Arithmetic operations with generic types in Delphi

Delphi Generics are intrinsically different from C++ template, and resemble more their C# counterpart.

In C++ you can do any operation on template types, and at time of the template instantiation the compiler checks that the operation you are performing in the template are available for the specific type you are using. If not you get a compiler error.

In Delphi (and many other languages) you declare a generic type possibly providing some declarative constraints, and those constraints -- base classes or interface -- determine the operations you can do on the generic type. At instantiation time, the only check is if the declared type fits the constraint.

Arguably, the Delphi language could add constraints for floating point or ordinal types, but this would provide a very limited flexibility (changing the floating or integer type you can use in the generic instance). I personally don't regard this as a critical feature.

Delphi generics do not support arithmetic operators that act on generic types. In order for the compiler to accept the code it needs to know that each operation on a generic type is going to be available upon instantiation.

Generic constraints allow you to tell the compiler what capabilities the type has. However generic constraints do not allow you to tell the compiler that the type supports arithmetjc operators.

Unfortunately what you are trying to do is simply not possible. For sure you can construct frameworks yourself that can use tools like interfaces to get the arithmetic performed but doing so gives up performance. If that is acceptable then fine. Otherwise you are best biting the bullet and avoiding generics here.

Oh for C++ templates.

Pointing this out for anyone else looking for an Object Pascal solution to this general issue:

Note that Free Pascal quite simply does support exactly what they're trying to do here (even in "Delphi-syntax compatibility" mode.)

As someone who had only used Free Pascal for a long time, I was honestly very surprised that Delphi doesn't allow this at all, once I realized that was the case. It's a significant limitation IMO.

Valid Free Pascal code:

program Example;

// Using Delphi-mode here allows us to declare and use
// generics with the same syntax as Delphi, as opposed to
// needing the "generic" and "specialize" keywords that
// FPC normally requires.

{$mode Delphi}

// To allow +=, another nice FPC feature...

{$COperators On}

  TGPoint<T> = record
    X, Y: T;
    // static class function instead of constructor here so we can inline it
    class function Create(constref AX, AY: T): TGPoint<T>; static; inline;
    // define our operator overload
    class operator Add(constref Left, Right: TGPoint<T>): TGPoint<T>; inline;

  class function TGPoint<T>.Create(constref AX, AY: T): TGPoint<T>;
    with Result do begin
      X := AX;
      Y := AY;

  class operator TGPoint<T>.Add(constref Left, Right: TGPoint<T>): TGPoint<T>;
    with Result do begin
      X := Left.X + Right.X;
      Y := Left.Y + Right.Y;

var SP: TGPoint<String>;

  SP := TGPoint<String>.Create('Hello, ', 'Hello, ');
  SP += TGPoint<String>.Create('world!', 'world!');
  with SP do begin

The program of course prints:

Hello, world!
Hello, world!