Copy assignment operators (C++ only)

The copy assignment operator lets you create a new object from an existing one by initialization. A copy assignment operator of a class A is a nonstatic non-template member function that has one of the following forms:

If you do not declare a copy assignment operator for a class A, the compiler will implicitly declare one for you which will be inline public.

The following example demonstrates implicitly defined and user-defined copy assignment operators:

#include <iostream>
using namespace std;

struct A {
  A& operator=(const A&) {
    cout << "A::operator=(const A&)" << endl;
    return *this;
  }

  A& operator=(A&) {
    cout << "A::operator=(A&)" << endl;
    return *this;
  }

};
class B {
  A a;
};

struct C {
  C& operator=(C&) {
    cout << "C::operator=(C&)" << endl;
    return *this;
  }
  C() { }
};

int main() {
  B x, y;
  x = y;

  A w, z;
  w = z;

  C i;
  const C j();
//  i = j;
}

The following is the output of the above example:

A::operator=(const A&)
A::operator=(A&)

The assignment x = y calls the implicitly defined copy assignment operator of B, which calls the user-defined copy assignment operator A::operator=(const A&). The assignment w = z calls the user-defined operator A::operator=(A&). The compiler will not allow the assignment i = j because an operator C::operator=(const C&) has not been defined.

The implicitly declared copy assignment operator of a class A will have the form A& A::operator=(const A&) if the following are true:

If the above are not true for a class A, the compiler will implicitly declare a copy assignment operator with the form A& A::operator=(A&).

The implicitly declared copy assignment operator returns a reference to the operator's argument.

The copy assignment operator of a derived class hides the copy assignment operator of its base class.

The compiler cannot allow a program in which the compiler must implicitly define a copy assignment operator for a class A and one or more of the following are true:

An implicitly defined copy assignment operator of a class A will first assign the direct base classes of A in the order that they appear in the definition of A. Next, the implicitly defined copy assignment operator will assign the nonstatic data members of A in the order of their declaration in the definition of A.

Related information