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C# Record Explained

October 24, 2023 7 minutes read


A record is a data-centric type that usually doesn’t contain behaviors.  C# 9 introduced the keyword record to quickly declare a class primarily designed for data representation. In C# 10 and upper, the syntax record class is equivalent to C# 9 record and the syntax record struct declares a structure-based record.

This tutorial dives into C# records’ syntax, applications and benefits.

Declaring a Record Type

In C# 9, the Primary Constructor syntax was introduced as a concise means to declare a record’s constructor and properties. This syntax avoids several lines of boilerplate code:

The Primary Constructor syntax is optional and a record can be declared without it:

The Primary Constructor syntax also applies to value-type record:

Note: In C# 12 this syntax becomes available for classes and structures that are not record. In this non-record context, the primary constructor syntax generates private fields instead of public properties as when used with records. This potentially confusing behavior is explained here: C#12 class and struct Primary Constructors

Value-Based Semantics: Understanding What Truly Sets Records Apart

Up until this point, we haven’t discussed anything that distinguishes record class and record struct from regular class and struct. The key is that records have Value-Based Semantics: this semantics is the result of two characteristics: Immutability and Value-Based Equality.


By default, a record class declared with the Primary Constructor syntax is immutable. This means that its instances’ state cannot be modified after creation, ensuring data integrity and thread-safety:


Here the tooltip reverse-engineer the property FirstName { get; init; } generated through the Primary Constructor syntax. Keep in mind that this compiler behavior is different for record struct and we’ll explain it later.

Value-based equality

Value-based equality semantic means that two record instances are considered equal when their data matches. This stands in contrast to reference types like classes, where comparison is based on reference equality. Here is an example that demonstrates record’s Value-based equality:

To achieve Value-based equality on record class the compiler overrides the virtual methods Object.Equals(Object) and Object.GetHashCode(). The compiler also overrides the operators == and !=.

Practical Application of Value-Based Semantics in Everyday Life

As a .NET developer, you rely implicitly on value-based semantics on a daily basis. Indeed the System.String class adheres to Value-Based Semantics.

Record struct specificities

Unlike record class, by default a record struct is mutable. This means that a setter is generated for each property declared through the Primary Constructor syntax:

To get an immutable record struct the keyword readonly must be used:


Another record struct specificity is that a default parameterless constructor is provided: it sets each field to its default value:

Nondestructive mutation with the ‘with’ keyword

When demonstrating string immutability, we showed this sample code:

An equivalent syntax based on the with keyword is available for records:

This syntax is called nondestructive mutation: the original record is not modified but a new record object is created to hold the modified state.

When decompiling this C# code above with a .NET decompiler, we can see that the compiler generates a <Clone>$() method for our record. The nondestructive mutation is achieved by first cloning the record object and then assigning the property LastName. Normally this property cannot be assigned because the record is immutable. However special IL code generated by the C# compiler relying on IsExternalInit can assign it.


Caution: Non-destructive mutation of strings is notoriously known for generating numerous string objects in memory. Doing so pressures the Garbage Collector and leads to reduced performance. The goal of the class StringBuilder is to mitigate this impact. De-facto non-destructive mutation of records can yield similar degraded performance outcomes so take care.

Declaring mutable record class

It is possible to declare mutable record classes when not relying on the Primary Constructor syntax:

Caution: Developers expect records to be immutable. Mutable records can lead to confusion and error-prone code.

Record deconstruction

When using the Primary Constructor syntax, the compiler generates a Deconstruct() method with an out parameter for each positional parameter provided in the record declaration. Here is record deconstruction in action:

Notice that deconstruction makes records work seamlessly with C# Pattern Matching:

Declaring attributes

It is possible to declare attributes for any of the elements generated by the compiler based on the record definition. You can specify a target for any attribute you use on the positional properties of the record. In the following example, the System.Text.Json.Serialization.JsonPropertyNameAttribute is assigned to each property of the Person record. The property target is used to specify that the attribute applies to the compiler-generated property, while other targets such as field and param can be used to apply the attribute to the field or parameter, respectively.


The compiler overrides the Object.ToString() method to present a record as a string in a well-formatted manner:

The same string representation is available at debug-time:


Record and Inheritance

record class can deal with inheritance. A record can inherit from another record, but it cannot inherit from a class, nor can a class inherit from a record.

While this feature is beneficial, it can introduce complexities in certain situations when dealing with the with syntax and value-based equality.

Inheritance and the value-based equality

Viewed from the perspective of the Person  record, in the following code sample, both references hold identical values since they both have the same FirstName  and LastName values.

Fortunately, the compiler-generated code ensures that these two objects are treated as distinct. Upon revisiting the code produced by the compiler, you’ll notice that the implementation of the Equals() method relies on the virtual property protected virtual Type EqualityContract => typeof(Person);. This property is used to verify that the two compared objects share the same type.

Inheritance and the ‘with’ keyword

In the code sample below it is not immediate that person2 is a Student since it is inferred from a Person reference using the with syntax. As we saw in the Nondestructive mutation section, under the hood the generated virtual <Clone>$() method is called by the compiler. This virtual method is overridden by Student and its implementation calls the Student copy constructor:

Generic Record

Let’s note that a record can be a generic class or structure, which offers flexibility. However, developers should keep in mind that EqualityComparer<T>.Default is employed for each property typed with T in the generated code to perform state comparisons. This can potentially result in confusing scenarios.

Situations where records shine

C# Records find practical applications in various contexts:

  • Simplifying Code: Records can help reduce boilerplate code, making your codebase more concise and easier to maintain. They are particularly beneficial when working with DTOs (Data Transfer Objects) and POCOs (Plain Old CLR Objects).
  • Domain Models: Records serve as effective tools for representing domain models in your application. You can define a record with properties that align with the data you’re modeling. Records offer the advantages of working with data in a strongly-typed and immutable manner, and they provide built-in capabilities for equality checking and formatting.
  • Configuration Settings: Records are well-suited for representing configuration settings within an application. By creating a record with properties corresponding to different settings, you can easily pass these settings between methods and services, maintaining their immutability throughout.
  • API Response Models: Records are valuable for representing response models in RESTful APIs. They enable you to define a record with properties that mirror the data returned by the API. Records simplify the deserialization process, providing a strongly-typed object for working with the data effortlessly.
  • Debugging and Logging: Records provide a clear and concise string representation of their data, making them valuable for debugging and logging. When you log or print a record, you get a well-formatted view of its contents.


In this comprehensive exploration of C# records, we’ve unveiled their versatile capabilities in simplifying data encapsulation, promoting immutability, and streamlining various programming tasks. Embracing records do improve code readability, reduce boilerplate, and enhance data integrity across a range of applications.


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