This is an unofficial snapshot of the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC22 WG21 Core Issues List revision 112e. See for the official list.


629. auto parsing ambiguity

Section:  []     Status: CD1     Submitter: Daveed Vandevoorde     Date: 14 March 2007

[Voted into the WP at the February, 2008 meeting as paper J16/08-0056 = WG21 N2546.]

We've found an interesting parsing ambiguity with the new meaning of auto. Consider:

    typedef int T;
    void f() {
        auto T = 42;  // Valid or not?

The question here is whether T should be a type specifier or a storage class? [] paragraph 1 says,

The auto type-specifier has two meanings depending on the context of its use. In a decl-specifier-seq that contains at least one type-specifier (in addition to auto) that is not a cv-qualifier, the auto type-specifier specifies that the object named in the declaration has automatic storage duration.

In this case, T is a type-specifier, so the declaration is ill-formed: there is no declarator-id. Many, however, would like to see auto work “just like int,” i.e., forcing T to be redeclared in the inner scope. Concerns cited included hijacking of the name in templates and inline function bodies over the course of time if a program revision introduces a type with that name in the surrounding context. Although it was pointed out that enclosing the name in parentheses in the inner declaration would prevent any such problems, this was viewed as unacceptably ugly.

Notes from the April, 2007 meeting:

The CWG wanted to avoid a rule like, “if auto can be a type-specifier, it is” (similar to the existing “if it can be a declaration, it is” rule) because of the lookahead and backtracking difficulties such an approach would pose for certain kinds of parsing techniques. It was noted that the difficult lookahead cases all involve parentheses, which would not be a problem if only the “=” form of initializer were permitted in auto declarations; only very limited lookahead is required in that case. It was also pointed out that the “if it can be a type-specifier, it is” approach results in a quiet change of meaning for cases like

    typedef int T;
    int n = 3;
    void f() {
        auto T(n);

This currently declares n to be an int variable in the inner scope but would, under the full lookahead approach, declare T to be a variable, quitely changing uses of n inside f() to refer to the outer variable.

The consensus of the CWG was to pursue the change to require the “=” form of initializer for auto.

Notes from the July, 2007 meeting:

See paper J16/07-0197 = WG21 N2337. There was no consensus among the CWG for either of the approaches recommended in the paper; additional input and direction is required.