Bounded Type Parameters

There may be times when you want to restrict the types that can be used as type arguments in a parameterized type. For example, a method that operates on numbers might only want to accept instances of Number or its subclasses. This is what bounded type parameters are for.

To declare a bounded type parameter, list the type parameter's name, followed by the extends keyword, followed by its upper bound, which in this example is Number . Note that, in this context, extends is used in a general sense to mean either "extends" (as in classes) or "implements" (as in interfaces).

public class Box<T> {

    private T t;          

    public void set(T t) {
        this.t = t;
    }

    public T get() {
        return t;
    }

    public <U extends Number> void inspect(U u){
        System.out.println("T: " + t.getClass().getName());
        System.out.println("U: " + u.getClass().getName());
    }

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        Box<Integer> integerBox = new Box<Integer>();
        integerBox.set(new Integer(10));
        integerBox.inspect("some text"); // error: this is still String!
    }
}

By modifying our generic method to include this bounded type parameter, compilation will now fail, since our invocation of inspect still includes a String :

Box.java:21: <U>inspect(U) in Box<java.lang.Integer> cannot
  be applied to (java.lang.String)
                        integerBox.inspect("10");
                                  ^
1 error

In addition to limiting the types you can use to instantiate a generic type, bounded type parameters allow you to invoke methods defined in the bounds:

public class NaturalNumber<T extends Integer> {

    private T n;

    public NaturalNumber(T n)  { this.n = n; }

    public boolean isEven() {
        return n.intValue() % 2 == 0;
    }

    // ...
}

The isEven method invokes the intValue method defined in the Integer class through n .

Multiple Bounds

The preceding example illustrates the use of a type parameter with a single bound, but a type parameter can have multiple bounds :

<T extends B1 & B2 & B3>

A type variable with multiple bounds is a subtype of all the types listed in the bound. If one of the bounds is a class, it must be specified first. For example:

Class A { /* ... */ }
interface B { /* ... */ }
interface C { /* ... */ }

class D <T extends A & B & C> { /* ... */ }

If bound A is not specified first, you get a compile-time error:

class D <T extends B & A & C> { /* ... */ }  // compile-time error