C++ Base to derived conversion


Example

A pointer to base class can be converted to a pointer to derived class using static_cast. static_cast does not do any run-time checking and can lead to undefined behaviour when the pointer does not actually point to the desired type.

struct Base {};
struct Derived : Base {};
Derived d;
Base* p1 = &d;
Derived* p2 = p1;                        // error; cast required
Derived* p3 = static_cast<Derived*>(p1); // OK; p2 now points to Derived object
Base b;
Base* p4 = &b;
Derived* p5 = static_cast<Derived*>(p4); // undefined behaviour since p4 does not
                                         // point to a Derived object

Likewise, a reference to base class can be converted to a reference to derived class using static_cast.

struct Base {};
struct Derived : Base {};
Derived d;
Base& r1 = d;
Derived& r2 = r1;                        // error; cast required
Derived& r3 = static_cast<Derived&>(r1); // OK; r3 now refers to Derived object

If the source type is polymorphic, dynamic_cast can be used to perform a base to derived conversion. It performs a run-time check and failure is recoverable instead of producing undefined behaviour. In the pointer case, a null pointer is returned upon failure. In the reference case, an exception is thrown upon failure of type std::bad_cast (or a class derived from std::bad_cast).

struct Base { virtual ~Base(); }; // Base is polymorphic
struct Derived : Base {};
Base* b1 = new Derived;
Derived* d1 = dynamic_cast<Derived*>(b1); // OK; d1 points to Derived object
Base* b2 = new Base;
Derived* d2 = dynamic_cast<Derived*>(b2); // d2 is a null pointer