Scala Language Tuples


Why are tuples limited to length 23?

Tuples are rewritten as objects by the compiler. The compiler has access to Tuple1 through Tuple22. This arbitrary limit was decided by language designers.

Why do tuple lengths count from 0?

A Tuple0 is equivalent to a Unit.

Creating a new Tuple

A tuple is a heterogeneous collection of two to twenty-two values. A tuple can be defined using parentheses. For tuples of size 2 (also called a 'pair') there's an arrow syntax.

scala> val x = (1, "hello") 
x: (Int, String) = (1,hello)
scala> val y = 2 -> "world" 
y: (Int, String) = (2,world)
scala> val z = 3 → "foo"     //example of using U+2192 RIGHTWARD ARROW
z: (Int, String) = (3,foo)

x is a tuple of size two. To access the elements of a tuple use ._1, through ._22. For instance, we can use x._1 to access the first element of the x tuple. x._2 accesses the second element. More elegantly, you can use tuple extractors.

The arrow syntax for creating tuples of size two is primarily used in Maps, which are collections of (key -> value) pairs:

scala> val m = Map[Int, String](2 -> "world")
m: scala.collection.immutable.Map[Int,String] = Map(2 -> world)

scala> m + x
res0: scala.collection.immutable.Map[Int,String] = Map(2 -> world, 1 -> hello)

scala> (m + x).toList
res1: List[(Int, String)] = List((2,world), (1,hello))

The syntax for the pair in the map is the arrow syntax, making it clear that 1 is the key and a is the value associated with that key.

Tuples within Collections

Tuples are often used within collections but they must be handled in a specific way. For example, given the following list of tuples:

scala> val l = List(1 -> 2, 2 -> 3, 3 -> 4)
l: List[(Int, Int)] = List((1,2), (2,3), (3,4))

It may seem natural to add the elements together using implicit tuple-unpacking:

scala> Int, e2: Int) => e1 + e2)

However this results in the following error:

<console>:9: error: type mismatch;
 found   : (Int, Int) => Int
 required: ((Int, Int)) => ?
     Int, e2: Int) => e1 + e2)

Scala cannot implicitly unpack the tuples in this manner. We have two options to fix this map. The first is to use the positional accessors _1 and _2:

scala> => e._1 + e._2)
res1: List[Int] = List(3, 5, 7)

The other option is to use a case statement to unpack the tuples using pattern matching:

scala>{ case (e1: Int, e2: Int) => e1 + e2}
res2: List[Int] = List(3, 5, 7)

These restrictions apply for any higher-order-function applied to a collection of tuples.