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Nullable Generic Structure

Note: This structure is new in the .NET Framework version 2.0.

Represents an object whose underlying type is a value type that can also be assigned a null reference (Nothing in Visual Basic) like a reference type.

Namespace: System
Assembly: mscorlib (in mscorlib.dll)

public struct Nullable<T> where T : struct
J# supports the use of generic types and methods, but not the declaration of new ones.
JScript does not support generic types and methods.

A type is said to be nullable if it can be assigned a value or can be assigned a null reference (Nothing in Visual Basic), which means the type has no value whatsoever. Consequently, a nullable type can express a value, or that no value exists. For example, a reference type such as String is nullable, whereas a value type such as Int32 is not. A value type cannot be nullable because it has enough capacity to express only the values appropriate for that type; it does not have the additional capacity required to express a value of null.

The Nullable structure supports using only a value type as a nullable type because reference types are nullable by design.

The Nullable class provides complementary support for the Nullable structure. The Nullable class supports obtaining the underlying type of a nullable type, and comparison and equality operations on pairs of nullable types whose underlying value type does not support generic comparison and equality operations.


Use nullable types to represent things that exist or do not exist depending on the circumstance. For example, an optional attribute of an HTML tag might exist in one tag but not another, or a nullable column of a database table might exist in one row of the table but not another.

You can represent the attribute or column as a field in a class and you can define the field as a value type. The field can contain all the valid values for the attribute or column, but cannot accommodate an additional value that means the attribute or column does not exist. In this case, define the field to be a nullable type instead of a value type.

Fundamental Properties

The two fundamental members of the Nullable structure are the HasValue and Value properties. If the HasValue property for a Nullable object is true, the value of the object can be accessed with the Value property. If the HasValue property is false, the value of the object is undefined and an attempt to access the Value property throws an InvalidOperationException.

Boxing and Unboxing

When a nullable type is boxed, the common language runtime automatically boxes the underlying value of the Nullable object, not the Nullable object itself. That is, if the HasValue property is true, the contents of the Value property is boxed. If the HasValue property is false, a null reference (Nothing in Visual Basic) is boxed. When the underlying value of a nullable type is unboxed, the common language runtime creates a new Nullable structure initialized to the underlying value.

The following code example defines three rows of a table in the Microsoft Pubs sample database. The table contains two columns that are not nullable and two columns that are nullable.

// This code example demonstrates the Nullable<T> class.
// The code example defines a database table in which two columns 
// are nullable. In the application, an array of rows is created 
// and initialized. The table rows could subsequently be 
// written to a database.

using System;

class Sample 
// Define the "titleAuthor" table of the Microsoft "pubs" database. 
    public struct titleAuthor 
    // Author ID; format ###-##-####
    public string au_id;
    // Title ID; format AA####
    public string title_id;
    // Author ORD is nullable.
    public short? au_ord;
    // Royalty Percent is nullable.
    public int? royaltyper;

    public static void Main() 
// Declare and initialize the titleAuthor array.
    titleAuthor[] ta = new titleAuthor[3];
    ta[0].au_id = "712-32-1176";
    ta[0].title_id = "PS3333";
    ta[0].au_ord = 1;
    ta[0].royaltyper = 100;
    ta[1].au_id = "213-46-8915";
    ta[1].title_id = "BU1032";
    ta[1].au_ord = null;
    ta[1].royaltyper = null;

    ta[2].au_id = "672-71-3249";
    ta[2].title_id = "TC7777";
    ta[2].au_ord = null;
    ta[2].royaltyper = 40;

// Display the values of the titleAuthor array elements, and 
// display a legend.
    Display("Title Authors Table", ta);
    Console.WriteLine("An Author ORD of -1 means no value is defined.");
    Console.WriteLine("A Royalty % of 0 means no value is defined.");

// Display the values of the titleAuthor array elements.
    public static void Display(string dspTitle, 
                               titleAuthor[] dspAllTitleAuthors)
    Console.WriteLine("*** {0} ***", dspTitle);
    foreach (titleAuthor dspTA in dspAllTitleAuthors)
       Console.WriteLine("Author ID ... {0}", dspTA.au_id);
       Console.WriteLine("Title ID .... {0}", dspTA.title_id);
       Console.WriteLine("Author ORD .. {0}", dspTA.au_ord ?? -1);
       Console.WriteLine("Royalty % ... {0}", dspTA.royaltyper ?? 0);

This code example produces the following results:

*** Title Authors Table ***
Author ID ... 712-32-1176
Title ID .... PS3333
Author ORD .. 1
Royalty % ... 100

Author ID ... 213-46-8915
Title ID .... BU1032
Author ORD .. -1
Royalty % ... 0

Author ID ... 672-71-3249
Title ID .... TC7777
Author ORD .. -1
Royalty % ... 40

An Author ORD of -1 means no value is defined.
A Royalty % of 0 means no value is defined.


Any public static (Shared in Visual Basic) members of this type are thread safe. Any instance members are not guaranteed to be thread safe.

Windows 98, Windows 2000 SP4, Windows CE, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows Mobile for Pocket PC, Windows Mobile for Smartphone, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP Media Center Edition, Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, Windows XP SP2, Windows XP Starter Edition

The .NET Framework does not support all versions of every platform. For a list of the supported versions, see System Requirements.

.NET Framework

Supported in: 2.0

.NET Compact Framework

Supported in: 2.0
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