Objective C — narrow instance variable types in subclasses?

Is it possible to narrow the allowed type of an ivar in a subclass. Something like this:

@interface person: NSObject {
  NSArray *friendArray;

@interface mutablePerson: person {
  NSMutableArray *friendArray;

I just tried that exact code, and Xcode gave me a compile error. I’m wondering if there is a way around it.

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  • The project I am working on is going to have a lot of this sort of situation. I understand that I can use casts to make the code work. But I will be making an awful lot of casts if I do that, and I’m wondering if there is a better way.

    4 Solutions Collect From Internet About “Objective C — narrow instance variable types in subclasses?”

    No, you can’t redeclare ivars at all. However, you can make a new method based property without making a new ivar.

    @property (nonatomic, copy) NSMutableArray* mutableFriends;
    @implementation MutablePerson
    - (NSMutableArray*)mutableFriends {
      return (NSMutableArray*)friendArray;
    - (void)setMutableFriends:(NSMutableArray*)friends {
      self.friendsArray = [friends mutableCopy];

    @class doesn’t make sense at all… it should be @interface. So the first error is purely syntactical.

    And no, you cannot change the type of an ivar. And that’s for a good reason: Narrowing it down (as you do) can’t work, because the parent class might rely on a different implementation. Widening it can’t work as well (mainly for the analogous reason.

    If the compiler says ‘no’ then that’s your answer. I would use accessors:

    -(NSArray *)friends;
    -(void)addFriend:(person *)friend;

    In the MutablePerson you could declare another array to store friends or you could access the ivar directly in addFriend::

    -(void)addFriend:(person *)friend
        _friendsArray = [_friendsArray arrayByAddingObject: friend];

    Accessing ivars directly isn’t smart. I would reconsider your class design. What’s the rationale for having a mutable and immutable versions of person?

    I ended overriding the setter to assert that the object being set is of the appropriate type, and creating a new read-only getter, like this:

    @interface MutablePerson {
    @property (readonly) NSMutableArray *mutableFriendArray;
    @implementation MutablePerson
    -(NSMutableArray *) mutableFriendArray {
      NSMutableArray *ret = (NSMutableArray *)[super friendArray];
      NSAssert ([ret isKindOfClass: [NSMutableArray class]], @"array should be mutable");
      return ret;
    -(void) setFriendArray: (NSMutableArray *) array {
      NSAssert ([array isKindOfClass: [NSMutableArray class]], @"array should be mutable");
      [super setFriendArray: array];