TypeScript String Literal Types


Example

String literal types allow you to specify the exact value a string can have.

let myFavoritePet: "dog";
myFavoritePet = "dog";

Any other string will give a error.

// Error: Type '"rock"' is not assignable to type '"dog"'.
// myFavoritePet = "rock";

Together with Type Aliases and Union Types you get a enum-like behavior.

type Species = "cat" | "dog" | "bird";

function buyPet(pet: Species, name: string) : Pet { /*...*/ }

buyPet(myFavoritePet /* "dog" as defined above */, "Rocky");

// Error: Argument of type '"rock"' is not assignable to parameter of type "'cat' | "dog" | "bird". Type '"rock"' is not assignable to type '"bird"'.
// buyPet("rock", "Rocky");

String Literal Types can be used to distinguish overloads.

function buyPet(pet: Species, name: string) : Pet;
function buyPet(pet: "cat", name: string): Cat;
function buyPet(pet: "dog", name: string): Dog;
function buyPet(pet: "bird", name: string): Bird;
function buyPet(pet: Species, name: string) : Pet { /*...*/ }

let dog = buyPet(myFavoritePet /* "dog" as defined above */, "Rocky");
// dog is from type Dog (dog: Dog)

They works well for User-Defined Type Guards.

interface Pet {
    species: Species;
    eat();
    sleep();
}

interface Cat extends Pet {
    species: "cat";
}

interface Bird extends Pet {
    species: "bird";
    sing();
}

function petIsCat(pet: Pet): pet is Cat {
    return pet.species === "cat";
}

function petIsBird(pet: Pet): pet is Bird {
    return pet.species === "bird";
}

function playWithPet(pet: Pet){
    if(petIsCat(pet)) {
        // pet is now from type Cat (pet: Cat)
        pet.eat();
        pet.sleep();
    } else if(petIsBird(pet)) {
        // pet is now from type Bird (pet: Bird)
        pet.eat();
        pet.sing();
        pet.sleep();
    }
}

Full example code

let myFavoritePet: "dog";
myFavoritePet = "dog";

// Error: Type '"rock"' is not assignable to type '"dog"'.
// myFavoritePet = "rock";

type Species = "cat" | "dog" | "bird";

interface Pet {
    species: Species;
    name: string;
    eat();
    walk();
    sleep();
}

interface Cat extends Pet {
    species: "cat";
}

interface Dog extends Pet {
    species: "dog";
}

interface Bird extends Pet {
    species: "bird";
    sing();
}

// Error: Interface 'Rock' incorrectly extends interface 'Pet'. Types of property 'species' are incompatible. Type '"rock"' is not assignable to type '"cat" | "dog" | "bird"'. Type '"rock"' is not assignable to type '"bird"'.
// interface Rock extends Pet { 
//      type: "rock"; 
// }

function buyPet(pet: Species, name: string) : Pet;
function buyPet(pet: "cat", name: string): Cat;
function buyPet(pet: "dog", name: string): Dog;
function buyPet(pet: "bird", name: string): Bird;
function buyPet(pet: Species, name: string) : Pet {
    if(pet === "cat") { 
        return {
            species: "cat",
            name: name,
            eat: function () {
                console.log(`${this.name} eats.`);
            }, walk: function () {
                console.log(`${this.name} walks.`);
            }, sleep: function () {
                console.log(`${this.name} sleeps.`);
            }
        } as Cat;
    } else if(pet === "dog") { 
        return {
            species: "dog",
            name: name,
            eat: function () {
                console.log(`${this.name} eats.`);
            }, walk: function () {
                console.log(`${this.name} walks.`);
            }, sleep: function () {
                console.log(`${this.name} sleeps.`);
            }
        } as Dog;
    } else if(pet === "bird") { 
        return {
            species: "bird",
            name: name,
            eat: function () {
                console.log(`${this.name} eats.`);
            }, walk: function () {
                console.log(`${this.name} walks.`);
            }, sleep: function () {
                console.log(`${this.name} sleeps.`);
            }, sing: function () {
                console.log(`${this.name} sings.`);
            }
        } as Bird;
    } else {
        throw `Sorry we don't have a ${pet}. Would you like to buy a dog?`;
    }
}

function petIsCat(pet: Pet): pet is Cat {
    return pet.species === "cat";
}

function petIsDog(pet: Pet): pet is Dog {
    return pet.species === "dog";
}

function petIsBird(pet: Pet): pet is Bird {
    return pet.species === "bird";
}

function playWithPet(pet: Pet) {
    console.log(`Hey ${pet.name}, let's play.`);
    
    if(petIsCat(pet)) {
        // pet is now from type Cat (pet: Cat)
        
        pet.eat();
        pet.sleep();
        
        // Error: Type '"bird"' is not assignable to type '"cat"'.
        // pet.type = "bird";
        
        // Error: Property 'sing' does not exist on type 'Cat'.
        // pet.sing();
        
    } else if(petIsDog(pet)) {
        // pet is now from type Dog (pet: Dog)
        
        pet.eat();
        pet.walk();
        pet.sleep();
        
    } else if(petIsBird(pet)) {
        // pet is now from type Bird (pet: Bird)
    
        pet.eat();
        pet.sing();
        pet.sleep();
    } else {
        throw "An unknown pet. Did you buy a rock?";
    }
}

let dog = buyPet(myFavoritePet /* "dog" as defined above */, "Rocky");
// dog is from type Dog (dog: Dog)

// Error: Argument of type '"rock"' is not assignable to parameter of type "'cat' | "dog" | "bird". Type '"rock"' is not assignable to type '"bird"'.
// buyPet("rock", "Rocky");

playWithPet(dog);
// Output: Hey Rocky, let's play.
//         Rocky eats.
//         Rocky walks.
//         Rocky sleeps.