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How to Use Delegates and Events in C#

Delegates and events in C# are a fundamental concept that allow for a more flexible and dynamic approach to programming. They enable the design of extensible and maintainable applications by providing a mechanism to decouple classes and create type-safe function pointers. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the world of delegates and events, exploring their significance, usage, and best practices.

Key Takeaways:

  • Delegates are type-safe function pointers that can reference any method with a particular signature.
  • Events are a way for a class to notify other classes when something of interest occurs.
  • Events in C# are based on the delegate model, following the observer design pattern.
  • Delegates and events provide a mechanism for achieving loose coupling between objects.

What are Delegates?

A delegate is a type that represents references to methods with a particular parameter list and return type. When you instantiate a delegate, you can associate its instance with any method with a compatible signature and return type. This means the method’s return type must match the delegate’s return type.

For example, consider the following delegate declaration:

public delegate void MyDelegate(string message);

This delegate can represent any method that has a single string parameter and returns void.

Why Use Delegates?

Delegates offer several benefits:

  1. Type Safety: Unlike function pointers in some other languages, delegates are object-oriented and type-safe. There’s no risk of invoking a method with the wrong parameter types.
  2. Flexibility: Delegates can reference instance methods, static methods, or even anonymous methods.
  3. Event Handling: They form the basis for the event-handling mechanism in C#, allowing for a publisher-subscriber model.

Events in C#

An event in C# is a way for a class to provide notifications to clients of that class when some interesting thing happens to an object. The most familiar use for events is in graphical user interfaces; typically, the classes that represent controls in the interface have events that are notified when the user does something to the control (for example, click a button).

Events are based on the delegate model in C#. The delegate model follows the observer design pattern, which enables a subscriber to register with, and receive notifications from, a provider. An event sender pushes a notification that an event has happened, and an event receiver receives that notification and defines a response to it.

Declaring and Using Delegates and Events in C#

To declare an event inside a class, you use the event keyword, followed by the delegate type for the event and the name of the event.

public class MyClass
    public event MyDelegate MyEvent;

    public void RaiseEvent()
        MyEvent?.Invoke("Test message");

In the above example, MyEvent is an event of delegate type MyDelegate.

How Events Work

When you instantiate a class that has an event member, the event member doesn’t have a value (it’s null). Before you can raise the event, you need to add a delegate to the event’s invocation list by using the += operator.

MyClass obj = new MyClass(); 
obj.MyEvent += MyEventHandler;

Here, MyEventHandler is a method that matches the signature of the delegate MyDelegate.


Understanding delegates and events in C# is a core skill for the intermediate to expert developer, especially for those working on applications with graphical user interfaces, for example, or those requiring a high degree of extensibility and flexibility. By leveraging these features, developers can write more maintainable, decoupled, and scalable code.