An expression is something that evaluates to something. Just like C++ more or less...

let x = 5 + 5; // expression evaluates to 10

But blocks are expressions too

Where it gets more interesting is that a block of code, denoted by curly braces also evaluates to an expression. This is legal code:

let x = {};
println!("x = {:?}", x);

What was assigned to x? In this case the block was empty so x was assigned with the value of (). The value () is a special unitary type that essentially means neither yes or no. It just means "value". That is the default type of any function or type. It works a little like void in C++ meaning the value is meaningless so don't even look at it.

x = ()

This block also returns a value of ().

let x = { println!("Hello"); };
println!("x = {:?}", x);

Again, that's because although the block does stuff (print Hello), it doesn't evaluate to anything so the compiler returns () for us.

So far so useless. But we can change what the block expression evaluates to:

let x = {
    let pi = 3.141592735;
    let r = 5.0;
    2.0 * pi * r
println!("x = {}", x);

Now x assigned with the result of the last line which is an expression. Note how the line is not terminated with a semicolon. That becomes the result of the block expression. If we’d put a semicolon on the end of that line as we did with the println!("Hello"), the expression would evaluate to ().

Use in functions

Trivial functions can just omit the return statement:

pub fn add_values(x: i32, y: i32) -> i32 {
  x + y

You can use return in blocks too

Sometimes you might explicitly need to use the return statement. The block expression evaluates at the end of the block so if you need to bail early you could just use return.

pub fn find(value: &str) -> i32 {
  if value.len() == 0 {
    return -1;

Simplifying switch statements

In C or C++ you'll often see code like this:

std::string result;
switch (server_state) {
  case WAITING:
    result = "Waiting";
  case RUNNING:
    result = "Running";
  case STOPPED:
    result = "Stopped";

The code wants to test a value in server_state and assign a string to result. Aside from looking a bit clunky it introduces the possibility of error since we might forget to assign, or add a break, or omit one of the values.

In Rust we can assign directly into result of from a match because each match condition is a block expression.

let result = match server_state {
    ServerState::WAITING => "Waiting",
    ServerState::RUNNING => "Running",
    ServerState::STOPPED => "Stopped",

Not only is this half the length it reduces the scope for error. The compiler will assign the block expression's value to the variable result. It will also check that each match block returns the same kind of type (so you can't return a float from one match and strings from others). It will also generate an error if the ServerState enum had other values that our match didn't handle.

Ternary operator

The ternary operator in C/C++ is an abbreviated way to perform an if/else expression condition, usually to assign the result to a variable.

bool x = (y / 2) == 4 ? true : false;

Rust has no such equivalent to a ternary operator but it can be accomplished using block expressions.

let x = if y / 2 == 4 { true } else { false };

Unlike C/C++ you could add additiona else ifs, matches or anything else to that providing each branch returns the same type.

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