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Type Guards In TypeScript

Oct 14, 2022 · 3 min read


When working with union types in TypeScript, we will often come into a situation where we need to use type guard to please the TypeScript compiler. The compiler always apply its strong typing rules to ensure type safety.

Take a look at this code:

function add(arg1: string | number, arg2: string | number) {
return arg1 + arg2;

This is a function that accepts two parameters and returns their sum. The arg1 and arg2 parameters are union types. They can hold either a string or a number. Unfortunately, when we try to compile this code, we’ll get the following error:

error TS2365: Operator '+' cannot be applied to types 'string | number' and 'string | number'

The compiler is telling us that it cannot tell what type it should use when it attempts to add arg1 to arg2. Is it supposed to add number to a string, a string to a number, a string to a string, or a number to a number?

In JavaScript, “adding a string and a number” and “adding a number and a number” lead to different results. So the TypeScript compiler won’t let us compile before we solve this uncertainties.

This is where type guards come in. Type guard performs a check on our type, and then guarantees that type within its scope.

Implementing Type Guard

Let’s rewrite our add function to use type guard.

function add(arg1: string | number, arg2: string | number) {
if (typeof arg1 === "string") {
// arg1 is guaranteed to be a string in this scope
return arg1 + arg2;
if (typeof arg1 === "number" && typeof arg2 === "number") {
// both arg1 and arg2 are guaranteed to be a number in this scope
return arg1 + arg2;
// default: return both as strings
return arg1.toString() + arg2.toString();

The first if statement uses the JavaScript typeof keyword to test arg1’s type. If the type is a string, then the compiler knows that within the code block following it, arg1 is definitely a string, and will therefore treat arg1 as a string.

The second if statement is similar. We have two typeof checks to check whether both arg1 and arg2 are of type number. If they are both numbers, then the compiler knows that arg1 and arg2 are definitely of type number within the following code block.

Now, let’s test the function!

console.log(`"1" + "2" = ${add("1", "2")}`); // run first if block
console.log(`1 + 2 = ${add(1, 2)}`); // run second if block
console.log(`1 + "2" = ${add(1, "2")}`); // run default

The results:

"1" + "2" = 12
1 + 2 = 3
1 + "2" = 12


We can see that the first call to add is using two arguments that are strings. The code identifies the first argument as being of type string and therefore enters the first if statement block. The concatenation of the string “1” with “2” results in the string “12”.

The second add uses two numbers as arguments, and our code identifies both arguments as numbers, and as such adds the value 1 and the value 2, resulting in 3.

The third add uses a number as the first argument and a string as the second. The code therefore falls through to the default code, treating both arguments as strings.