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Posted 20 Jul 2011

Delegate: C# (Digging, Explain, Use it)

, 20 Jul 2011
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Delegate in C# (Digging and explain the internals of Delegate)


.NET provides one nice characteristic, that is delegate. Delegate is an object or instance which can hold reference of any function OR which can bind function. Referenced function may be static or any class object’s function. This can hold more than one function references. This also provides callback method. From a developer’s perspective, Delegate is two type single cast and multicast.

Every delegate base class is System.MulticastDelegate. System.MulticastDelegate class is inherited from delegate class. Both classes are abstract classes.

.NET provides a standard constructor as follows:

Constructor for MultiCastDelegate:

protected MulticastDelegate(object target, string method);

Constructor for Delegate:

protected Delegate(object target, string method);

Declare Delegate

Declaring of the delegation is quite tricky, because when we declare delegation. We inform the compiler which kind of function signature’s reference could be held by this delegate. Let’s explain by the following: Fig-1.0

Look at FIG-1.0:

  1. public is Access modifier
  2. delegate is keyword which indicates this is delegate type
  3. Return type of function signature
  4. Delegate class name (Explain below)
  5. Parameter of function signature
  6. Parameter of function signature

3, 5, 6 are optional. Because these are depending on function signature, which function type we want bind or wrap with delegate.

Let's look at one more example:

protected delegate string DelegateReverse (string StrText) ;

It means this delegate class object can bind a function which function return type should be string with one string parameter. DelegateReverse is delegate class name.

Question: Look at Fig-1 DelegateFunction what is this? Is this is an object or name of the delegate.

Answer: This is sealed class. Look at the following example, then we describe:

//Code Sample - 1.0

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Text;
namespace DelegateCode
   class DelExample
       // Delegate declaration.  
      public delegate string StringOperation(string myString);
        static void Main(string[] args)
            // Create instance of class for accessing its function
           DelExample objEx = new DelExample();
                    // create instance of Delegate Class 
           StringOperation Objdelegate = 
		new      StringOperation(objEx.MyOperationReverseString);
                 // Call delegate object and store result in appropriate variable
           string result = Objdelegate("ABC DEF GHI");           
          // Get Type
            Type Tp = Objdelegate.GetType();
        // Output 
         Console.WriteLine("Is this Class : " + Tp.IsClass.ToString()+ "\n");
         Console.WriteLine("Inherit from : " + Tp.BaseType.ToString() + "\n");
         Console.WriteLine("Is Abstract : " + Tp.IsAbstract.ToString() + "\n");
         Console.WriteLine("Is ByRef : " + Tp.IsByRef.ToString() + "\n");
         Console.WriteLine("Is Sealed : " + Tp.IsSealed.ToString() + "\n");
         Console.WriteLine("Output of Delegate : " + result+"\n");
         Console.WriteLine("Output by Invoke : " + Objdelegate.Invoke("ABC DEF GHI"));
        // definition of the function MyOperationReverseString
        public string MyOperationReverseString(string test)
            char[] Spl = test.ToCharArray();
            test = string.Empty;
            for (int icnt = 0; icnt < Spl.Length; icnt++)
                test = Spl[icnt] + test;
            return test;

Output of this program Fig – 2.0

Consider Fig – 2.0 output. In the above code, the following line...

public delegate string StringOperation(string myString);

... </code />StringOperation</code /> is sealed class. This is inherited by System.MultiCastDelegate and is not abstract.

Look at the last two lines of output. We can call delegate by invoke method or by passing parameter without invoke method.

How C# Compiler Understands

Whenever compiler encountered delegate declaration like:

public delegate string StringOperation(string myString);

Then compiler generates the following code:

public sealed class StringOperation: System.MulticastDelegate
  public StringOperation (object target, int method);
  public virtual void Invoke(string myString);
  public virtual IAsyncResult BeginInvoke(string myString,
  AsyncCallback callback, object obj);
  public virtual void EndInvoke(IAsyncResult result);

Look Program-1 IL-DASM view (Fig-3.0)

You can see .ctor: void (Object ,native int) (This is a similar constructor as System.MulticastDelege constructor.)

Invoke method should have the same signature of the referenced function.

History Delegate Cannot Declare and Use as Field

//Code Sample – 2.0:
namespace DelegateExample
   public delegate string MyDelegate(string myString);
    interface MyCallable
        int GetInfo();
delegate int CalcArea(int x, int y); // Error : interfaces cannot declare types      
MyDelegate ObjDelegae; // Error : Interfaces cannot contain fields    

//Code Sample – 3.0:
public void DispachCall(int tStr)
           public delegate string MyDelegate(string myString); // Error           

History Difference b/w Single and Multicast Delegate

From the developer’s perspective, Delegate is two type single cast and multicast, although ".NET" has provided two classes for the delegate.

Singlecast delegate vs Multicast delegate do not have any declaration and implementation differences. This is only perspective.

Even I read more articles related to delegates, they said old Multicast delegate cannot wrap / bind a function which returns value. But I have never seen like this.

  1. Delegate class (Abstract class)
  2. MulticastDelegate (Abstract class inherited by Delegate class)

Every delegate in the .NET is a Multicast delegate. Then…

Question: So what is Singlecast Delegate?

Answer: If delegate object has only one function’s reference, then it calls single cast delegate. If delegate object references more than one function, this is called MulticastDelegate.

When delegate object refers or binds multiple function references, then all functions reference store as linked list. All functions will call in sequence as they are assigned.

Example: Let’s we have delegate object ObjDel.

ObjDel binds or wraps three functions in sequence respectively Add, Mul, Divide. All three functions return integer type.

Let’s calling delegate:

Int result = ObjDel.invoke(15,5); 

It will return 3.

If function wraps in sequence Add, Divide, Mul.

Result = ObjDel.invoke(15,5). 

It will return 75.

It always returns the value of last function. So what about the other function return values ?


If any delegate object binds or wraps 5 return type functions. Then only 5th functions will return value but rest of the four functions could not return value. So always end of calling function returns value. Rest four functions return value will ignored.

Delegate Asynchronously

Note: Simple overview for delegate as asynchronous call. More will be explained in the next article

Recall Fig-3.0, there is IL-DASM view. StringOperation delegate has Invoke and BeginInvoke functions. These two functions are created by compiler at run time.

In C#, we can achieve asynchronous function call using delegate.

By default, every function in C# is synchronous. But we can call synchronous function as asynchronous.

The Invoke method calls the target method on the current thread. But BeginInvoke method is called with a different thread, the common language runtime (CLR) queues the request and returns immediately to the caller.

BeginInvoke can be called by only single cast delegate otherwise it gets run time exception (ArgumentException) which is “The delegate must have only one target”.

About BeginInvoke

.NET implements BeginInvoke function for each Delegate class. So whenever compiler encountered delegate declaration, it implements three methods for each delegate class.

Invoke, BeginInvoke and EndInvoke. Each BeginInvoke has a corresponding EndInvoke.

Key Point

Always call EndInvoke to complete your asynchronous call. The technique of the calling does not matter.

BeginInvoke have three parameters. BeginInvoke returns IAsyncresult.

S.No Description
1. Parameters of the function which calling
2. AsynchCallback . delegate void AsyncCallback( IAsyncResult ar );


AsyncCallback (IAsyncResult  Ar)

Key Point

IAsyncresult is used for monitoring state or progress of the asynchronous function call. This is returned by BeginInvoke and it is also the parameter for AsyncCallback function. Its declaration is.

public interface IAsyncResult 
    object AsyncState{ get; } 
    WaitHandle AsyncWaitHandle { get; } 
     bool CompletedSynchronously { get; } 
    bool IsCompleted { get; } 

Key Point

Call delegate using Invoke method. Then it’s run in the same thread.

Look at the following simple code. I called the same delegate using Invoke and BeginInvoke method. And write thread ID for both calls.

Code Sample – 4.0

using System;
using System.Threading;

namespace TestMultipuleDelegate
    class MultiCastTest : TestMultipuleDelegate.IMultiCastTest
       delegate int Calc(int x, int y,out int id);
        static void Main(string[] args)
            int thid = 0;
            MultiCastTest ClObj = new MultiCastTest();

            Calc objCalc = new Calc(ClObj.Add);         
            // Get current thread ID
            thid = AppDomain.GetCurrentThreadId();

            Console.WriteLine("     ");
            Console.WriteLine(" Main Application Thread ID : " + 
				thid.ToString()); Console.WriteLine();
            // Call delegate by Invoke method (synchronous call 
            int Result = objCalc.Invoke(8, 8, out thid);

            Console.WriteLine("Invoke method completed "); Console.WriteLine();
            // Call delegate by BeginInvoke : Asynchronous call 
            IAsyncResult rs = objCalc.BeginInvoke(234, 6, out thid, null,null);
            Console.WriteLine("Begin Invoke has been start."); Console.WriteLine();
          //  Calling continue Mul funtion along Main thread.
            Console.WriteLine( "Resule Mul " + ClObj.Mul(10, 8).ToString());
            // Waiting till completed the Asynchronous call completed.
            while (rs.IsCompleted == false)
                Console.WriteLine("On processing..."); Console.WriteLine();
           //// Get the result of Asynchronous ,calling functions
           Result = objCalc.EndInvoke(out thid,rs);
            Console.WriteLine("Result : " + Result.ToString()); Console.WriteLine();
            Console.WriteLine("Process completed"); Console.WriteLine();
        public int Add(int x, int y,out int thid)
            Console.WriteLine("In side Calling function Add  : "); Console.WriteLine();
            // Get calling function thread ID
            thid = AppDomain.GetCurrentThreadId();
            Console.WriteLine(" Calling function Thread ID : " + thid.ToString());
            return x + y;

        public int Mul(int a, int b)
	   Console.WriteLine("Inside Multipule function thred ID. "+     
		AppDomain.GetCurrentThreadId().ToString()); Console.WriteLine();
            return a*b;

// Another .CS file
using System;
namespace TestMultipuleDelegate
    interface IMultiCastTest
        int Add(int x, int y, out int thid);
        int Mul(int a, int b);

Fig – 4.0 ( Code Sample – 4.0 outputs)

We can see at Fig-4.0: (Code Sample – 4.0 outputs).

Main thread id = Invoke method function calls thread id = simple function calls immediately after BeginInvoke function call. But BeginInvoke function call thread id is 2992 different.

Some Facts about the Delegate

  • Delegate is an object and by default private type access modifier.
  • Delegate class is generated by C# compiler according its declaration.
  • Delegate class object can hold reference of static or any class object’s function.
  • Delegate class is a sealed class which is generated by the C# compiler during run time.
  • Delegate is a keyword, so any function cannot return delegate type.
  • Delegate cannot use as field of the class.
  • Delegate provides asynchronous and synchronous calls.


  • 20th July, 2011: Initial post


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Rajesh Bisht
Software Developer (Senior)
India India
Good Hand on C,C++, Expert in VBA and QuarkXpress plugin. Lets Hold WCF(.NET Technology).

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Comments and Discussions

SuggestionThank you. Pin
yuzaihuan6-Feb-14 23:24
memberyuzaihuan6-Feb-14 23:24 
GeneralMy vote of 4 Pin
pramodkumarw4-Jun-13 2:03
memberpramodkumarw4-Jun-13 2:03 
GeneralRe: My vote of 4 Pin
Rajesh Bisht29-Jul-13 20:19
memberRajesh Bisht29-Jul-13 20:19 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Wisen Technologies3-Jan-13 20:30
groupWisen Technologies3-Jan-13 20:30 
QuestionPossibility of memory leaks Pin
Wisen Technologies3-Jan-13 20:29
groupWisen Technologies3-Jan-13 20:29 
AnswerRe: Possibility of memory leaks Pin
Rajesh Bisht29-Jul-13 20:18
memberRajesh Bisht29-Jul-13 20:18 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
CS14012-Feb-12 23:03
memberCS14012-Feb-12 23:03 
very useful one.

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