to the ' any' type, resulting in loss of type safety. Generics provide a way to have the best of both worlds - reusability and type safety.

Syntax of Generics

The most recognizable syntax for a generic function in TypeScript is the use of angle brackets (< >) following the function name, with the placeholder type inside the brackets. Here is a very simple example of a generic function:

function identity<T>(arg: T): T {
return arg;

In this example, T is our type variable—a kind of stand-in for any type. It's common to see T used, but you can use any valid variable name.

Example of Generics

Here is an example of how generics can be used to create a function that works with multiple types:

function firstItem<T>(array: T[]): T {
return array[0];

console.log(firstItem<number>([10, 20, 30])); // Output: 10
console.log(firstItem<string>(["apple", "banana", "cherry"])); // Output: 'apple'

In the function firstItem, T is a placeholder for whatever type we want to pass. It could be any valid TypeScript type including number, string, boolean, object, any, etc.

Advanced Usage of Generics

Generics can also be used in more advanced scenarios. For example, they can be used with interfaces, classes, and type inference.

Generic Interfaces

Interfaces can have generic parameters, making them very versatile. For instance:

interface KeyValuePair<T, U> {
key: T;
value: U;

let pair1: KeyValuePair<number, string> = { key: 1, value: "apple" };
let pair2: KeyValuePair<string, Date> = { key: "today", value: new Date() };

Generic Classes

Classes, like interfaces, can also be generic:

class Queue<T> {
private data: T[] = [];

push(item: T) {;

pop(): T | undefined {

let numberQueue = new Queue<number>();
console.log(numberQueue.pop().toFixed()); // Output: '0'

Generics with Type Inference

TypeScript can also infer types in certain cases, which can help with making the syntax easier:

function firstItem<T>(array: T[]): T {
return array[0];

console.log(firstItem([10, 20, 30])); // Output: 10

In the above example, we didn't explicitly tell TypeScript what the type T is. The compiler looked at the type of the array argument and set T to its type.


Generics are a powerful feature in TypeScript, allowing for more flexible and reusable code. They enhance the code’s maintainability, readability, and robustness by enabling the creation of components that can work over a variety of types rather than a single one. Understanding generics can greatly increase your TypeScript skills and is essential for many advanced TypeScript concepts.

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