Difference between any/interface{} as constraint vs. type of argument?

Beside any and interface{} being type aliases — hence, equivalent in usage —, there is a practical difference between any as type parameter and any as regular function argument, as in your example.

The difference is that in printAny[T any](foo T) the type of foo is not any/interface{}, but it’s T. And T after instantiation is a concrete type, that may or may not be an interface itself. You can then only pass arguments to an instantiated printAny that can be assigned to that concrete type.

How this impacts your code is most evident with multiple arguments. If we change the function signatures a bit:

func printInterface(foo, bar any) {
    fmt.Println(foo, bar)

func printAny[T any](foo, bar T) {
    fmt.Println(foo, bar)

After instantiation:

  • the function printAny accepts any two arguments of the same type — whichever is used to instantiate T
  • printInterface, which is equivalent to printInterface(foo, bar interface{}) can still accept two arguments of different types, since both would be individually assignable to any/interface{}.
printInterface(12.5, 0.1)    // ok
printInterface(12.5, "blah") // ok, int and string individually assignable to any

printAny(10, 20)             // ok, T inferred to int, 20 assignable to int
printAny(10, "k")            // compiler error, T inferred to int, "k" not assignable to int
printAny[any](10, "k")       // ok, T explicitly instantiated to any, int and string assignable to any

printAny(nil, nil)           // compiler error, no way to infer T
printAny[any](nil, nil)      // ok, T explicitly instantiated to any, nil assignable to any

A playground: https://go.dev/play/p/pDjP986cj96

Note: the generic version cannot be called with nil without explicit type arguments simply because nil alone doesn’t carry type information, so the compiler can’t infer T. However nil can be normally assigned to variables of interface type.

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