Creating Expressions That Work on Types

XPath 2.0 emphasizes data types, and you can create XPath 2.0 expressions that work expressly with types using these keywords:

  • instance of Check an item's data type (works with any simple or complex type).

  • cast Change an item's data type.

  • castable Check whether an item's data type may be cast.

  • treat Treat an item as if it were a new data type for the purposes of evaluation (but don't actually change the item's data type). (The treat expression works with any simple or complex type.)

We'll take a look at how these expressions work now.

instance of

The instance of operator is a Boolean operator that lets you test the type of an operand. Here's how you use it in an expression, where operand2 is a simple or complex type:

  operand1  instance of  operand2  

This expression returns true if operand1 is of the data type operand2 , and false otherwise . The type you give in operand2 can be fairly generalit can be an atomic type like xs:integer , a kind test like element() or node() , the keyword empty , or an empty sequence like this: () . It can also be the xdt:anyAtomicType type, which, as noted in Chapter 7, is an abstract type that you can't create variables of directly. If you use the xdt:anyAtomicType type with the instance of operator, you're saying that you're testing for any of the atomic types.

Using the instance of expression, you can test the data type of various items; for example, this expression returns true because 26 is an integer:

 26 instance of xs:integer 

Similarly, if $variable contains an integer value, this expression will return true :

 $variable instance of xs:integer 

TESTING xs:integer AGAINST THE xs:decimal TYPE

Actually, testing an xs:integer value against the xs:decimal type will return true because in XML schemas, the xs:integer type is derived by restriction from xs:decimal .

Here's an example that checks if 3.1415 is of type xs:decimal :

 3.1415 instance of xs:decimal 

Here's an example that lets you test the context item to see if it's an element:

 . instance of element() 

Instance of is very useful when you are working with schema- validated nodes and need to examine their runtime type.


Because XPath 2.0 implements strong typing, it's sometimes necessary to convert values from one data type to another. You can use a cast expression to change an item's data type to another data type. You can use a cast expression like this:

  source  cast as  target-type  

Here, source is cast to a new data type, the target-type . In this case, the data type of source is actually changed to the target-type , if that cast is possible.


Bear in mind that you can also use the constructor functions that come with various types to cast data from one type to another. For example, to cast an xs:string into an xs:date , you can use the xs:date constructor function to create a new xs:date value like this: xs:date("2005-03-02") .

Here are a few examples showing how to use cast :

 "2004-09-02" cast as xs:date $variable cast as xs:integer $temperature cast as xs:decimal 

When can you use cast ? Here's the list:

  • cast expressions are supported for the combinations of input type and target type listed in the table at This is the definitive place to look for cast operations. For example, you can find there that you can cast from xs:double to xs:decimal .

  • cast expressions are supported if the input type is a derived atomic type and the target type is a supertype of the input type. For example, if the zipcode type is derived by restriction from xs:integer , a value of type zipcode can be cast into the type xs:integer .

  • cast expressions are supported if the target type is a derived atomic type and the input type is xs:string or xdt:untypedAtomic .

  • cast expressions are supported if the target type is a derived atomic type and the input type is a supertype of the target type. The resulting value is the same as the input value, but with a different type.

These rules can get pretty involvedhow can you be sure the cast you're about to attempt is legal? Luckily, there's a fairly easy answer to thatyou can use a castable expression to check if a cast is legal.


The castable expression lets you test if an item may be cast to a specific type, and it returns a true / false answer. Here's how you use this expression:

  source  castable as  target-type  

This expression is true if source may be cast to target-type . Here's an example where we're checking whether $fruit may be cast to the type apple , and if not, whether it can be cast to the type orange :

 if ($fruit castable as apple) then $fruit cast as apple else if ($fruit castable as orange) then $fruit cast as orange else $fruit cast as xs:string 


The treat expression is much like the cast expression, except that, unlike cast , it doesn't change the type of its operand. It acts like an assertion, checking the type of an expression. Here's how you use the treat operator in an expression:

  source  treat as  target-type  

This expression asserts that source is of the target-type data type. Otherwise, this expression returns an error.

Here's an example. In this case, the original type of $number might be number . Say that another type, ZIP , is derived from that type; in that case, this expression will be of the ZIP type when evaluated:

 $number treat as ZIP 

This expression also succeeds if the type of $number is ZIP . In other words, the treat expression acts much like an assertion, which succeeds if $number is of type ZIP or of a type derived from ZIP .

XPath. Navigating XML with XPath 1.0 and 2.0 Kick Start
XPath Kick Start: Navigating XML with XPath 1.0 and 2.0
ISBN: 0672324113
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2002
Pages: 131

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