Friend function

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In object-oriented programming, a friend function that is a "friend" of a given class is allowed access to private and protected data in that class that it would not normally be able to as if the data was public. [1] Normally, a function that is defined outside of a class cannot access such information. Declaring a function a friend of a class allows this, in languages where the concept is supported.

A friend function is declared by the class that is granting access, explicitly stating what function from a class is allowed access. A similar concept is that of friend class.

Friends should be used with caution. Too many functions or external classes declared as friends of a class with protected or private data may lessen the value of encapsulation of separate classes in object-oriented programming and may indicate a problem in the overall architecture design. Generally though, friend functions are a good thing for encapsulation, as you can keep data of a class private from all except those who you explicitly state need it, but this does mean your classes will become tightly coupled.

Use cases[edit]

This approach may be used in friendly function when a function needs to access private data in objects from two different classes. This may be accomplished in two similar ways

  • a function of global or namespace scope may be declared as friend of both classes
  • a member function of one class may be declared as friend of another one.
#include <iostream>
using namespace std;
class Foo; // Forward declaration of class Foo in order for example to compile.
class Bar {
      int a;
      Bar(): a(0) {}
      void show(Bar& x, Foo& y);
      friend void show(Bar& x, Foo& y); // declaration of global friend
class Foo {
      int b;
      Foo(): b(6) {}
      friend void  show(Bar& x, Foo& y); // declaration of global friend
      friend void Bar::show(Bar& x, Foo& y); // declaration of friend from other class 
// Definition of a member function of Bar; this member is a friend of Foo
void Bar::show(Bar& x, Foo& y) {
  cout << "Show via function member of Bar" << endl;
  cout << "Bar::a = " << x.a << endl;
  cout << "Foo::b = " << y.b << endl;
// Friend for Bar and Foo, definition of global function
void show(Bar& x, Foo& y) {
  cout << "Show via global function" << endl;
  cout << "Bar::a = " << x.a << endl;
  cout << "Foo::b = " << y.b << endl;
int main() {
   Bar a;
   Foo b;


  1. ^ Holzner, Steven (2001). C++ : Black Book. Scottsdale, Ariz.: Coriolis Group. p. 397. ISBN 1-57610-777-9. When you declare a function a friend of a class, that function has access to the internal data members of that object (that is, its protected, and private data members.) 

External links[edit]