This is an unofficial snapshot of the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC22 WG21 Core Issues List revision 110b. See http://www.open-std.org/jtc1/sc22/wg21/ for the official list.

2023-01-15


388. Catching base*& from a throw of derived*

Section: 14.4  [except.handle]     Status: CD3     Submitter: John Spicer     Date: 28 Oct 2002

[Voted into the WP at the February, 2012 meeting; moved to DR at the October, 2012 meeting.]

I have a question about exception handling with respect to derived to base conversions of pointers caught by reference.

What should the result of this program be?

  struct S             {};
  struct SS : public S {};

  int main()
  {
  	SS ss;
  	int result = 0;
  	try
  	{
  		throw &ss; // throw object has type SS*
  		           // (pointer to derived class)
  	}
  	catch (S*& rs) // (reference to pointer to base class)
  	{
  		result = 1;
  	}
  	catch (...)
  	{
  		result = 2;
  	}
  	return result;
  }

The wording of 14.4 [except.handle] paragraph 3 would seem to say that the catch of S*& does not match and so the catch ... would be taken.

All of the compilers I tried (EDG, g++, Sun, and Microsoft) used the catch of S*& though.

What do we think is the desired behavior for such cases?

My initial reaction is that this is a bug in all of these compilers, but the fact that they all do the same thing gives me pause.

On a related front, if the handler changes the parameter using the reference, what is caught by a subsequent handler?

  extern "C" int printf(const char *, ...);
  struct S             {};
  struct SS : public S {};
  SS ss;

  int f()
  {
  	try
  	{
  		throw &ss;
  	}
  	catch (S*& rs) // (reference to pointer to base class)
  	{
  		rs = 0;
  		throw;
  	}
  	catch (...)
  	{
  	}
  	return 0;
  }

  int main()
  {
  	try { f(); }
  	catch (S*& rs) {
  		printf("rs=%p, &ss=%p\n", rs, &ss);
  	}
  }

EDG, g++, and Sun all catch the original (unmodified) value. Microsoft catches the modified value. In some sense the EDG/g++/Sun behavior makes sense because the later catch could catch the derived class instead of the base class, which would be difficult to do if you let the catch clause update the value to be used by a subsequent catch.

But on this non-pointer case, all of the compilers later catch the modified value:

  extern "C" int printf(const char *, ...);
  int f()
  {
  	try
  	{
  		throw 1;
  	}
  	catch (int& i)
  	{
  		i = 0;
  		throw;
  	}
  	catch (...)
  	{
  	}
  	return 0;
  }

  int main()
  {
  	try { f(); }
  	catch (int& i) {
  		printf("i=%p\n", i);
  	}
  }

To summarize:

  1. Should "base*const&" be able to catch a "derived*"? The current standard seems to say "no" but parallels to how calls work, and existing practice, suggest that the answer should be "yes".
  2. Should "base*&" be able to catch a "derived*". Again, the standard seems seems to say "no". Parallels to how calls work still suggest "no", but existing practice suggests "yes".
  3. If either of the above is "yes", what happens if you modify the pointer referred to by the reference. This requires a cast to remove const for case #2.
  4. On a related front, if you catch "derived*&" when a "derived*" is thrown, what happens if you modify the pointer referred to by the reference? EDG/g++/Sun still don't modify the underlying value that would be caught by a rethrow in this case. This case seems like it should be the same as the "int&" example above, but is not on the three compilers mentioned.

(See also issue 729.)

Notes from the October, 2009 meeting:

The consensus of the CWG was that it should not be possible to catch a pointer to a derived class using a reference to a base class pointer, and that a handler that takes a reference to non-const pointer should allow the pointer to be modified by the handler.

Proposed resolution (March, 2010):

Change 14.4 [except.handle] paragraph 3 as follows:

A handler is a match for an exception object of type E if

(This resolution also resolves issue 729.)

Notes from the March, 2011 meeting:

This resolution would require an ABI change and was thus deferred for further consideration.