Advanced Pattern Matching

Fallthrough, Break and Labels

Fallthrough, Break and Labels

The following is not directly related to pattern matching but only affects the switch keyword, so I'll keep it brief. By default, and unlike C/C++/Objective-C, switch cases do not fall through into the next case which is why in Swift, you don't need to write break for every case. If you never used Objective-C or C and this confuses you, here's a short example that would print "1, 2, 3":

/* This is C Code */
switch (2) {
case 1: printf("1");
case 2: printf("2");
case 3: printf("3");

You would need to use case 1: printf("1"); break; in order to not automatically fall through into the next case.


In Swift, it is the other way around. If you actually want to fall through into the other case, you can opt into this behaviour with the fallthrough keyword.

switch 5 {
case 5:
 print("Is 5")
 print("Is a number")
// Will print: "Is 5" "Is a number"

This only works, if your switch cases do not establish let variables, because then Swift would not know what to do.


You can use break to break out of a switch statement early. Why would you do that if there's no default fallthrough? For example if you can only realize within the case that a certain requirement is not met and you can't execute the case any further:

let userType = "system"
let userID = 10
switch (userType, userID)  {
case ("system", _):
  guard let userData = getSystemUser(userID) 
     else { break }
  print("user info: \(userData)")
default: ()
... more code that needs to be executed

Here, we don't want to call insertIntoRemoteData when the result from getSystemUser is nil. Of course, you could just use an if let here, but if multiple of those cases come together, you quickly end up with a bunch of horrifyingly ugly nested if lets.


But what if you execute your switch in a while loop and you want to break out of the loop, not the switch? For those cases, Swift allows you to define labels to break or continue to:

gameLoop: while true {
  switch state() {
  case .waiting: continue gameLoop
  case .done: calculateNextState()
  case .gameOver: break gameLoop

See how we explicitly tell Swift in the gameOver case that it should not break out of the switch statement but should break out of the gameLoop instead.

We've discussed the syntax and implementation details of switch and pattern matching. Now, let us have a look at some interesting (more or less) real world examples.