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Understanding Rust’s Unique Language Features

Vanshika Srivastava
Vanshika Srivastava
Table of Contents
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Why Rust?

Rust is a system’s programming language that provides high performance, compile-time memory safety, and concurrent programming capabilities. The most popular feature of Rust which makes it unique from other programming languages is the absence of a garbage collector. Because of its ownership and borrowing mechanics, rust excels in delivering uncompromising performance without sacrificing memory safety. Concurrent programming in Rust is approachable and secure, with features like lifetimes and pattern matching.

Let’s learn about these unique features of rust in detail –


Ownership in Rust represents a collection of guidelines on how memory is handled within a Rust program. Every program must navigate the insights of memory management during execution. While some languages employ garbage collection to periodically reclaim unused memory, and others require manual allocation and deallocation by the programmer, Rust follows a distinctive path: it manages memory through an ownership system governed by a set of rules verified by the compiler. If any of these rules are breached, the program simply refuses to compile. Crucially, these ownership rules don’t introduce runtime overhead, ensuring optimal program performance throughout its execution.

Rules of Ownership

  • Each value in rust has a variable which is called its owner.
  • Only one owner is allowed at a time.
  • When the owner goes out of scope, the value will be dropped.

In the case of integers, rust will make a copy i.e. there will be separate memory locations to store the value.

In the case of strings, rust ownership comes into play and will not make a copy but rather move the value of the first value into the second value.

With this ownership remains with first_value only and second_value can be used as a reference to first_value.
move = leads to change of ownership
reference = leads to concept of borrowing
If we want to make a copy of the variable and do not want to change the ownership then we can use the clone method.


In Rust, Borrowing refers to allowing multiple parts of a program to access the data without taking its ownership. It just transfers the ownership of an entity temporarily and then it is returned to the original entity when the function to which it was passed completes its execution. This helps in ensuring memory safety and preventing data races by controlling access to variables. Borrowing comes in two main flavors: mutable and immutable.

  • Immutable Borrowing (Immutable referencing) –

Immutable Borrowing is indicated by &. It allows multiple program parts to read data simultaneously without modifying it. This is useful for scenarios where you want to share data for reading but do not want to alter its content. Multiple & references can coexist because they don’t interfere with each other.

  • Mutable Borrowing (mutable referencing) –

Mutable Borrowing is indicated by &mut. It allows exclusive access to data for modification. It only works with mutable variables. While a mutable reference remains in scope, no other reference, whether mutable or immutable, can access the same data. This ensures that changes are coordinated and don’t lead to data races.

Rules of Borrowing (References)

  • Only one mutable reference is allowed in a scope. This rule ensures that no data race occurs.
  • Many immutable references can exist together in a scope.
  • Both mutable and immutable references cannot coexist. This is because we cannot borrow a variable as mutable as it is also borrowed as immutable.


In Rust, lifetime is a concept in which it is ensured that the compiler keeps track of the duration of the references for how long they are valid. It is a way of preventing problems like dangling references and accessing memory after it has been deallocated. They allow the Rust compiler to verify that references are used safely and that there are no violations of memory safety rules.

Lifetime Annotations

Lifetime annotations in Rust serve the purpose of specifying how long references remain valid.

  1. ‘a Lifetime (Generic Lifetime) :
  • ‘a is like a label we use to show how long references are connected.
  • It tells us that a reference lives for a certain duration, depending on where it’s used.
  • When we want to show how references are related, we use the same ‘a label for both the input and output references.

2. Lifetime in Struct :

  • Lifetime annotations are used when defining structs to tell the relationship existing between the lifetime of the fields of the struct. This guarantees that the references within the struct are employed securely and that the durations of its fields are explicitly specified.

3. static Lifetime :

  • static signifies the complete lifespan of a program, serving as the longest possible duration.
  • Data containing the ‘static lifetime resides within the program and remains accessible throughout the entire program’s execution.
  • This lifetime annotation is frequently applied to global constants or static variables.

Lifetime Elision

Lifetime elision is a feature in Rust that simplifies the syntax when working with references in function and method signatures. It allows the compiler to automatically infer the lifetimes of references without requiring explicit lifetime annotations. This simplification enhances code readability and reduces the need for developers to write explicit annotations, especially in common scenarios.

Rust employs a set of predefined rules for lifetime elision, making it possible to omit explicit lifetime annotations in many cases. These rules include:

  1. The Input Lifetime Rule: When a function or method has a single input reference parameter, Rust automatically assumes that the lifetime of this parameter applies to all output reference parameters.
  2. The Output Lifetime Rule: In the context of methods, if a method borrows or mutably borrows the self parameter (&self or &mut self), the compiler assigns the lifetime of self to all output reference parameters.
  3. The Anonymous Lifetime Rule: When there are multiple input reference parameters, none of which have a 'static lifetime, Rust assigns distinct anonymous lifetimes to each input reference parameter. This clarifies that each reference has a separate and distinct lifetime.

In this example, we have a function get_first that takes two string references. The first reference s1 has a lifetime 'a, while the second reference s2 doesn’t have an explicit lifetime annotation.

Here’s how lifetime elision simplifies it:

  • get_first has two input references, s1 and s2, with s1 explicitly annotated as 'a.
  • Since there’s only one input reference with an explicit 'a lifetime, Rust’s elision rules assign the same 'a lifetime to the output reference.
  • We call get_first with references to s1 and s2. Even though s2 does not have an explicit lifetime, it’s inferred to be 'a due to the elision rules.
  • The result get_first goes into result, ready for printing.

Pattern Matching

Pattern matching is a way of matching the structure of a variable and binding the variable to its parts. It is a versatile and robust approach to handling data and controlling the flow of Rust programs. In Rust, the match the keyword is used for pattern matching.

Match Guards: Match guards are conditions that can be applied to pattern matches to further refine when a pattern should be considered a match.

Matching Option Type in Rust:


To wrap it up, we’ve uncovered the vital concepts that make Rust such a standout programming language. These concepts are like the building blocks of Rust’s safety and performance, making it a top choice for tasks that require precision and speed, whether you’re creating an operating system or a web service. Rust’s zero-cost abstractions ensure that these benefits come without sacrificing runtime efficiency,

As you continue your Rust adventure, getting a good grip on ownership, borrowing, lifetimes, and pattern matching will help you write code that’s not just safer but also works more smoothly. Rust’s rich ecosystem and supportive community make it an exciting language to explore further.

Vanshika Srivastava

Vanshika Srivastava

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