Advanced and Practical Enum usage in Swift

Associated Values

released Fri, 01 Mar 2019
Swift Version 5.0

Associated Values

Associated values are a fantastic way of attaching additional information to an enum case. Say you're writing a trading engine, and there're two different possible trade types. buy and sell. Each of them would be for a specific stock and amount:

Simple Example

enum Trade {

     case buy

     case sell


func trade(tradeType: Trade, stock: String, amount: Int) {}

However, the stock and amount clearly belong to the trade in question, having them as separate parameters feels unclean. You could embed it into a struct, but associated values allow for a much cleaner solution:

enum Trade {

     case buy(stock: String, amount: Int)

     case sell(stock: String, amount: Int)


func trade(type: Trade) {}

This defines two cases, buy and sell. Each of these cases has additional values attached to it: The stock and amount to buy / sell. These cases cannot exist without these additional values. You can't do this:

let trade =

You always have to initialize these cases with the associated values:

let trade =\"APPL\", 500)

Pattern Matching

If you want to access this information, again, pattern matching comes to the rescue:

let trade = \"AAPL\", amount: 500)

if case let, amount) = trade {

     print(\"buy \(amount) of \(stock)\")


Here, you're telling the Swift compiler the following: "If the trade is of type with the two values stock and amount, then let those two variables exist with the values". You kinda have to read this if line from right to left.

There's an alternative way of writing this with two let statements:

if case stock, let amount) = trade {




Associated values do not require labels. You can just denote the types you'd like to see in your enum case.

enum Trade {

    case buy(String, Int)

    case sell(String, Int)


// Initialize without labels

let trade = Trade.sell(\"APPL\", 500)

If you don't add labels, you also don't write them out when creating a case. If you add them, though, you'll have to always type them out when creating your enum cases.

Use Case Examples

Associated Values can be used in a variety of ways. What follows is a list of short examples in no particular order.

// Cases can have different values

enum UserAction {

   case openURL(url: NSURL)

   case switchProcess(processId: UInt32)

   case restart(time: NSDate?, intoCommandLine: Bool)


// Or imagine you're implementing a powerful text editor that allows you to have

// multiple selections, like Sublime Text here:


enum Selection {

   case none

   case single(Range<Int>)

   case multiple([Range<Int>])


// Or mapping different types of identifier codes

enum Barcode {

     case UPCA(numberSystem: Int, manufacturer: Int, product: Int, check: Int)

     case QRCode(productCode: String)


// Or, imagine you're wrapping a C library, like the Kqeue BSD/Darwin notification

// system:

enum KqueueEvent {

     case userEvent(identifier: UInt, fflags: [UInt32], data: Int)

     case readFD(fd: UInt, data: Int)

     case writeFD(fd: UInt, data: Int)

     case vnodeFD(fd: UInt, fflags: [UInt32], data: Int)

     case errorEvent(code: UInt, message: String)


// Finally, all user-wearable items in an RPG could be mapped with one

// enum, that encodes for each item the additional armor and weight

// Now, adding a new material like 'Diamond' is just one line of code and we'll have the option to add several new Diamond-Crafted wearables.

enum Wearable {

     enum Weight: Int {

         case light = 1

         case mid = 4

         case heavy = 10


     enum Armor: Int {

         case light = 2

         case strong = 8

         case heavy = 20


     case helmet(weight: Weight, armor: Armor)

     case breastplate(weight: Weight, armor: Armor)

     case shield(weight: Weight, armor: Armor)


let woodenHelmet = Wearable.helmet(weight: .light, armor: .light)