Lambda Expressions (Visual Basic)


Updated: July 20, 2015

For the latest documentation on Visual Studio 2017 RC, see Visual Studio 2017 RC Documentation.

A lambda expression is a function or subroutine without a name that can be used wherever a delegate is valid. Lambda expressions can be functions or subroutines and can be single-line or multi-line. You can pass values from the current scope to a lambda expression.

System_CAPS_ICON_note.jpg Note

The RemoveHandler statement is an exception. You cannot pass a lambda expression in for the delegate parameter of RemoveHandler.

You create lambda expressions by using the Function or Sub keyword, just as you create a standard function or subroutine. However, lambda expressions are included in a statement.

The following example is a lambda expression that increments its argument and returns the value. The example shows both the single-line and multi-line lambda expression syntax for a function.

        Dim increment1 = Function(x) x + 1
        Dim increment2 = Function(x)
                             Return x + 2
                         End Function

        ' Write the value 2.

        ' Write the value 4.

The following example is a lambda expression that writes a value to the console. The example shows both the single-line and multi-line lambda expression syntax for a subroutine.

        Dim writeline1 = Sub(x) Console.WriteLine(x)
        Dim writeline2 = Sub(x)
                         End Sub

        ' Write "Hello".

        ' Write "World"

Notice that in the previous examples the lambda expressions are assigned to a variable name. Whenever you refer to the variable, you invoke the lambda expression. You can also declare and invoke a lambda expression at the same time, as shown in the following example.

        Console.WriteLine((Function(num As Integer) num + 1)(5))

A lambda expression can be returned as the value of a function call (as is shown in the example in the Context section later in this topic), or passed in as an argument to a parameter that takes a delegate type, as shown in the following example.

Module Module2

    Sub Main()
        ' The following line will print Success, because 4 is even.
        testResult(4, Function(num) num Mod 2 = 0)
        ' The following line will print Failure, because 5 is not > 10.
        testResult(5, Function(num) num > 10)
    End Sub

    ' Sub testResult takes two arguments, an integer value and a 
    ' delegate function that takes an integer as input and returns
    ' a boolean. 
    ' If the function returns True for the integer argument, Success
    ' is displayed.
    ' If the function returns False for the integer argument, Failure
    ' is displayed.
    Sub testResult(ByVal value As Integer, ByVal fun As Func(Of Integer, Boolean))
        If fun(value) Then
        End If
    End Sub

End Module

The syntax of a lambda expression resembles that of a standard function or subroutine. The differences are as follows:

  • A lambda expression does not have a name.

  • Lambda expressions cannot have modifiers, such as Overloads or Overrides.

  • Single-line lambda functions do not use an As clause to designate the return type. Instead, the type is inferred from the value that the body of the lambda expression evaluates to. For example, if the body of the lambda expression is cust.City = "London", its return type is Boolean.

  • In multi-line lambda functions, you can either specify a return type by using an As clause, or omit the As clause so that the return type is inferred. When the As clause is omitted for a multi-line lambda function, the return type is inferred to be the dominant type from all the Return statements in the multi-line lambda function. The dominant type is a unique type that all other types can widen to. If this unique type cannot be determined, the dominant type is the unique type that all other types in the array can narrow to. If neither of these unique types can be determined, the dominant type is Object. In this case, if Option Strict is set to On, a compiler error occurs.

    For example, if the expressions supplied to the Return statement contain values of type Integer, Long, and Double, the resulting array is of type Double. Both Integer and Long widen to Double and only Double. Therefore, Double is the dominant type. For more information, see Widening and Narrowing Conversions.

  • The body of a single-line function must be an expression that returns a value, not a statement. There is no Return statement for single-line functions. The value returned by the single-line function is the value of the expression in the body of the function.

  • The body of a single-line subroutine must be single-line statement.

  • Single-line functions and subroutines do not include an End Function or End Sub statement.

  • You can specify the data type of a lambda expression parameter by using the As keyword, or the data type of the parameter can be inferred. Either all parameters must have specified data types or all must be inferred.

  • Optional and Paramarray parameters are not permitted.

  • Generic parameters are not permitted.

You can easily create lambda expressions and statements that incorporate asynchronous processing by using the Async and Await Operator keywords. For example, the following Windows Forms example contains an event handler that calls and awaits an async method, ExampleMethodAsync.

Public Class Form1  
    Async Sub Button1_Click(sender As Object, e As EventArgs) Handles Button1.Click  
        ' ExampleMethodAsync returns a Task.  
        Await ExampleMethodAsync()  
        TextBox1.Text = vbCrLf & "Control returned to button1_Click."  
    End Sub  
    Async Function ExampleMethodAsync() As Task  
        ' The following line simulates a task-returning asynchronous process.  
        Await Task.Delay(1000)  
    End Function  
End Class  

You can add the same event handler by using an async lambda in an AddHandler Statement. To add this handler, add an Async modifier before the lambda parameter list, as the following example shows.

Public Class Form1  
    Private Sub Form1_Load(sender As Object, e As EventArgs) Handles MyBase.Load  
        AddHandler Button1.Click,   
            Async Sub(sender1, e1)  
                ' ExampleMethodAsync returns a Task.  
                Await ExampleMethodAsync()  
                TextBox1.Text = vbCrLf & "Control returned to Button1_ Click."  
            End Sub  
    End Sub  
    Async Function ExampleMethodAsync() As Task  
        ' The following line simulates a task-returning asynchronous process.  
        Await Task.Delay(1000)  
    End Function  
End Class  

For more information about how to create and use async methods, see Asynchronous Programming with Async and Await.

A lambda expression shares its context with the scope within which it is defined. It has the same access rights as any code written in the containing scope. This includes access to member variables, functions and subs, Me, and parameters and local variables in the containing scope.

Access to local variables and parameters in the containing scope can extend beyond the lifetime of that scope. As long as a delegate referring to a lambda expression is not available to garbage collection, access to the variables in the original environment is retained. In the following example, variable target is local to makeTheGame, the method in which the lambda expression playTheGame is defined. Note that the returned lambda expression, assigned to takeAGuess in Main, still has access to the local variable target.

Module Module6

    Sub Main()
        ' Variable takeAGuess is a Boolean function. It stores the target
        ' number that is set in makeTheGame.
        Dim takeAGuess As gameDelegate = makeTheGame()

        ' Set up the loop to play the game.
        Dim guess As Integer
        Dim gameOver = False
        While Not gameOver
            guess = CInt(InputBox("Enter a number between 1 and 10 (0 to quit)", "Guessing Game", "0"))
            ' A guess of 0 means you want to give up.
            If guess = 0 Then
                gameOver = True
                ' Tests your guess and announces whether you are correct. Method takeAGuess
                ' is called multiple times with different guesses. The target value is not 
                ' accessible from Main and is not passed in.
                gameOver = takeAGuess(guess)
                Console.WriteLine("Guess of " & guess & " is " & gameOver)
            End If
        End While

    End Sub

    Delegate Function gameDelegate(ByVal aGuess As Integer) As Boolean

    Public Function makeTheGame() As gameDelegate

        ' Generate the target number, between 1 and 10. Notice that 
        ' target is a local variable. After you return from makeTheGame,
        ' it is not directly accessible.
        Dim target As Integer = CInt(Int(10 * Rnd() + 1))

        ' Print the answer if you want to be sure the game is not cheating
        ' by changing the target at each guess.
        Console.WriteLine("(Peeking at the answer) The target is " & target)

        ' The game is returned as a lambda expression. The lambda expression
        ' carries with it the environment in which it was created. This 
        ' environment includes the target number. Note that only the current
        ' guess is a parameter to the returned lambda expression, not the target. 

        ' Does the guess equal the target?
        Dim playTheGame = Function(guess As Integer) guess = target

        Return playTheGame

    End Function

End Module

The following example demonstrates the wide range of access rights of the nested lambda expression. When the returned lambda expression is executed from Main as aDel, it accesses these elements:

  • A field of the class in which it is defined: aField

  • A property of the class in which it is defined: aProp

  • A parameter of method functionWithNestedLambda, in which it is defined: level1

  • A local variable of functionWithNestedLambda: localVar

  • A parameter of the lambda expression in which it is nested: level2

Module Module3

    Sub Main()
        ' Create an instance of the class, with 1 as the value of 
        ' the property.
        Dim lambdaScopeDemoInstance = 
            New LambdaScopeDemoClass With {.Prop = 1}

        ' Variable aDel will be bound to the nested lambda expression  
        ' returned by the call to functionWithNestedLambda.
        ' The value 2 is sent in for parameter level1.
        Dim aDel As aDelegate = 

        ' Now the returned lambda expression is called, with 4 as the 
        ' value of parameter level3.
        Console.WriteLine("First value returned by aDel:   " & aDel(4))

        ' Change a few values to verify that the lambda expression has 
        ' access to the variables, not just their original values.
        lambdaScopeDemoInstance.aField = 20
        lambdaScopeDemoInstance.Prop = 30
        Console.WriteLine("Second value returned by aDel: " & aDel(40))
    End Sub

    Delegate Function aDelegate(
        ByVal delParameter As Integer) As Integer

    Public Class LambdaScopeDemoClass
        Public aField As Integer = 6
        Dim aProp As Integer

        Property Prop() As Integer
                Return aProp
            End Get
            Set(ByVal value As Integer)
                aProp = value
            End Set
        End Property

        Public Function functionWithNestedLambda(
            ByVal level1 As Integer) As aDelegate

            Dim localVar As Integer = 5

            ' When the nested lambda expression is executed the first 
            ' time, as aDel from Main, the variables have these values:
            ' level1 = 2
            ' level2 = 3, after aLambda is called in the Return statement
            ' level3 = 4, after aDel is called in Main
            ' locarVar = 5
            ' aField = 6
            ' aProp = 1
            ' The second time it is executed, two values have changed:
            ' aField = 20
            ' aProp = 30
            ' level3 = 40
            Dim aLambda = Function(level2 As Integer) _
                              Function(level3 As Integer) _
                                  level1 + level2 + level3 + localVar +
                                    aField + aProp

            ' The function returns the nested lambda, with 3 as the 
            ' value of parameter level2.
            Return aLambda(3)
        End Function

    End Class
End Module

A lambda expression can be implicitly converted to a compatible delegate type. For information about the general requirements for compatibility, see Relaxed Delegate Conversion. For example, the following code example shows a lambda expression that implicitly converts to Func(Of Integer, Boolean) or a matching delegate signature.

    ' Explicitly specify a delegate type.
    Delegate Function MultipleOfTen(ByVal num As Integer) As Boolean

    ' This function matches the delegate type.
    Function IsMultipleOfTen(ByVal num As Integer) As Boolean
        Return num Mod 10 = 0
    End Function

    ' This method takes an input parameter of the delegate type. 
    ' The checkDelegate parameter could also be of 
    ' type Func(Of Integer, Boolean).
    Sub CheckForMultipleOfTen(ByVal values As Integer(),
                              ByRef checkDelegate As MultipleOfTen)
        For Each value In values
            If checkDelegate(value) Then
                Console.WriteLine(value & " is a multiple of ten.")
                Console.WriteLine(value & " is not a multiple of ten.")
            End If
    End Sub

    ' This method shows both an explicitly defined delegate and a
    ' lambda expression passed to the same input parameter.
    Sub CheckValues()
        Dim values = {5, 10, 11, 20, 40, 30, 100, 3}
        CheckForMultipleOfTen(values, AddressOf IsMultipleOfTen)
        CheckForMultipleOfTen(values, Function(num) num Mod 10 = 0)
    End Sub

The following code example shows a lambda expression that implicitly converts to Sub(Of Double, String, Double) or a matching delegate signature.

Module Module1
    Delegate Sub StoreCalculation(ByVal value As Double,
                                  ByVal calcType As String,
                                  ByVal result As Double)

    Sub Main()
        ' Create a DataTable to store the data.
        Dim valuesTable = New DataTable("Calculations")
        valuesTable.Columns.Add("Value", GetType(Double))
        valuesTable.Columns.Add("Calculation", GetType(String))
        valuesTable.Columns.Add("Result", GetType(Double))

        ' Define a lambda subroutine to write to the DataTable.
        Dim writeToValuesTable = Sub(value As Double, calcType As String, result As Double)
                                     Dim row = valuesTable.NewRow()
                                     row(0) = value
                                     row(1) = calcType
                                     row(2) = result
                                 End Sub

        ' Define the source values.
        Dim s = {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9}

        ' Perform the calculations.
        Array.ForEach(s, Sub(c) CalculateSquare(c, writeToValuesTable))
        Array.ForEach(s, Sub(c) CalculateSquareRoot(c, writeToValuesTable))

        ' Display the data.
        Console.WriteLine("Value" & vbTab & "Calculation" & vbTab & "Result")
        For Each row As DataRow In valuesTable.Rows
            Console.WriteLine(row(0).ToString() & vbTab &
                              row(1).ToString() & vbTab &

    End Sub

    Sub CalculateSquare(ByVal number As Double, ByVal writeTo As StoreCalculation)
        writeTo(number, "Square     ", number ^ 2)
    End Sub

    Sub CalculateSquareRoot(ByVal number As Double, ByVal writeTo As StoreCalculation)
        writeTo(number, "Square Root", Math.Sqrt(number))
    End Sub
End Module

When you assign lambda expressions to delegates or pass them as arguments to procedures, you can specify the parameter names but omit their data types, letting the types be taken from the delegate.

  • The following example defines a lambda expression that returns True if the nullable argument has an assigned value, and False if its value is Nothing.

            Dim notNothing =
              Function(num? As Integer) num IsNot Nothing
            Dim arg As Integer = 14
            Console.WriteLine("Does the argument have an assigned value?")

  • The following example defines a lambda expression that returns the index of the last element in an array.

            Dim numbers() = {0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9}
            Dim lastIndex =
              Function(intArray() As Integer) intArray.Length - 1
            For i = 0 To lastIndex(numbers)
                numbers(i) += 1

Introduction to LINQ in Visual Basic
Function Statement
Sub Statement
Nullable Value Types
How to: Pass Procedures to Another Procedure in Visual Basic
How to: Create a Lambda Expression
Relaxed Delegate Conversion