[c++] Why can't I make a vector of references?

3 Answers

yes you can, look for std::reference_wrapper, that mimics a reference but is assignable and also can be "reseated"


When I do this:

std::vector<int> hello;

Everything works great. However, when I make it a vector of references instead:

std::vector<int &> hello;

I get horrible errors like "error C2528: 'pointer' : pointer to reference is illegal".

I want to put a bunch of references to structs into a vector, so that I don't have to meddle with pointers. Why is vector throwing a tantrum about this? Is my only option to use a vector of pointers instead?

Ion Todirel already mentioned an answer YES using std::reference_wrapper. Since C++11 we have a mechanism to retrieve object from std::vector and remove the reference by using std::remove_reference. Below is given an example compiled using g++ and clang with option
-std=c++11 and executed successfully.

#include <iostream>
#include <vector>

class MyClass {
    void func() {
        std::cout << "I am func \n";

    MyClass(int y) : x(y) {}

    int getval()
        return x;

        int x;

int main() {
    std::vector<std::reference_wrapper<MyClass>> vec;

    MyClass obj1(2);
    MyClass obj2(3);

    MyClass& obj_ref1 = std::ref(obj1);
    MyClass& obj_ref2 = obj2;


    for (auto obj3 : vec)
        std::cout << std::remove_reference<MyClass&>::type(obj3).getval() << "\n";

It's a flaw in the C++ language. You can't take the address of a reference, since attempting to do so would result in the address of the object being referred to, and thus you can never get a pointer to a reference. std::vector works with pointers to its elements, so the values being stored need to be able to be pointed to. You'll have to use pointers instead.

As the other comments suggest, you are confined to using pointers. But if it helps, here is one technique to avoid facing directly with pointers.

You can do something like the following:

vector<int*> iarray;
int default_item = 0; // for handling out-of-range exception

int& get_item_as_ref(unsigned int idx) {
   // handling out-of-range exception
   if(idx >= iarray.size()) 
      return default_item;
   return reinterpret_cast<int&>(*iarray[idx]);



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