Fun with lifetime-extended results of assignment

Previously on this blog: “Fun with conversion-operator lookup” (2021-01-13).

Here’s another simple C++ program that gives different output on three of the four mainstream compilers (Godbolt):

#include <stdio.h>
char messages[][23] = {
  "This is Clang (or EDG)",
  "This is GCC",
  "This is MSVC",
int count;
struct X { ~X() { ++count; } };

int main() {
    X& a = (X() = X());
    count = 0;

As far as I can tell, Clang and EDG are correct; the other two are buggy.

We create two X objects in this program: the temporary on the left-hand side of the assignment operator, and the temporary on the right-hand side. MSVC seems to be doing a sort of “lifetime extension” of both objects all the way to the end of a’s scope. [class.temporary]/6 doesn’t seem to offer any textual justification for extending the left-hand operand, let alone the right-hand operand.

GCC seems to be extending the lifetime of the left-hand X() but not the right-hand one. (We can tell by instrumenting the constructors: Godbolt.) But here’s the weird part: GCC does this lifetime extension only when struct X has no named fields! That is, GCC will lifetime-extend the left-hand operand of an assignment when its type is any of these:

struct alignas(4) X { ~X(); };
struct X { int :0; ~X(); };
struct X { int :16; ~X(); };

but not when its type is either of these:

struct X { int i:1; ~X(); };
struct X { char c; ~X(); };

Incidentally, MSVC is the only vendor that allows struct X { int :16; } to qualify as std::is_empty. I think MSVC is correct (and Clang/GCC are wrong): such an X certainly has no non-static data members, since unnamed bit-fields are not members at all.

Finally, all this wackiness manifests only when X::operator= is defaulted (either implicitly, as shown here, or explicitly via =default). If you provide your own user-defined

X& operator=(X&&) { return *this; }

then the divergence vanishes: all vendors agree that there shouldn’t be any lifetime extension in that case.

Posted 2022-07-09