The typeof operator

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The prototype



How this works

Closures and references

The arguments object

Scopes and namespaces


Equality and comparisons


The Array constructor

The for in loop

The typeof operator

The instanceof operator

Type casting

undefined and null

Reasons against eval

setTimeout and setInterval

Automatic semicolon insertion

The typeof operator

The typeof operator (together with instanceof) is probably the biggest design flaw of JavaScript, as it is near of being completely broken.

Although instanceof still has its limited uses, typeof really has only one practical use case, which does not happen to be checking the type of an object.

Note: While typeof can also be called with a function like syntax i.e. typeof(obj), this is not a function call. The two parenthesis will behave like normal and the return value will be used as the operand of the typeof operator. There is no typeof function.

The JavaScript type table

Value               Class      Type
"foo"               String     string
new String("foo")   String     object
1.2                 Number     number
new Number(1.2)     Number     object
true                Boolean    boolean
new Boolean(true)   Boolean    object
new Date()          Date       object
new Error()         Error      object
[1,2,3]             Array      object
new Array(1, 2, 3)  Array      object
new Function("")    Function   function
/abc/g              RegExp     object (function in Nitro/V8)
new RegExp("meow")  RegExp     object (function in Nitro/V8)
{}                  Object     object
new Object()        Object     object

In the above table Type refers to the value, that the typeof operator returns. As can be clearly seen, this value is anything but consistent.

The Class refers to the value of the internal [[Class]] property of an object.

From the Specification: The value of [[Class]] can be one of the following strings. ArgumentsArrayBooleanDateErrorFunctionJSONMath,NumberObjectRegExpString.

In order to retrieve the value of [[Class]] one has to make use of the toString method of Object.prototype.

The Class of an object

The specification gives exactly one way of accessing the [[Class]] value, with the use of Object.prototype.toString.

function is(type, obj) {
   var clas =, -1);
   return obj !== undefined && obj !== null && clas === type;
is('String', 'test'); // true
is('String', new String('test')); // true

In the above example, Object.prototype.toString gets called with the value of this being set to the object whose [[Class]] value should be retrieved.

ES5 Note: For convenience the return value of Object.prototype.toString for both null and undefined was changed from Object to Null andUndefined in ECMAScript 5.

Testing for undefined variables

typeof foo !== 'undefined'

The above will check whether foo was actually declared or not; just referencing it would result in a ReferenceError. This is the only thing typeof is actually useful for.

In conclusion

In order to check the type of an object, it is highly recommended to use Object.prototype.toString; as this is the only reliable way of doing so. As shown in the above type table, some return values of typeof are not defined in the specification; thus, they can differ across various implementations.

Unless checking whether a variable is defined, typeof should be avoided at all costs.

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