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Enums in Rust

Enumerations, or enums are data structures that allow for a list of pre-defined options in Rust. They are useful for pattern matching, defining expected conditions, errors, and more.

An example of enums in use would be defining different types of animal classes. An enum's values are called variants:

// Use the `enum` keyword to define an enum
// This derive statement is a macro that ensures we can use the `==` to compare enum values
// Here, we can see there are four variants that belong inside of the `AnimalType` enum.
enum AnimalType {

In a function, we can, for example, take any type that is AnimalType, which in turn means there are four possible values as to what it can be. The program can choose to implement different behavior based on the value of the enum:


This is where a match statement from the previous module would be ideal to use, as it will allow us to specify a case for each possible value in the AnimalType enum.

fn take_animal(name: &str, animal_type: AnimalType) {
if animal_type == AnimalType::Mammal {
println!("{name} is a mammal!");

This function takes a string literal as a name, &str, and specifically looks for whether the passed in AnimalType is a mammal or not. Enum values are accessed using a double colon, ::, and can be checked as a conditional statement if needed.

However, this function is rather bland and doesn't account for the other possibilities of AnimalType.

Basic Pattern Matching with Enums

If you recall, we used a match statement in the last module to cover a case where a variable could either be true or false. Applying this same concept with enums, we can ensure that all possible cases are covered.

This concept of matching a case to an outcome is called pattern matching, and is a very common design pattern in Rust.

// Same function, but expanded to cover all cases with `match`
fn take_animal(name: &str, animal_type: AnimalType) {
// The match state
match animal_type {
// The animal is a mammal!
AnimalType::Mammal => println!("{name} is a mammal!"),
// The animal is a reptile!
AnimalType::Reptile => println!("{name} is a reptile!"),
// The animal is a bird!
AnimalType::Birds => println!("{name} is a bird!"),
// The animal is a fish!
AnimalType::Fish => println!("{name} is a fish!"),

While this is entirely possible with a series of if and else if statements, using match is a more concise and powerful way to pair a specific input to a particular output. The value of animal_type, the match statement will print a line appropriate to that specific input.


Anything that is 'conditional', i.e., true or false, can be pattern matched. In future modules, you will see more examples of advanced pattern matching that take advantage of this powerful feature.

The syntax for specifying a match pattern starts with the keyword match, followed by the name of the value you wish to pattern match. Each possibility is then paired with a specific output using an arrow (=>):

// The possibility => output
AnimalType::Mammal => println!("{name} is a mammal!"),

Try it yourself!

What's happening here?

This code defines an enum, AnimalType, with four variants. A function is defined, take_animal, that calls for a string literal and AnimalType as parameters. A match statement then matches the input of AnimalType to the desired outcome.