Rust Conversion traits


  • AsRef and Borrow are similar but serve distinct purposes. Borrow is used to treat multiple borrowing methods similarly, or to treat borrowed values like their owned counterparts, while AsRef is used for genericizing references.
  • From<A> for B implies Into<B> for A, but not vice-versa.
  • From<A> for A is implicitly implemented.


Rust's From trait is a general-purpose trait for converting between types. For any two types TypeA and TypeB,

impl From<TypeA> for TypeB

indicates that an instance of TypeB is guaranteed to be constructible from an instance of TypeA. An implementation of From looks like this:

struct TypeA {
    a: u32,

struct TypeB {
    b: u32,

impl From<TypeA> for TypeB {
    fn from(src: TypeA) -> Self {
        TypeB {
            b: src.a,

AsRef & AsMut

std::convert::AsRef and std::convert::AsMut are used for cheaply converting types to references. For types A and B,

impl AsRef<B> for A

indicates that a &A can be converted to a &B and,

impl AsMut<B> for A

indicates that a &mut A can be converted to a &mut B.

This is useful for performing type conversions without copying or moving values. An example in the standard library is

fn open<P: AsRef<Path>>(path: P) -> Result<File>

This allows to accept not only Path, but also OsStr, OsString, str, String, and PathBuf with implicit conversion because these types all implement AsRef<Path>.

Borrow, BorrowMut and ToOwned

The std::borrow::Borrow and std::borrow::BorrowMut traits are used to treat borrowed types like owned types. For types A and B,

impl Borrow<B> for A

indicates that a borrowed A may be used where a B is desired. For instance, std::collections::HashMap.get() uses Borrow for its get() method, allowing a HashMap with keys of A to be indexed with a &B.

On the other hand, std::borrow::ToOwned implements the reverse relationship.

Thus, with the aforementioned types A and B one can implement:

impl ToOwned for B

Note: while A can implement Borrow<T> for multiple distinct types T, B can only implement ToOwned once.

Deref & DerefMut

The std::ops::Deref and std::ops::DerefMut traits are used for overloading the dereference operator, *x. For types A and B,

impl Deref<Target=B> for A

indicates that dereferencing a binding of &A will yield a &B and,

impl DerefMut for A

indicates that dereferencing a binding of &mut A will yield a &mut B.

Deref (resp. DerefMut) also provides a useful language feature called deref coercion, which allows a &A (resp. &mut A) to automatically coerce to a &B (resp. &mut B). This is commonly used when converting from String to &str, as &String is implicitly coerced to &str as needed.

Note: DerefMut does not support specifying the resulting type, it uses the same type as Deref does.

Note: Due to the use of an associated type (unlike in AsRef), a given type can only implement each of Deref and DerefMut at most once.