Advanced and Practical Enum usage in Swift

Diving In: Basic Enums

released Fri, 01 Mar 2019
Swift Version 5.0

Diving In

A short overview of how to define and use enums.

We're working on a game, and the player can move in four directions. So our player movement is restricted. He can only go right or left. You could model that in the following manner:

if movement == \"left\" { ... }

else if movement == \"right\" { ...}

However this is dangerous, what if we have a typo in our code and movement is neither left nor right but leeft?. Wouldn't it be cool if the compiler would point out if we have a typo like that? You could just write:

let moveLeft = 0

let moveRight = 1

if movement == moveLeft { ... }

else if movement == moveRight { ... }

This would solve our problem of typos in the code, but if we had more movements, it would be an easy bug to forget to handle all the movements. Imagine somebody extends the code in a couple of months and adds two new movements:

let moveUp = 0

let moveDown = 1

This developer forgets to update the if logic, though, so now we have more movements but we forgot to handle them. Wouldn't it be great if the compiler would tell us if we forgot to handle all the cases of our movements? That's what the enum type is for:

Defining Basic Enums

Enums tell Swift that a particular set of cases belong together. Our movement enum could look like this:

enum Movement {

case left

case right


It is considered proper style in Swift to always use lowercase for the enum case name

Swift's switch allows you to handle all the states of an enum:

let myMovement = Movement.left

switch myMovement {

case Movement.left: player.goLeft()

case Movement.right: player.goRight()


If we would add another case (such as up), then the compiler would complain.

There's also a really nice shortcut in Swift. Since the compiler knows that myMovement is of type Movement you don't have to write that out explicitly. This also works:

switch myMovement {

case .left: player.goLeft()

case .right: player.goRight()


It is considered good style to not write out the enum name. Theyre may be situations where you have to do it in order to please the Compiler though.

Handling Enums

Besides the switch statement above, Swift also offers many more ways of handling enum types. Many of which can be found in our Pattern Matching Guide, some of the will also be handled in this guide on enum.