C++ Steps of Overload Resolution


The steps of overload resolution are:

  1. Find candidate functions via name lookup. Unqualified calls will perform both regular unqualified lookup as well as argument-dependent lookup (if applicable).

  2. Filter the set of candidate functions to a set of viable functions. A viable function for which there exists an implicit conversion sequence between the arguments the function is called with and the parameters the function takes.

    void f(char);          // (1)
    void f(int ) = delete; // (2)
    void f();              // (3)
    void f(int& );         // (4)
    f(4); // 1,2 are viable (even though 2 is deleted!) 
          // 3 is not viable because the argument lists don't match
          // 4 is not viable because we cannot bind a temporary to 
          //     a non-const lvalue reference
  3. Pick the best viable candidate. A viable function F1 is a better function than another viable function F2 if the implicit conversion sequence for each argument in F1 is not worse than the corresponding implicit conversion sequence in F2, and...:

    3.1. For some argument, the implicit conversion sequence for that argument in F1 is a better conversion sequence than for that argument in F2, or

    void f(int );  // (1)
    void f(char ); // (2)
    f(4);  // call (1), better conversion sequence

    3.2. In a user-defined conversion, the standard conversion sequence from the return of F1 to the destination type is a better conversion sequence than that of the return type of F2, or

    struct A 
        operator int();
        operator double();
    } a;
    int i = a; // a.operator int() is better than a.operator double() and a conversion
    float f = a; // ambiguous

    3.3. In a direct reference binding, F1 has the same kind of reference by F2 is not, or

    struct A 
        operator X&();  // #1
        operator X&&(); // #2
    A a;
    X& lx = a;  // calls #1
    X&& rx = a; // calls #2

    3.4. F1 is not a function template specialization, but F2 is, or

    template <class T> void f(T ); // #1
    void f(int );                  // #2
    f(42); // calls #2, the non-template

    3.5. F1 and F2 are both function template specializations, but F1 is more specialized than F2.

    template <class T> void f(T );  // #1
    template <class T> void f(T* ); // #2
    int* p;
    f(p); // calls #2, more specialized

The ordering here is significant. The better conversion sequence check happens before the template vs non-template check. This leads to a common error with overloading on forwarding reference:

struct A {
    A(A const& ); // #1
    template <class T>
    A(T&& );      // #2, not constrained

A a;
A b(a); // calls #2!
        // #1 is not a template but #2 resolves to
        // A(A& ), which is a less cv-qualified reference than #1
        // which makes it a better implicit conversion sequence

If there's no single best viable candidate at the end, the call is ambiguous:

void f(double ) { }
void f(float ) { }

f(42); // error: ambiguous