Rust by Example

12.7.1 The Problem

A trait that is generic over its container type has type specification requirements - users of the trait must specify all of its generic types.

In the example below, the Contains trait allows the use of the generic types A and B. The trait is then implemented for the Container type, specifying i32 for A and B so that it can be used with fn difference().

Because Contains is generic, we are forced to explicitly state all of the generic types for fn difference(). In practice, we want a way to express that A and B are determined by the input C. As you will see in the next section, associated types provide exactly that capability.

struct Container(i32, i32);

// A trait which checks if 2 items are stored inside of container.
// Also retrieves first or last value.
trait Contains<A, B> {
    fn contains(&self, &A, &B) -> bool; // Explicitly requires `A` and `B`.
    fn first(&self) -> i32; // Doesn't explicitly require `A` or `B`.
    fn last(&self) -> i32;  // Doesn't explicitly require `A` or `B`.

impl Contains<i32, i32> for Container {
    // True if the numbers stored are equal.
    fn contains(&self, number_1: &i32, number_2: &i32) -> bool {
        (&self.0 == number_1) && (&self.1 == number_2)

    // Grab the first number.
    fn first(&self) -> i32 { self.0 }

    // Grab the last number.
    fn last(&self) -> i32 { self.1 }

// `C` contains `A` and `B`. In light of that, having to express `A` and
// `B` again is a nuisance.
fn difference<A, B, C>(container: &C) -> i32 where
    C: Contains<A, B> {
    container.last() - container.first()

fn main() {
    let number_1 = 3;
    let number_2 = 10;

    let container = Container(number_1, number_2);

    println!("Does container contain {} and {}: {}",
        &number_1, &number_2,
        container.contains(&number_1, &number_2));
    println!("First number: {}", container.first());
    println!("Last number: {}", container.last());

    println!("The difference is: {}", difference(&container));

See also:

structs, and traits