Interfaces vs. Types in TypeScript: Understanding the Differences and Use Cases

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TypeScript has emerged as a powerful and widely adopted programming language, bringing static typing to JavaScript. One of the most significant features of TypeScript is its support for defining custom data structures using interfaces and types. However, newcomers to TypeScript often find themselves confused about the differences between interfaces and types and when to use one over the other. In this article, we will explore interfaces and types in TypeScript, their distinctions, and their respective use cases.

Table of Contents

What are Interfaces and Types?

In TypeScript, both interfaces and types are used to define custom data structures and enforce static type checking. They share some similarities but have distinct purposes and syntax.

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An interface in TypeScript is a way to define a contract or a blueprint for an object. It specifies the shape of the object and the properties it should have, along with their respective types. Interfaces only define the structure of an object and cannot include implementation details or default values.

Here’s a simple example of an interface in TypeScript:

interface Person {
  name: string;
  age: number;
  email?: string; // Optional property

In this example, we define an interface called Person, which enforces that any object implementing this interface must have a name property of type string, an age property of type number, and an optional email property of type string.


On the other hand, types in TypeScript are more versatile and allow you to create aliases for various data types. You can use types to represent not only object structures but also unions, intersections, primitives, and more. Types are capable of defining complex and reusable types.

Here’s an example of a type in TypeScript:

type Point = {
  x: number;
  y: number;

In this case, we create a type called Point, which represents an object with two numeric properties, x and y.

The Differences Between Interfaces and Types

Interfaces are generally preferred for describing object shapes and contracts, while types are more versatile and used for a broader range of type definitions. Many developers prefer to use interfaces to describe objects and types to represent unions, intersections, and other complex types.

Let’s delve into their differences to gain a clearer perspective on when to use each one:

1. Extending and Implementing

One key difference is how they are extended and implemented. Interfaces can be extended from one another to create new interfaces that inherit the properties of existing ones:

interface Animal {
  species: string;
  sound: string;

interface Dog extends Animal {
  breed: string;

In this example, we define an interface Animal with two properties, species and sound. Then, we create a new interface Dog that extends Animal and adds an additional property breed. This allows us to reuse common properties and build more specific interfaces.

Types, on the other hand, cannot be directly extended. Instead, you can use intersection types to combine multiple types:

type Animal = {
  species: string;
  sound: string;

type Dog = Animal & {
  breed: string;

The Dog type is effectively the same as the Dog interface in the previous example.

2. Declaration Merging

Another notable distinction is that interfaces support declaration merging, while types do not.

With interfaces, you can declare multiple interfaces with the same name, and TypeScript will merge them into a single interface:

interface User {
  name: string;

interface User {
  age: number;

// TypeScript will merge these interfaces into one
interface User {
  name: string;
  age: number;

This can be useful when working with external libraries that define interfaces.

However, types do not support declaration merging. If you attempt to define multiple types with the same name, TypeScript will raise an error.

3. Augmentation

Interfaces also allow for augmentation, which means you can add new properties to an existing interface declaration in a separate declaration block:

interface Car {
  make: string;
  model: string;

// Augmenting the Car interface to add an optional year property
interface Car {
  year?: number;

Type augmentation can be useful when you need to extend third-party interfaces without modifying the original declaration.

Types do not support augmentation; once a type is defined, it cannot be modified later on.

Use Cases for Interfaces

Interfaces excel at describing the shape of objects and defining contracts. Here are some common use cases for interfaces:

1. Describing Object Shapes

Interfaces are well-suited for describing the structure of objects, especially when you want to enforce that certain properties must be present in the object.

interface Product {
  id: number;
  name: string;
  price: number;

This Product interface enforces that any object implementing it must have the properties id, name, and price, all of specific types.

2. Defining Function Signatures

Interfaces can also be used to describe function signatures, which allows you to define the shape of functions and their parameters.

interface MathOperation {
  (x: number, y: number): number;

Here, we create an interface MathOperation that represents a function taking two parameters of type number and returning a number.

3. Implementing Classes

Interfaces play a crucial role when working with classes in TypeScript. They help enforce that a class adheres to a specific contract by implementing all the properties and methods defined in the interface.

interface Shape {
  area(): number;

class Circle implements Shape {
  radius: number;

  constructor(radius: number) {
    this.radius = radius;

  area() {
    return Math.PI * this.radius * this.radius;

In this example, the Circle class implements the Shape interface, ensuring that it provides an implementation for the area method defined in the interface.

Use Cases for Types

While interfaces are powerful and essential in many scenarios, there are instances where types are more suitable:

1. Unions and Intersections

Types are often used to create unions and intersections, allowing you to combine multiple types into a single, more complex type.

type Pet = {
  name: string;

type Dog = Pet & {
  breed: string;

type Cat = Pet & {
  isLazy: boolean;

type PetUnion = Dog | Cat;

In this example, we define three types: Pet, Dog, and Cat. We then create a PetUnion type, which represents either a Dog or a Cat. This is a powerful way to represent different possible types for a single variable.

2. Aliasing Primitives

Types are helpful for aliasing primitive types to make your code more readable and maintainable.

type ID = number;
type Name = string;

function printUserInfo(id: ID, name: Name) {
  console.log(`ID: ${id}, Name: ${name}`);

Here, we create type aliases ID and Name for number and string, respectively, which makes the function signature more descriptive.

3. Complex Data Structures

When defining complex data structures, types provide a concise and flexible syntax.

type Matrix = number[][];

const matrix: Matrix = [
  [1, 2, 3],
  [4, 5, 6],
  [7, 8, 9],

In this example, we use the type keyword to define a Matrix type, which is an array of arrays of numbers. This is much cleaner than using interfaces for such cases.

Best Practices for when to use Types vs. Interfaces

With a clear understanding of the differences between interfaces and types, let’s summarize some best practices to follow when working with TypeScript:

  1. Use Interfaces for Object Shapes: When defining the structure of objects and enforcing contracts, opt for interfaces.
  2. Use Types for Unions and Complex Types: Use types to create unions, intersections, and aliases for primitive types, providing more concise and flexible code.
  3. Consider Extensibility and Declaration Merging: If you anticipate extending interfaces or modifying third-party types, consider using interfaces for their built-in support for declaration merging and augmentation.
  4. Keep Code Consistent: While both interfaces and types can be used for various scenarios, maintaining consistency in your codebase can improve readability and maintainability.
  5. Documentation is Key: Regardless of whether you use interfaces or types, thorough documentation is essential. Clearly describe the purpose and usage of custom types to help other developers understand your code.

Bonus: Types vs. Interfaces Usage in React:

When developing React applications with TypeScript, you’ll often encounter situations where you need to define the shapes of props, state, and other data structures. TypeScript offers two primary ways to achieve this: using types and interfaces.

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Using Interfaces in React

Interfaces are widely used in React for defining the props and state shapes of components. They provide a clean and straightforward syntax for describing the structure of component data.

interface UserProps {
  name: string;
  age: number;
  isAdmin: boolean;

const UserCard = ({ name, age, isAdmin }: UserProps) => {
  // Component implementation...

In this example, we define an interface UserProps to describe the shape of the props that the UserCard component receives. The interface enforces that any component using UserProps must provide the properties name of type string, age of type number, and isAdmin of type boolean.

Using interfaces is beneficial in React for the following reasons:

  1. Prop Validation: Interfaces help you enforce prop validation by specifying the required and optional props for a component. TypeScript will raise errors if the component is not used correctly with the expected props.
  2. Code Autocompletion and Documentation: Interfaces provide excellent code autocompletion and documentation within IDEs, making it easier for developers to understand the available props when using a component.
  3. Extensibility: Interfaces support declaration merging, making it convenient to add additional props to a component without modifying the original declaration.

Using Types in React

While interfaces are commonly used in React, there are scenarios where types offer more flexibility and power. Types can be beneficial in situations where you need to create complex types, union types, or define aliases for props.

type Theme = 'light' | 'dark';

type User = {
  name: string;
  age: number;

type UserCardProps = User & {
  theme: Theme;
  isAdmin: boolean;

const UserCard = ({ name, age, isAdmin, theme }: UserCardProps) => {
  // Component implementation...

In this example, we use the type keyword to create Theme and User types. We then define a UserCardProps type, which combines the properties from the User type with additional properties like theme and isAdmin.

Using types can be advantageous in React for the following reasons:

  1. Unions and Intersections: Types are perfect for creating union types, as shown in the Theme type. Unions allow you to express more complex variations of prop values.
  2. Reusable Complex Types: When dealing with complex and reusable types, types offer a more concise and flexible syntax compared to interfaces.
  3. Aliases for Props: Types are helpful when you want to create aliases for prop combinations, as demonstrated with the UserCardProps type.

Best Practices for Typescript with React

When it comes to choosing between interfaces and types in React, there isn’t a strict rule, and both have their merits. However, here are some best practices to consider:

  1. Prefer Interfaces for Component Props and State: For most scenarios, interfaces provide a clear and straightforward way to define the shape of component props and state. They offer good prop validation, IDE support, and extensibility.
  2. Use Types for Complex Data Structures and Aliases: When defining complex types or aliases for props, types can be more versatile and expressive. Unions, intersections, and aliases are best handled with types.
  3. Consistency in Project: It’s essential to maintain consistency throughout your project. Decide on a convention for using interfaces and types and stick to it. This consistency will make your codebase more readable and maintainable.
  4. Combine Interfaces and Types When Appropriate: In some cases, combining interfaces with types can provide the best of both worlds. Use interfaces for the main component props and types for more specialized or complex prop combinations.
  5. Document Your Components: Regardless of whether you use interfaces or types, ensure that you document your components and their props effectively. Good documentation helps other developers understand how to use your components correctly.


In conclusion, TypeScript offers two powerful tools for defining custom data structures and enforcing static type checking: interfaces and types. Interfaces are excellent for describing object shapes and contracts, while types provide more versatility for creating unions, intersections, and aliases. Both interfaces and types have their strengths, and understanding their differences will enable you to use them effectively in your TypeScript projects.

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Rajae Robinson

Rajae Robinson is a young Software Developer with over 3 years of work experience building websites and mobile apps. He has extensive experience with React.js and Next.js.

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