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Understanding Equality Narrowing in TypeScript

ยท 4 min read

TypeScript compiler infer a more specific type based on the usage of equality checks (e.g., ===, !==, ==, !=).

Understanding Equality Narrowing ๐Ÿค”โ€‹

In TypeScript, "equality narrowing" refers to a type narrowing technique that helps the TypeScript compiler infer a more specific type based on the usage of equality checks (e.g., ===, !==, ==, !=). Type narrowing is the process of refining a broader type to a more specific one, often used in conditional branches, which allows the compiler to provide better type safety and catch potential bugs.

Equality narrowing is particularly useful when working with union types, which are types that represent one of several possible types. When the code contains a conditional expression that checks for a specific value or type within the union type, TypeScript narrows the type within that branch accordingly.

Here's an example to illustrate equality narrowing:

type Shape =
{ kind: 'circle', radius: number }
| { kind: 'square', sideLength: number };

function getArea(shape: Shape): number {
if (shape.kind === 'circle') {
// TypeScript narrows the type of 'shape' to { kind: 'circle', radius: number }
return Math.PI * shape.radius ** 2;
} else {
// TypeScript narrows the type of 'shape' to { kind: 'square', sideLength: number }
return shape.sideLength ** 2;

In this example, Shape is a union type that can represent either a circle or a square. When we check for shape.kind === 'circle', TypeScript narrows the type of shape within that block to { kind: 'circle', radius: number }. In the else block, TypeScript narrows the type of shape to { kind: 'square', sideLength: number }. With these narrowed types, TypeScript can ensure that we are accessing the correct properties ( e.g., radius for circles and sideLength for squares) and catch potential bugs at compile time.

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Real-World Example ๐ŸŒŽโ€‹

Equality narrowing is useful in real-world applications when dealing with different types of data that have common properties but require different handling based on their specific type. Let's consider an example of an e-commerce platform that supports various types of discounts for customers.

type FixedDiscount = {
kind: 'fixed',
discountAmount: number,

type PercentageDiscount = {
kind: 'percentage',
discountPercentage: number,

type VolumeDiscount = {
kind: 'volume',
minQuantity: number,
discountPercentage: number,

type Discount = FixedDiscount | PercentageDiscount | VolumeDiscount;

function calculateDiscountedPrice(price: number, quantity: number, discount: Discount): number {
if (discount.kind === 'fixed') {
// TypeScript narrows the type of 'discount' to FixedDiscount
return Math.max(0, price - discount.discountAmount) * quantity;
} else if (discount.kind === 'percentage') {
// TypeScript narrows the type of 'discount' to PercentageDiscount
return price * (1 - discount.discountPercentage / 100) * quantity;
} else {
// TypeScript narrows the type of 'discount' to VolumeDiscount
return quantity >= discount.minQuantity
? price * (1 - discount.discountPercentage / 100) * quantity
: price * quantity;

In this example, the e-commerce platform supports three types of discounts: fixed amount, percentage, and volume-based discounts. Each discount type has a unique property (discountAmount, discountPercentage, or minQuantity) that affects how the discount is applied.

Using equality narrowing, we can safely access the relevant properties of each discount type based on the kind property. The TypeScript compiler will catch any type errors, ensuring that our function is correct and preventing potential bugs in the application logic. This increases the robustness of our code and reduces the chance of introducing errors during development or refactoring.

In summary, equality narrowing helps improve the maintainability, safety, and correctness of real-world applications that deal with different data types with common properties but require specific handling based on their type.

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