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02.28.2022 - TypeScript / Type Annotation vs Type Assertion

By default, the TypeScript compiler tries its best to analyze the code and infer the type of your variables.

let a = 10; // typeof a == number
let b = "hello"; // typeof b == string

Type Assertion is when you tell the compiler that you know a variable has a specific type, so it doesn’t have to make a guess:

let a: any = 10;
let b = a as number;

This might be helpful in some cases when TypeScript does not have enough information about the type of some values, for example:

const parsedData = JSON.parse(data) as SomeType;
 
// or
 
const ref = useRef<HTMLInputElement>(null);

Type Annotation is when you tell the compiler that a variable is expected to have a specific type, and if it’s not, it should be a bug:

let a: number = "hello"; // Error!
 
type Foo {
    one: string;
    two: number;
};
 
let b: Foo = { one: "hello", two: 10 }; // OK

Using type assertion might be helpful in some cases, but it will weaken the type checking feature of TypeScript. Let’s take a look at the following example:

let a = { one: "hello" } as Foo; // No error
 
let b: Foo = { one: "hello" }; // Error

As mentioned earlier, TypeScript will try to infer the type for both a and b, and in this case, both have the shape of { one: string }.

Since we convinced TypeScript that the type of a is Foo, even if this seems to be a mismatch, TypeScript will trust you and ignore the type error. It’s not the case for b, TypeScript knows that we are expecting a type { one: string, two: number } instead of a { one: string }.

Note that, if the shape of a is clearly mismatched with Foo, TypeScript will be able to stop you:

let a = { one: "hello", two: "world" } as Foo; // Error

So, it’s a best practice to prefer type annotation over type assertion in most cases.

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