Why is C# statically typed?

As others have said, C# is static/strongly-typed. But I take your question more to be “Why would you want C# to be static/strongly-typed like this? What advantages does this have over dynamic languages?”

With that in mind, there are lots of good reasons:

  • Stability Certain kinds of errors are now caught automatically by the compiler, before the code ever makes it anywhere close to production.
  • Readability/Maintainability You are now providing more information about how the code is supposed to work to future developers who read it. You add information that a specific variable is intended to hold a certain kind of value, and that helps programmers reason about what the purpose of that variable is.

    This is probably why, for example, Microsoft’s style guidelines recommended that VB6 programmers put a type prefix with variable names, but that VB.Net programmers do not.

  • Performance This is the weakest reason, but late-binding/duck typing can be slower. In the end, a variable refers to memory that is structured in some specific way. Without strong types, the program will have to do extra type verification or conversion behind the scenes at runtime as you use memory that is structured one way physically as if it were structured in another way logically.

    I hesitate to include this point, because ultimately you often have to do those conversions in a strongly typed language as well. It’s just that the strongly typed language leaves the exact timing and extent of the conversion to the programmer, and does no extra work unless it needs to be done. It also allows the programmer to force a more advantageous data type. But these really are attributes of the programmer, rather than the platform.

    That would itself be a weak reason to omit the point, except that a good dynamic language will often make better choices than the programmer. This means a dynamic language can help many programmers write faster programs. Still, for good programmers, strongly-typed languages have the potential to be faster.

  • Better Dev Tools If your IDE knows what type a variable is expected to be, it can give you additional help about what kinds of things that variable can do. This is much harder for the IDE to do if it has to infer the type for you. And if you get more help with the minutia of an API from the IDE, then you as a developer will be able to get your head around a larger, richer API, and get there faster.

Or perhaps you were just wondering why you have to specify the class name twice for the same variable on the same line? The answer is two-fold:

  1. Often you don’t. In C# 3.0 and later you can use the var keyword instead of the type name in many cases. Variables created this way are still statically typed, but the type is now inferred for you by the compiler.
  2. Thanks to inheritance and interfaces sometimes the type on the left-hand side doesn’t match the type on the right hand side.

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