Mayank Jain Production Engineer at Facebook Inc.

Functors in C++ - Part I

What is a functor?

Functor or function object is a C++ class which defines the operator ( ). Functor let’s you create objects which “looks like” functions.

Consider below code to add two numbers:


struct MyAddFunctor {
	// Constructor
	MyAddFunctor(int inp){
		x = inp;
	// Defining operator()
	int operator()(int y){
		return x+y;
	int x;

int main(){
	MyAddFunctor func(5);
	int ret = func(10);
	//ret would be 15.
	assert(ret == 15);
	int ret2 = func(25);
	// ret would br 30
	assert(ret2 == 30);

Now MyAddFunctor is a functor. It is a functor because MyAddFunctor is C++ class which implemented operator().

How are functors called?

We call functors just like regular C++ class. Unlike functions we first need to create object of functor like MyAddFunctor func(5). We are passing 5 as argument only becase we have a constructor defined in MyAddFunctor class which takes int as an argument.

Now when object of functor class is created we invoke the function using () operator just like func(10).

We could also combine instantiation and invocation in single statement as MyAddFunctor(5)(10).

Why are they called as Function Objects?

The reason why they are called as function objects is because we can call class MyAddFunctor as if it is a function. Example : func(10).

Why are functors used?

The main advantage of using functor is that they store state. Consider our previous example of MyAddFunctor. In that example we stored value of x in the class and so we didn’t need to pass x in each call.

One can argue that the work done by MyAddFunctor can simply be done by writing C++ function as below:

int addFunction(int x){
	return 5+x;

But in addFunction we are hardcoding the value 5 and in functor we are not doing so. So MyAddFunctor is more customizable.

Functors are often used in STL. We will talk about functors more in next blog post. Till then stay tuned and let me know your comments on this post.