Front-end bits

TypeScript - unextend an interface

August 04, 2019

Let’s extend an interface in TypeScript:

interface IPerson {
    name: string;
    age: number;

interface IDeveloper extends IPerson {
    githubUrl: string;
    is10x: boolean;

function buildDevIntro(developer: IDeveloper) {
    return `Hi, I'm ${} 
            and my GitHub is ${developer.githubUrl}`;

As you can see, extension is a really useful way to re-use more general types (like a “person”) and make them more specific: IDeveloper.

Anything that’s of type IDeveloper has all the properties we’ve declared for a developer, like githubUrl and whether they’re a 10X developer, but they also have all the properties of a person (name and age).

That’s why TS lets us print out the developer’s name in the code above without any errors.

But what if, instead of adding properties to a type via extension we want to..

“Un-extend” an interface

I.e. Can we extend an existing type, but instead of specifying which properties we want to add, can we specify which ones we want to remove?

interface INamelessPerson extends IPerson {
    -name: string; //can't we just use the minus sign on it?

Unfortunately, the above won’t work :(

Not so unfortunately, this question has already been answered on StackOverflow:

//we define a new Omit type
type Omit<T, K extends keyof T> = Pick<T, Exclude<keyof T, K>>

//then we can use it
interface INamelessPerson extends Omit<IPerson, 'name'> {}

Now if we try it:

typescript throws error when trying to call "name" on a INamelessPerson

We get an error - great!

We can, of course, remove as many properties as we want:

interface IEmptyPerson extends Omit<IPerson, 'name' | 'age'> {}

But how does that work?


Exclude is a built-in type of TS, since version 2.8:

type ProgrammingLanguages = 'JavaScript' | 'TypeScript' | 'Flow';
type NonTypedLanguages = Exclude<ProgrammingLanguages, 'TypeScript' | 'Flow'>;

//another way to write the above is..
type NonTypedLanguages = 'JavaScript';

It allows you, starting from a wider type, like the set of programming languages, to exclude a subset of types, like 'TypeScript' | 'Flow'.


type INameable = Pick<IPerson, 'name'>;

//another way to write the above is..
type INameable = {
    name: string;

Pick is another built-in type of TS, and it allows you to build a subset of an existing type, by providing a list of just the property names you want to pick and transfer over to the new object:


Omit is thankfully not another magic built-in type, but one we build ourselves:

type Omit<T, K extends keyof T>

We’re using the power of generics, to define an Omit type, that returns you a completely new type, based on 2 parameters you’re sending it:

  • a type T, which can be anything
  • a type K which needs to be part of the set of all the keys of T - i.e. keyof IPerson returns the union type name | age. So name, age, name | age or age | name work perfectly well with our Omit

Putting it all together

When we declare a type like this:

type Omit<T, K extends keyof T>

..and then use it: Omit<IPerson, 'name'>

T will become IPerson

K will become the string literal type 'name'

..then we get all the keys of IPerson, and we use Exclude to generate ONLY they keys that we don’t want to leave in there:

Exclude<keyof IPerson, 'name'> // --> gives us the type 'age'

Which in our case, leaves us with just age.

Now that we have the keys that we DO want in there, it’s just a matter of using Pick against the original type, to pick just those properties that we need:

Pick<IPerson, 'age'>

gives us the type: { age: number }.

Hi, I'm Rares 👋 I work remotely in Scotland where I also teach, cycle, organise GlasgowJS & record training videos for Egghead
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