Discriminated Unions

Discriminated unions, also known as tagged unions or algebraic data types, are a way to combine types with a single shared field, which is typically a literal type, used to discriminate between the other types.

The kind variable of a Circle object must be equal to the literal "circle". This is how TypeScript knows how to determine between the objects during the compilation process.

interface Circle {
    kind: "circle";
    radius: number;

interface Square {
    kind: "square";
    sideLength: number;

type Shape = Circle | Square;

Discriminated unions are useful for being able to discriminate between two different objects with different types. This is useful when there is different business logic that needs to be implemented while determining the type of object at runtime, while still being able to use strong typing without using type assertions.

Here is an example of how to use Shape:

const shapes: Shape[] = [
        kind: "circle", 
        radius: 5
        kind: "square",
        sideLength: 10

// example for getting a rendering context that has functions to draw 
// either a circle or a square using different functions
const context = ...

shapes.forEach((shape: Shape) => {
    // we cannot use shape.radius or shape.sideLength here
    // since the compiler doesn't know what type shape is yet

    switch (shape.kind) {
        case "circle":
            // here shape is of type Circle
        case "square":
            // here shape is of type Square


Write a function that calculates the area of a given shape (either a circle or a square).

To calculate the radius of a circle, use Math.PI * shape.radius ** 2.

To calculate the area of a square, use shape.sideLength ** 2.

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