This is an unofficial snapshot of the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC22 WG21 Core Issues List revision 114a. See for the official list.


150. Template template parameters and default arguments

Section: 13.4.4  [temp.arg.template]     Status: C++17     Submitter: Mike Miller     Date: 3 Aug 1999

[Moved to DR at the November, 2016 meeting as paper P0522R0.]

[Picked up by evolution group at October 2002 meeting.]

How are default template arguments handled with respect to template template parameters? Two separate questions have been raised:

  1. Do default template arguments allow a template argument to match a template parameter with fewer template parameters, and can the template template parameter be specialized using the smaller number of template arguments? For example,
        template <class T, class U = int>
        class ARG { };
        template <class X, template <class Y> class PARM>
        void f(PARM<X>) { }    // specialization permitted?
        void g() {
            ARG<int> x;        // actually ARG<int, int>
            f(x);              // does ARG (2 parms, 1 with default)
                               // match PARM (1 parm)?
    Template template parameters are deducible ( [temp.deduct.type] paragraph 9) , but 13.4.4 [temp.arg.template] does not specify how matching is done.

    Jack Rouse: I implemented template template parameters assuming template signature matching is analogous to function type matching. This seems like the minimum reasonable implementation. The code in the example would not be accepted by this compiler. However, template default arguments are compile time entities so it seems reasonable to relax the matching rules to allow cases like the one in the example. But I would consider this to be an extension to the language.

    Herb Sutter: An open issue in the LWG is that the standard doesn't explicitly permit or forbid implementations' adding additional template-parameters to those specified by the standard, and the LWG may be leaning toward explicitly permitting this. [Under this interpretation,] if the standard is ever modified to allow additional template-parameters, then writing "a template that takes a standard library template as a template template parameter" won't be just ugly because you have to mention the defaulted parameters; it would not be (portably) possible at all except possibly by defining entire families of overloaded templates to account for all the possible numbers of parameters vector<> (or anything else) might actually have. That seems unfortunate.

  2. Are default arguments permitted in the template parameter list of a template template parameter? For example,
        template <template <class T, class U = int> class PARM>
        class C {
            PARM<int> pi;

    Jack Rouse: I decided they could not in the compiler I support. This continues the analogy with function type matching. Also, I did not see a strong need to allow default arguments in this context.

    A class template used as a template template argument can have default template arguments from its declarations. How are the two sources of default arguments to be reconciled? The default arguments from the template template formal could override. But it could be cofusing if a template-id using the argument template, ARG<int>, behaves differently from a template-id using the template formal name, FORMAL<int>.

Rationale (10/99): Template template parameters are intended to be handled analogously to function function parameters. Thus the number of parameters in a template template argument must match the number of parameters in a template template parameter, regardless of whether any of those paramaters have default arguments or not. Default arguments are allowed for the parameters of a template template parameter, and those default arguments alone will be considered in a specialization of the template template parameter within a template definition; any default arguments for the parameters of a template template argument are ignored.

Note (Mark Mitchell, February, 2006):

Perhaps it is already obvious to all, but it seems worth noting that this extension would change the meaning of conforming programs:

    struct Dense { static const unsigned int dim = 1; };

    template <template <typename> class View,
              typename Block>
    void operator+(float, View<Block> const&);

    template <typename Block,
              unsigned int Dim = Block::dim>
    struct Lvalue_proxy { operator float() const; };

    void test_1d (void) {
        Lvalue_proxy<Dense> p;
        float b;
        b + p;

If Lvalue_proxy is allowed to bind to View, then the template operator+ will be used to perform addition; otherwise, Lvalue_proxy's implicit conversion to float, followed by the built-in addition on floats will be used.

Note (March, 2008):

The Evolution Working Group has accepted the intent of this issue and referred it to CWG for action (not for C++0x). See paper J16/07-0033 = WG21 N2173.

Notes from the June, 2008 meeting:

The CWG decided to take no action on this issue until an interested party produces a paper with analysis and a proposal.