Date: 2018-06-04

Thomas Köppe <>

ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 22/WG 21 P0806R2


Deprecate implicit capture of this via [=]


  1. Revision history
  2. Summary
  3. Discussion
  4. Proposed wording
  5. Future directions
  6. Compatibility, upgrade path, warnings

Revision history

Historical note: Revision 0 proposed to deprecate the implicit capture of this for both [=] and [&] capture-defaults. During discussion in Albuquerque, EWG wanted to retain [&] as an idiomatic way to capture this and only supported the deprecation the case of [=].


We propose to deprecate the implicit capture of this in a lambda expression with a capture-default [=]. Users should explicitly use one of [=, this] or [=, *this].

Before the proposalWith the proposal
struct Foo {   int n = 0;   void f(int a) {     g([=](int k) { return n + a * k; });     g([=, *this](int k) { return n + a * k; });     g([&, a](int k) { n += a * k; });   } };
struct Foo {   int n = 0;   void f(int a) {     g([=, this](int k) { return n + a * k; });     g([=, *this](int k) { return n + a * k; });     g([&, a](int k) { n += a * k; });   } };


There are two kinds of default capture in a lambda expression:

When the lambda expression occurs inside a non-static class member function, any name foo of a non-static class member is interpreted as this->foo, where this is now bound to a local data member of the closure object. This copy is initialised from the value of this of the surrounding class member function for both kinds of default capture.

This situation is somewhat surprising and irregular. The semantics of capture-by-reference suggest that class members should refer directly to class members of the containing object. On the other hand, this is a pointer value, and it is clearly itself copied into the closure object. So whichever way one looks at the capture, one can rationalise for both [&] and [=] that they cause a copy of this to be stored in the closure object. By contrast, neither capture default effects the capture of [*this], which would copy the entire containing object into the closure object and rebind this to point to that copy.

At this point, some historic background is helpful. The this keyword was introduced to C++ before references. At the time, C++ was translated into C, and the simple pointer semantics of this were convenient. If the entire feature set of references, value categories and classes had been designed together, this would have been an lvalue designating the object, and not a prvalue designating the address of the object. We can adopt this historic perspective by thinking of the fundamental object as “*this” rather than this. Let us consider how we might capture this object:

In C++14, the fact that both default captures captured the this pointer was perhaps peculiar, but unambiguous. But C++17 added genuine value-capture of the containing object via [*this], so that it is now more surprising that [=] means [=, this] and not [=, *this]. In other words, one default capture ([&]) captures *this in the way that would be redundant when spelled out, but the other capture ([=]) captures it in the non-redundant way.

This inconsistency in defaults is confusing. Users may well know that there exists an inconsistency, but it is much harder to know which way round the inconsistency goes. For this reason, we propose that users should never rely on implicit capture of *this via a [=]-capture-default. (The implicit capture of *this via [&] continues to be idiomatic. An earlier revision of this paper also proposed its deprecation.)

Beyond this proposal, we recommend that as a matter of style, code should only ever capture *this explicitly, even in the presence of capture-defaults.

Proposed wording

Append a sentence to [ expr.prim.lambda.capture]p7:

[…] If an expression potentially references a local entity within a declarative region in which it is odr-usable, and the expression would be potentially evaluated if the effect of any enclosing typeid expressions ([expr.typeid,]) were ignored, the entity is said to be implicitly captured by each intervening lambda-expression with an associated capture-default that does not explicitly capture it. The implicit capture of *this is deprecated when the capture-default is =; see [depr.capture.this, D.?]. [Example: […]

Insert a new section [D, depr], between the current [D.3, depr.except.spec] and [D.4, depr.cpp.headers].

D.? Implicit capture of *this by reference [depr.capture.this]

For compatibility with prior C++ International Standards, a lambda expression with capture-default = ([, expr.prim.lambda.capture]) can implicitly capture *this by reference. [Example:

struct X {   int x;   void foo(int n) {     auto f = [=]() { x = n; };         // deprecated: x means this->x, not a copy thereof     auto g = [=, this]() { x = n; };   // recommended replacement   } };

end example]

Future directions

The obvious next step would be to make the implicit capture of *this ill-formed in a [=]-capture. This could only happen post-C++20, since valid C++17 code must first upgrade to C++20 by changing [=] to [=, this], which is ill-formed in C++17 (added by P0409R2). The meaning of [=] could then be changed again in the farther future. Such a change would presumably affect a large amount of use cases, but the upgrade path is straight-forward. Alternatively, the feature could simply remain deprecated to guide users and authors of style guides to avoid implicit capture of *this in new code.

Compatibility, upgrade path, warnings

Let us briefly examine the upgrade path and compiler warnings that would likely result from this proposed change, in the spirit of P0684R2. The change does not break otherwise valid C++20 code, and the earliest revision in which a breakage from C++17 could appear is C++23. Therefore compilers for the current standard (C++17) need not emit any warning, but at best it would be a “future deprecation” warning rather than a “future breakage” warning. In C++20 conformance mode, compilers may reasonably emit a deprecation warning by default, or they could defer any warnings to the “future breakage” kind if and when a proposal for a breaking change is accepted. The replacement [=, this] for the deprecated [=] is ill-formed in C++17 and only available in C++20 as of P0409R2.