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


657. Abstract class parameter in synthesized declaration

Section: 13.10.3  [temp.deduct]     Status: CD2     Submitter: Mike Miller     Date: 31 October 2007

[Voted into WP at October, 2009 meeting.]

A customer of ours recently brought the following example to our attention. There's some question as to whether the Standard adequately addresses this example, and if it does, whether the outcome is what we'd like to see. Here's the example:

    struct Abs {
      virtual void x() = 0;

    struct Der: public Abs {
      virtual void x();

    struct Cnvt {
      template <typename F> Cnvt(F);

    void foo(Cnvt a);
    void foo(Abs &a);

    void f() {
      Der d;
      Abs *a = &d;
      foo(*a);        // #1
      return 0;

The question is how to perform overload resolution for the call at #1. To do that, we need to determine whether foo(Cnvt) is a viable function. That entails deciding whether there is an implicit conversion sequence that converts Abs (the type of *a in the call) to Cnvt (12.2.3 [over.match.viable] paragraph 3), and that involves a recursive invocation of overload resolution.

The initialization of the parameter of foo(Cnvt) is a case of copy-initialization of a class by user-defined conversion, so the candidate functions are the converting constructors of Cnvt ( [over.match.copy] paragraph 1), of which there are two: the implicitly-declared copy constructor and the constructor template.

According to 13.9.2 [temp.inst] paragraph 8,

If a function template or a member function template specialization is used in a way that involves overload resolution, a declaration of the specialization is implicitly instantiated (13.10.4 [temp.over]).

Template argument deduction results in “synthesizing” (13.10.4 [temp.over] paragraph 1) (or “instantiating,” 13.9.2 [temp.inst] paragraph 8) the declaration


Because Abs is an abstract class, this declaration violates the restriction of 11.7.4 [class.abstract] paragraph 3 (“An abstract class shall not be used as a parameter type...”), and because a parameter of an abstract class type does not cause a deduction failure (it's not in the bulleted list in 13.10.3 [temp.deduct] paragraph 2), the program is ill-formed. This error is reported by both EDG and Microsoft compilers, but not by g++.

It seems unfortunate that the program would be rendered ill-formed by a semantic violation in a declaration synthesized solely for the purpose of overload resolution analysis; foo(Cnvt) would not be selected by overload resolution, so Cnvt::Cnvt(Abs) would not be instantiated.

There's at least some indication that a parameter with an abstract class type should be a deduction failure; an array element of abstract class type is a deduction failure, so one might expect that a parameter would be, also.

(See also issue 339; this question might be addressed as part of the direction described in the notes from the July, 2007 meeting.)

Notes from the June, 2008 meeting:

Paper N2634, adopted at the June, 2008 meeting, replaces the normative list of specific errors accepted as deduction failures by a general statement covering all “invalid types and expressions in the immediate context of the function type and its template parameter types,” so the code is now well-formed. However, the previous list is now a note, and the note should be updated to mention this case.

Proposed resolution (August, 2008):

Add a new bullet following the last bullet of the note in 13.10.3 [temp.deduct] paragraph 8 as follows: