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[Discussion] Constant string interpolation #2077

gafter opened this Issue Dec 14, 2018 · 2 comments


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gafter commented Dec 14, 2018

@ashmind commented on Wed May 11 2016


There are two relevant cases, and both of them are related to nameof().

  1. Consider the following code:

    public static readonly string Sql = $"SELECT {nameof(ColumnX)} ...";
    // moving to a constant
    public const string Sql = "SELECT " + nameof(ColumnX) + " ...";

    Even though nameof is a constant I have to fall back on older syntax here.

  2. Another (more insidious) example:

    var sql = new StringBuilder();
    sql.Append("SELECT * FROM " + nameof(C));
    // vs
    sql.Append($"SELECT * FROM {nameof(C)}");

    Even though approaches seem similar, the first one is a constant, while the second one does string allocation — defeating the purpose of a StringBuilder. This can be partially mitigated by having a FormattableString overload on StringBuilder, but FormattableString itself and its internal array would still need allocations.

Solution Discussion

I would like to evaluate string interpolation as a constant in certain contexts (that could only work if all values in it were constants). But I can't think of a simple syntax.

One option could be something like (const)$"A {nameof(B)} C", but I'm not too fond of it.

@svick commented on Wed May 11 2016

Similar changes were proposed several times before (see e.g. #4678). They were closed, because of issues regarding specific behavior of string.Format() which would have to be maintained.

@ashmind commented on Wed May 11 2016

@svick Yes -- it's clear that implicit approach cannot work here. However explicit approach can since it would explicitly limit what can be placed in {}. Since const string X = "X" + 5 is not currently supported, I wouldn't even expect (const)$"X{5}" to compile.

So this limits supported scenarios to just strings and nulls I think, and culture or custom formatters will be ignored in the same way as const string X = "X" + "Y" ignores them now.

@ashmind commented on Wed May 11 2016

A more formal proposal (a bit ad-hoc, not spec-language yet):

If string interpolation expression is interpreted as a constant, it can be compiled to a constant string if: all values in {} can be compiled to constant strings; and there are no formatting specifiers on the values. Otherwise a compilation error will be reported.

An expression is interpreted as a constant if:

  1. (Current) It appears at the right hand side of const assignment -- e.g. const string A = $"{nameof(B)}";.
  2. (New) It appears within const() expression -- e.g. const($"{nameof(B)}") (similar to checked/unchecked).

@HaloFour commented on Thu May 12 2016

I don't see how that remedies the issue mentioned by @gafter concerning custom formatting and culture. With this proposal it would be quite possible for the two following expressions to return different values:

const string world = "World";

string greeting1 = $"Hello {world}!";
const string greeting2 = $"Hello {world}!";

@alrz commented on Thu May 12 2016

context-based constness seem to be not a good option becasue the returned value might vary. I did suggest $$"..." as a culture-agnostic vanilla string interpolation which turns to string concatenations and remains a constant in #9407 but apparently nobody is listening.

@ashmind commented on Thu May 12 2016

@HaloFour If I understand the problem correctly, the case is "culture that overrides format insertion for string values"? To me it seems like an edge case that would break quite a few libraries as well. I think the spec should just make it clear that culture override is not applied to this case as an official limitation. E.g. select x doesn't call .Select(), so if .Select(x => x) is expected to do weird things some common refactorings can break code — but in practice it's not a problem.

@alrz I've searched for similar discussions, but unfortunately missed that one. I think $$"..." is similar — I suggested const($"") to avoid too many special symbols, but it can go either way depending on what people think. Having it always explicit might be the right way if my answer to @HaloFour doesn't seem convincing.

@HaloFour commented on Thu May 12 2016

@ashmind Correct. It's fully possible to write a PigLatin culture and set it to the default for the current thread which will rewrite arbitrary string values, e.g.: $"Hello {world}!" becoming "Hello Orldway!".

It may be an edge case, but it's still the prescribed behavior according to the specification and why all of the previous requests to either optimize interpolation into simple concat and/or to permit interpolation in constant expressions have not moved forward.

@alrz commented on Thu May 12 2016

@HaloFour Edge case you say, the thing is, string concatenation/interpolation should be considered as a low level feature and not something on top of internationalization and culture API which itself is a full-blown disappointment.

@ashmind commented on Thu May 12 2016


it's still the prescribed behavior according to the specification

Only in non-constant situation -- we don't have prescribed behavior in constant case yet. Yes, prescribing it not to use culture would be inconsistent -- but is it a problem enough to require explicit opt-in instead? I can't think of a single real-world case where someone could run into it (and if they do, they would have other problems with libs etc).

@bbarry commented on Thu May 12 2016

Explicit opt-in could make it possible I suppose.

  1. amend specification to allow constant-expression to contain string interpolation iff all interpolated values are constant strings (any constant?).
  2. permit an explicit conversion to a constant-expression

@mklemarczyk commented on Mon Aug 08 2016

String interpolation of a few string constants should be possible without making any changes.
I know that current culture can affect ToString format, but it does not affect if you concatenate only string constants together. I see it as a bug.

@HaloFour commented on Mon Aug 08 2016

I know that current culture can affect ToString format, but it does not affect if you concatenate only string constants together.

Concatenation doesn't involve the current culture. Formatting does, and string interpolation is based on formatting. Using String.Format with all const strings still uses the current culture. There's no way to use String.Format to produce a const expression.

@mklemarczyk commented on Mon Aug 08 2016

So you can change your implementation in compiler to solve that bug. String.Format is no needed to concatenate strings. By the way all constants are evaluated on compilation time and hard coded in binary.

It can be String.Format for non-constants and simple string concatenation for constraints. It does not affect way how it work and does not have any performance issues. It would just solve that bug and make possible developers to use new syntax.

@HaloFour commented on Mon Aug 08 2016


It's not a bug, it was explicitly designed to function like this. You not liking it doesn't make it a bug.

String.Format isn't needed for concatenating strings, but that's not what you're doing. You're interpolating them, and String.Format is needed for that based on the spec and implementation of how interpolation works in C#. If you want to concatenate strings, go right ahead and use the same syntax that has worked since C# 1.0. Changing the implementation to behave differently based on usage would produce unexpected results:

const string FOO = "FOO";
const string BAR = "BAR";
string foobar = $"{FOO}{BAR}";
const string FOOBAR = $"{FOO}{BAR}"; // illegal today

Debug.Assert(foobar == FOOBAR); // might not always be true

@AustinWise commented on Mon Aug 08 2016

I made a little proof of concept turning interoplation of string constants into just a string constant (rather than a call to string.Format):

I could be overlooking something, but currently things like current culture does not effect how strings are treated when they are the arguments to string.Format call. So this sort of optimization should be harmless, unless in the furture string.Format starts to behave differently on the same input. That seems unlikly though.

@HaloFour commented on Tue Aug 09 2016


Read the following: dotnet/roslyn#6738 (comment)

Even strings may be affected by the current culture depending on how it's implementation of IFormatProvider functions. It's entirely possible to define a PigLatinCulture which would modify all formatted strings. It may be an extreme (and possibly esoteric) edge case, but it is a part of the composite formatting implementation inherited by interpolation.

@AustinWise commented on Tue Aug 09 2016

I think if you limited the scope to interoplating string constants into a string (as apposed to creating a FormattableString), it's simpler. The generated code does not pass a value for IFormatProvider, so there is no worry about custom formatters. And String does not implement IFormattable, so only its ToString() method is called. And all that does is return itself. So the current culture should have no effect.

A legitimate concern though would be this type of optimization might complicate the C# spec. Currently the spec just says the meaning of an interoplated string is "call string.Format". Changing the compiler to just emit a string might require specifying the behavior of string.Format, which would complicate the spec a little bit.

@eyalsk commented on Sun Oct 23 2016

@ashmind Maybe it's possible to use backticks similarly to how it's used in JavaScript.

$`A {nameof(B)} C`

This will also be compatible with this:

$@`A {nameof(B)} C`

@scalablecory commented on Mon Dec 10 2018

I would like this if it were limited very specifically to e.g. nameof() and maybe invariant interpolation with compile-time constants. Here's one example where I could have used this:

[Obsolete($"The {nameof(Foo)} method has been obsoleted, and {nameof(Bar)} should be used instead.")]
void Foo()

void Bar()

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gafter commented Dec 14, 2018

Moved from Roslyn to csharplang because this proposes a language change (making some interpolated strings constant).


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yaakov-h commented Dec 15, 2018

Duplicate of #384.

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