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Any vs AnyObject: The Difference

Swift, Programming, Type System2 min read

When working with Swift, developers often encounter situations where they need to work with values of unknown types. In such cases, two commonly used types come into play: Any and AnyObject. While they may seem similar at first glance, there are nuanced differences between the two that are important to understand. Let's delve into the specifics of both types and explore their differences through examples.

Exploring Any

The Any keyword in Swift represents a type that can be anything, including classes, structures, enumerations, functions, and more. It is a powerful and flexible type that allows the storage of values of any type, except for those defined as protocol types or protocol compositions. Here's an example to illustrate its usage:

1var anyValue: Any
2anyValue = 42
3print(anyValue) // Output: 42
4anyValue = "Hello, Swift!"
5print(anyValue) // Output: Hello, Swift!
6anyValue = (3.14, "pi")
7print(anyValue) // Output: (3.14, "pi")

In this example, we declare a variable anyValue of type Any and assign different kinds of values to it. As demonstrated, the flexibility of Any allows it to hold various types of values during runtime.

Understanding AnyObject

On the other hand, AnyObject is a protocol that serves as the root for all classes in Swift. If a value is declared as AnyObject, it can represent an instance of any class type. This means that AnyObject can only store instances of classes and not structures, enumerations, or functions. Let's examine this through an example:

1class Dog {
2 func bark() {
3 print("Woof woof!")
4 }
7class Cat {
8 func meow() {
9 print("Meow!")
10 }
13var objectArray: [AnyObject] = []
17for obj in objectArray {
18 if let dog = obj as? Dog {
19 dog.bark()
20 } else if let cat = obj as? Cat {
21 cat.meow()
22 }

In this example, we create instances of the Dog and Cat classes, add them to an array of type AnyObject, and then iterate through the array to call methods specific to each class. This demonstrates how AnyObject is limited to working with instances of class types.

Key Differences

The primary distinction between Any and AnyObject lies in the types they can represent. Any can encompass values of any type, including classes, structures, and enumerations, while AnyObject is specifically tailored for instances of class types. It's important to choose the appropriate type based on the specific requirements of the code.

Use Cases

When deciding between Any and AnyObject, consider the kind of data you need to work with. If the code needs to handle values of diverse types, Any is the suitable choice. On the other hand, if the focus is solely on instances of class types, AnyObject is the preferred option.


In summary, understanding the differences between Any and AnyObject is crucial for writing clear, efficient, and expressive Swift code. Both types serve distinct purposes and offer unique capabilities, which can significantly impact the design and functionality of your programs. By leveraging their strengths appropriately, you can build robust and adaptable solutions that align with the specific needs of your projects.