Feature #13395


Add a method to check for not nil

Added by JustJosh (Joshua Stowers) about 6 years ago. Updated over 5 years ago.

Target version:


There does not seem to be a method in Ruby to check if an object is not nil.
Such a method could help with readability.


array = [1, 'dog', nil]


array = [1, 'dog', nil]

Related issues 1 (0 open1 closed)

Related to Ruby master - Feature #12075: some container#nonempty?Feedbackmatz (Yukihiro Matsumoto)Actions

Updated by sawa (Tsuyoshi Sawada) about 6 years ago

Many methods that take a block come in positive-negative pairs, unlike count. I am not sure how frequent the use case is, but if it is, I rather claim that there should be a negative version of count.

Updated by duerst (Martin Dürst) about 6 years ago

Any ideas about the name?

Updated by Hanmac (Hans Mackowiak) about 6 years ago


does work for something similar like that.

its not 100% what you might want, because it does ignore false too

Updated by nobu (Nobuyoshi Nakada) about 6 years ago

Hanmac (Hans Mackowiak) wrote:


does work for something similar like that.

IIRC, it equals to simple array.count.

Updated by Hanmac (Hans Mackowiak) about 6 years ago

nobu (Nobuyoshi Nakada) wrote:

Hanmac (Hans Mackowiak) wrote:


does work for something similar like that.

IIRC, it equals to simple array.count.

are you sure? i am currently on ruby 2.3.3 Windows

[1, "bc", nil].count #=> 3
[1, "bc", nil].count(&:itself) #=> 2

Updated by nobu (Nobuyoshi Nakada) about 6 years ago

Thank you for the correction.

Updated by ogarci5 (Oliver Garcia) about 6 years ago

What about as a condition for if statements? For example:
Case 1

if !object.nil?
  # Do something

Case 2

if object
  # Do something

Case 3

if object.not_nil?
  # Do something

I end up using Case 2 a lot because it reads better than Case 1. However this doesn't work if object can be false in which case Case 3 would be the most readable.

Updated by darix (Marcus Rückert) about 6 years ago

if !object.nil?
  # Do something
unless object.nil?
  # Do something

Updated by shevegen (Robert A. Heiler) about 6 years ago

I think that these discussions come up with some frequency; if I recall correctly,
Tsuyoshi Sawada was proposing something that I agreed with in principle. But I
did point out that the english language appears to have it easier with positive
assertions rather than negative ones.

I am not against .not_nil? per se, mind you, since it may be symmetrical for .nil?
cases and the example give by darix (if nil, if !nil?, unless nil?) but I think
it is something that is somewhat showing a limitation of the english language as

I actually found that the simplest way, for my own code, is to try to formulate
things "positively" whenever possible.


if condition

if condition1 and condition2

A similar explanation I use for .select or .reject, I
almost always go to pick exactly what I need to have.
Like a filter where you apply the filtering in a
forward fashion (you could of course always revert the
filter, like to use .reject rather than .select, or
within the block clause, invert the checks).

To the suggestion itself in regards to .count, perhaps
this may be worthwhile to have some special meaning for
what a user may want to count for.

In non-legal ruby, consider this:

array = [1, 'dog', nil]
array.count(! &:nil?)

Granted, not very readable. :)

Then again, I also consider the & not really readable either.

How about:

array = [1, 'dog', nil]




To be honest, I don't think that these examples are really that

In the above example, using .compact may be simpler:


For the latter, perhaps a method that does it, like .not_nil? but
I am not sure if this is used that much to warrant an addition.

I do somewhat agree with ogarci5 by the way - not necessarily because
of the explanation, but because in case 3 he gave, you do not have
to use "unless" and neither the invert "operator" "!", which is
usually much easier and more straightforward. So in that context,
I actually agree, having that flexibility may be a good thing,
even if I don't like the name .not_nil? a lot.

I still think that it is a limitation of the english language.

Consider a backpack in a RPG/rogue-like game. You want to
query whether it is empty or filled:

if backpack.empty? # Seems simple.

if !backpack.empty? # Seems ok although more difficult to understand

if backpack.filled? # Hmmm... filled with what?

if backpack.not_empty? # Not ideal but perhaps also better than the other two examples before

So I kinda semi-agree with ogarci5; I still think that the english language
itself is the one that has the biggest problems here with negations, followed
by the human brain modeling concepts. (OOP is a modeled concept too after all)

Updated by kernigh (George Koehler) about 6 years ago

Because ! is a method, one can also write !object.nil? as object.nil?.! using the method chain .nil?.! to check for not nil. This works since Ruby 1.9, if I recall.

Actions #11

Updated by nobu (Nobuyoshi Nakada) about 6 years ago

Updated by matz (Yukihiro Matsumoto) almost 6 years ago

Your example is bit weak. Is there any realistic use-case for the method?


Updated by znz (Kazuhiro NISHIYAMA) over 5 years ago

I think Array#nitems is like this. But it was removed since ruby 1.9.1.

In doc/NEWS-1.9.1:

o Array#nitems was removed (use count {|i| !i.nil?})

Updated by MSP-Greg (Greg L) over 5 years ago

I believe the english equivalent to not_nil would be exist (instead of exists, to follow prev use). I believe core only uses exist? with Dir, File, and FileTest.

Having it would allow showing the standard case first in an if-else-end structure, given that unless-else-end may be considered 'strange' code.

Also, I'm sure many of us have used a tri-state nil/false/true variable when it is helpful.


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