oryan_dunn oryan_dunn - 1 year ago 54
C++ Question

Why doesn't C++11 curly brace initialzation in constructor initialization list work when parens initializaton does?

How is {} initialization in a constructor initialization list different from () initialization when initializing reference to abstract types? Take class Bar below:

class AbstractBase
AbstractBase() {}
virtual ~AbstractBase() = default;

virtual void ab() = 0;

class Foo : public AbstractBase
Foo() {}

void ab() {}

class Bar
Bar(const AbstractBase& base) : myBase{base} {}

const AbstractBase& myBase;

int main()
Foo f{};
Bar b{f};


When compiling, I get the error

test5.cpp: In constructor ‘Bar::Bar(const AbstractBase&)’:
test5.cpp:22:48: error: cannot allocate an object of abstract type ‘AbstractBase’
Bar(const AbstractBase& base) : myBase{base}
test5.cpp:2:7: note: because the following virtual functions are pure within ‘AbstractBase’:
class AbstractBase
test5.cpp:8:18: note: virtual void AbstractBase::ab()
virtual void ab() = 0;

Changing the line

Bar(const AbstractBase& base) : myBase(base) {}

it compiles and runs fine.

Reading through Stroustrup's C++11 book, I was under the impression that {} was the same as () in most all cases, except where there was an ambiguity between constructors that take std::initializer_list<> and other constructors, and cases where using auto as the type, neither of which I'm doing here.

Answer Source

Short answer: This was a bug in the Standard which is fixed in C++14, and g++ 4.9 has the fix (retroactively applied to C++11 mode too). Defect Report 1288

Here's a simpler example:

struct S
    int x;
    S() { }     // this causes S to not be an aggregate (otherwise aggregate 
                // initialization is used instead of list initialization)

S x = 5;
S const &y { x } ;    

x = 6;
std::cout << y << std::endl;     // output : 5

In the text of C++11, the meaning of S const &y {x}; is not to bind y to x; in fact the meaning is to create a temporary and bind a reference to that. From C++11 [dcl.init.ref]/3:

Otherwise, if T is a reference type, a prvalue temporary of the type referenced by T is list-initialized, and the reference is bound to that temporary. [Note: As usual, the binding will fail and the program is ill-formed if the reference type is an lvalue reference to a non-const type. —end note ]

This is pretty silly , clearly the intent of this code is to bind y directly to x. In C++14 the text was changed:

Otherwise, if the initializer list has a single element of type E and either T is not a reference type or its referenced type is reference-related to E, the object or reference is initialized from that element;

Since a type is reference-related to itself (or one of its base classes), in my sample here and in your actual code, it should actually bind correctly.

Your error message comes from the compiler following the C++11 wording and attempting to create a temporary from base to bind the reference to; and this fails because base is of an abstract type.