TypeScript Generics

October 15, 2021


Generics allow us to reuse code that can work with a variety of types

Say we have a function that returns the length of a given array:

let getLength = (arr: Array<string>) => arr.length;

This function can only operate on arrays and only array of strings. What if we could reuse the same function to get the length of a custom data-structure or a string for say. In this case we would need to write another function for each different data-structure, and that's huh lame.

With generics, we can make the getLength function also work with strings or any data-structure as long as they have a length property.

let getLength = <T extends {length: number}>(data: T) => data.length;

getLength("Hello, world!!"); // TS will infer the type;
getLength<Array<string>>(["Hello", "world!!"]); // 

T here is a type parameter, just like function parameter but for types, and you can have as many as you want. Whichever is the type of the parameter we pass to the function getLength, T will hold that information.

Let's push things a bit further, let's create a reduce function and make it generic:

let reduce = (array: any, callback: any, initialValue: any) => array.reduce(callback, initialValue);

Well, the function is already generic and I'm using any to make it so, but if we use like this, we lose all typing information and validation. So, lemme fix it.

let reduce = <T, I>(
    array: T[], 
    callback: (acc: I, value: T) => I, 
    initialValue: I
) => array.reduce(callback, initialValue);

let sum = reduce([2, 3, 4], (acc, value) => acc + value, 0);
sum // result here has type of number

let hello = reduce(['h', 'e', 'l', 'l', 'o'], (acc, value) => acc + value, '');
hello // hello here has type of string

Here I have two type variables Tand I and I could name them whatever I want, they'll hold the type information of my function parameter and could explicitly tell what they are or just let the compiler infer them.

We can also make generic interfaces and classes, here's how:

interface GIdentity {
    <Value>(value: Value): Value

let identity = <Input>(a: Input): Input => a;
let identity2: GIdentity = identity;

interface GIdentity<Value> {
    (value: Value): Value

let identity = <Input>(a: Input): Input => a;
let identity2: GIdentity<number> = identity;

class DataBase<T> {
    value: T;
    constructor(value: T) {
        this.value = value
    get(): T {
        return this.value;

const db = new DataBase("2");