Understand assignability in TypeScript

This piece of code might look completely confusing to you.

Name extends GoodName, if it does, return true, if it doesn't, return false. What, okay, and you'd expect name,

Now you'd think this would return true right? Name is a string, VeryGoodName is the string "matt" and GoodName is a union between VeryGoodName and "fred". All strings.

So it'd make sense for Name extends GoodName to be true, but it's not. It's actually false. That's interesting!

To understand this, we need to understand assignability.

Here we have kind of like the traditional object oriented classes thing. And we can take our 'thing' for a walk. We can say that we can take any dog for a walk, but Animal is not assignable to dog.

We can take our Labrador for a walk. That's absolutely fine. We can take our Dog for a walk, but we can't take our Animal for a walk. The reason for that even though a Dog is an Animal, an Animal is a wider version of that.

Whereas a Labrador is a narrower version of a Dog. So you can take your Labrador for a walk because it's a narrow version of a Dog. It's still a Dog, right?.

And so we can look back on our Result type and see that what we are really checking here with the extends is if Name is a narrower version of GoodName. And it's not.

And so we can acually swap them and it will be true since GoodName is the narrower version of Name.

VeryGoodName is also a narrower version of name, and it's also a narrower version of GoodName, because it's part of that union too.

That should give you a good idea about what assignability means, and about what this extends keyword is doing in this conditional check.

Transcript

[0:00] [0: 00] This piece of code might look completely confusing to you. Name extends GoodName. If it does, return true. If it doesn't, return . You'd expect Name is a string up here. GoodName is either VeryGoodName or Fred here. The VeryGoodName is Matt. This is a string union. It should be related to string, so this should be returning true, right? No, it returns . That's interesting.
[0:00]

[0:26] [0: 26] To understand this, we need to understand assignability. We're going to go back a little bit to do that. Here, we've got an Animal, we've got a Dog which extends Animal, and we got a Labrador which extends Dog. Here, that's like the traditional object-oriented classes thing.

[0:00]

[0:40] [0: 41] We can take our thing for a walk. We can say, "OK, we can take any dog for a walk," but Animal is not assignable to Dog. We can take our Labrador for a walk, that's absolutely fine. We can take our Dog for a walk, but we can't take our Animal for a walk. We can't take our goldfish for a walk.

[0:00]

[0:58] [0: 58] The reason for that is the animal, even though a dog is an animal, an animal is a wider version of that, whereas a Labrador is a narrower version of a dog. You can take your Labrador for a walk because it's a narrow version of a dog. It's still a dog.

[0:00]

[1:13] [1: 15] We can look back on this and think Name extends GoodName. What we're checking here is, is Name a narrower version of GoodName, just like an animal is a dog is a narrower version of an animal? We notice that we can actually swap these guys over.

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[1:33] [1: 33] GoodName extends Name, and it will return true because GoodName is a narrower version of Name. VeryGoodName is also a narrower version of Name and it's a narrower version of GoodName as well because it's part of that union, too.

[0:00]

[1:47] [1: 48] We get the same thing in this isGoodName thing here, where we can pass in either Fred or Matt. If we change this to VeryGoodName, then it's still going to work but we can't pass in Fred anymore. That should give you a good idea about what assignability means and about what this extends keyword is doing in this conditional check.

[0:00]

I always find these conditional types SUPER hard to read. If you think Result is true, you might need a better mental model for assignability in TypeScript.

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