A way of casting a base type to a derived type


I'm not sure if this is a strange thing to do or not, or if it is some how code smell...but I was wondering if there was a way (some sort of oop pattern would be nice) to "cast" a base type to a form of its derived type. I know this makes little sense as the derived type will have additional functionality that the parent doesn't offer which is in its self not fundamentally sound. But is there some way to do this? Here is a code example to so I can better explain what I"m asking.

public class SomeBaseClass {
    public string GetBaseClassName {get;set;}
    public bool BooleanEvaluator {get;set;}

public class SomeDerivedClass : SomeBaseClass {
    public void Insert(SqlConnection connection) {
          //...random connection stuff
          cmd.Parameters["IsItTrue"].Value = this.BooleanEvalutar;

public static void Main(object[] args) {
    SomeBaseClass baseClass = new SomeBaseClass();
    SomeDerivedClass derClass = (SomeDerivedClass)baseClass; 
    derClass.Insert(new sqlConnection());

I know this seems goofy but is there any way to accomplish something of this sort?

6/3/2014 7:28:47 AM

Accepted Answer

Not soundly, in "managed" languages. This is downcasting, and there is no sane down way to handle it, for exactly the reason you described (subclasses provide more than base classes - where does this "more" come from?). If you really want a similar behaviour for a particular hierarchy, you could use constructors for derived types that will take the base type as a prototype.

One could build something with reflection that handled the simple cases (more specific types that have no addition state). In general, just redesign to avoid the problem.

Edit: Woops, can't write conversion operators between base/derived types. An oddity of Microsoft trying to "protect you" against yourself. Ah well, at least they're no where near as bad as Sun.

1/12/2009 11:16:33 AM

Try composition instead of inheritance!

It seems to me like you'd be better off passing an instance of SomeBaseClass to the SomeDerivedClass (which will no longer derive base class, and should be renamed as such)

public class BooleanHolder{       
    public bool BooleanEvaluator {get;set;}

public class DatabaseInserter{
    BooleanHolder holder;

    public DatabaseInserter(BooleanHolder holder){
        this.holder = holder;

    public void Insert(SqlConnection connection) {
          ...random connection stuff
          cmd.Parameters["IsItTrue"].Value = holder.BooleanEvalutar;

public static void Main(object[] args) {
    BooleanHolder h = new BooleanHolder();
    DatabaseInserter derClass = new DatabaseInserter(h);
    derClass.Insert(new sqlConnection);

Check out http://www.javaworld.com/javaworld/jw-11-1998/jw-11-techniques.html (page 3):

Code reuse via composition Composition provides an alternative way for Apple to reuse Fruit's implementation of peel(). Instead of extending Fruit, Apple can hold a reference to a Fruit instance and define its own peel() method that simply invokes peel() on the Fruit.

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