Scala for C# developers – part II

This is the second post in the series. Click here to see the previous part.

In the previous post I covered the basics of Scala syntax as well as some comparison of OOP in Scala and C#. Today, I will focus on lambdas and higher-order functions.

Functions as function parameters

You are most likely familiar with lambda expessions in C#. Lambda expression is simply an anonymous function. Lambdas are useful when you want to pass a piece of code as a parameter to some other function. This concept is actually one of the cornerstones of functional programming.

One great example of how useful lambdas are operations on collections. The following piece of code takes a list of integeres, filters out odd numbers and multiplies the remaining numbers by 5.

var list = new List<int> { 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 };
var multiplied = list.Where(x => x % 2 == 0).Select(x => x * 5);

In Scala, it would look surprisingly similiar:

val list = List(1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
val multiplied = list.filter(x => x % 2 == 0).map(x => x * 5)

Scala uses more traditional FP names for map and filter but apart from this, the code looks very similiar. In Scala, we can make it a bit tighter (and less readable):

val list = List(1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
val multiplied = list.filter(_ % 2 == 0).map(_ * 5)

As you can see, Scala allows you to use anonymous parameters inside anonymous functions. However, be careful when using the underscore notation. The (_ * 5) + _ expression does not translate into x => (x * 5) + x. Instead, the second underscore is assumed to be the second anonymous parameter of the lambda, therefore meaning this: (x, y) => (x * 5) + y.

Returning functions

C# not only allows to have functions which take functions as parameters but also functions that return other functions. In the following piece, the GetMultiplier function takes a single integer and returns a function that can multiply it by any other integer.

static Func<int, int> GetMultiplier(int a) {
    return x => a * x;
var multiplier = GetMultiplier(5);
var multiplied = list.Select(multiplier);

Let’s see how would it look in Scala:

def getMultiplier(x: Int): Function1[Int, Int] = {
    y: Int => x * y
val multiplier = getMultiplier(5)
val multiplied2 =

Again, it looks fairly similiar. The Function1[Int, Int] has the same semantics as Func%lt;int, int> – it represents a one-argument function that takes an integer and returns an integer. Interestingly, in Scala Function1[Int, Int] can be denoted as Int => Int.

def getMultiplier(x: Int): Int => Int = {
    y: Int => x * y

We can go one step further and rewrite the above function as:

def getMultiplier(x: Int)(y: Int) = x * y

This certainly looks odd – our function now has two parameter lists! It is Scala’s special syntax for functions returning functions. You can pass one integer to getMultiplier and what you get is a partially applied function. What is the type of getMultiplier now? It’s Int => (Int => Int) which can also be written simply as Int => Int => Int. This technique is called currying. The idea of currying is that a function with multiple parameters can be treated as a function that takes the first parameter and returns a function that takes a second parameters which returns a function… and so on.