There are nine different types of casts:

  • Bitwise casts (type casts).
  • Zero-extending casts (unsigned upcasts).
  • Sign-extending casts (signed upcasts).
  • Truncating casts (signed and unsigned downcasts).
  • Floating-point extending casts (float upcasts).
  • Floating-point truncating casts (float downcasts).
  • Pointer-to-integer casts.
  • Integer-to-pointer casts.
  • Address-space casts (pointer casts).

Bitwise Casts

A bitwise cast (bitcast) reinterprets a given bit pattern without changing any bits in the operand. For instance, you could make a bitcast of a pointer to byte into a pointer to some structure as follows:

typedef struct
    int a;
} Foo;

extern void *malloc(size_t size);
extern void free(void *value);

void allocate()
    Foo *foo = (Foo *) malloc(sizeof(Foo));
    foo.a = 12;


%Foo = type { i32 }

declare i8* @malloc(i32)
declare void @free(i8*)

define void @allocate() nounwind {
    %1 = call i8* @malloc(i32 4)
    %foo = bitcast i8* %1 to %Foo*
    %2 = getelementptr %Foo* %foo, i32 0, i32 0
    store i32 12, i32* %2
    call void @free(i8* %1)
    ret void

Zero-Extending Casts (Unsigned Upcasts)

To upcast an unsigned value like in the example below:

uint8 byte = 117;
uint32 word;

void main()
    /* The compiler automatically upcasts the byte to a word. */
    word = byte;

You use the zext instruction:

@byte = global i8 117
@word = global i32 0

define void @main() nounwind {
    %1 = load i8* @byte
    %2 = zext i8 %1 to i32
    store i32 %2, i32* @word
    ret void

Sign-Extending Casts (Signed Upcasts)

To upcast a signed value, you replace the zext instruction with the sext instruction and everything else works just like in the previous section:

@char = global i8 -17
@int  = global i32 0

define void @main() nounwind {
    %1 = load i8* @char
    %2 = sext i8 %1 to i32
    store i32 %2, i32* @int
    ret void

Truncating Casts (Signed and Unsigned Downcasts)

Both signed and unsigned integers use the same instruction, trunc, to reduce the size of the number in question. This is because LLVM IR assumes that all signed integer values are in two’s complement format for which reason trunc is sufficient to handle both cases:

@int = global i32 -1
@char = global i8 0

define void @main() nounwind {
    %1 = load i32* @int
    %2 = trunc i32 %1 to i8
    store i8 %2, i8* @char
    ret void

Floating-Point Extending Casts (Float Upcasts)

Floating points numbers can be extended using the fpext instruction:

float small = 1.25;
double large;

void main()
    /* The compiler inserts an implicit float upcast. */
    large = small;


@small = global float 1.25
@large = global double 0.0

define void @main() nounwind {
    %1 = load float* @small
    %2 = fpext float %1 to double
    store double %2, double* @large
    ret void

Floating-Point Truncating Casts (Float Downcasts)

Likewise, a floating point number can be truncated to a smaller size:

@large = global double 1.25
@small = global float 0.0

define void @main() nounwind {
    %1 = load double* @large
    %2 = fptrunc double %1 to float
    store float %2, float* @small
    ret void

Pointer-to-Integer Casts

Pointers do not support arithmetic, which is sometimes needed when doing systems programming. LLVM has support for casting pointer types to integer types using the ptrtoint instruction (reference)

Integer-to-Pointer Casts

The inttoptr instruction is used to cast an integer back to a pointer (reference).

Address-Space Casts (Pointer Casts)