By Ryan Smith

2017-05-02 17:51:53 8 Comments

Using Go's reflect package, is there a way to set a pointer in a struct if the pointer is nil? Looking at the reflect package, if reflect.Value.CanSet() is false then any Set() calls will yield a panic. Is there another way around this, only using the reflect package, not depending on any direct reference to the struct? For example, how can I set the empty last name as "Johnson" in the code below?

package main

import (

type Person struct {
    FirstName *string
    LastName  *string

func main() {
    p := Person{}
    firstName := "Ryan"
    p.FirstName = &firstName

    rp := reflect.ValueOf(p)
    fmt.Println("rp:", rp)

    for i := 0; i < rp.NumField(); i++ {
        fmt.Printf("%s: Pointer: %d CanSet: %t\n", rp.Type().Field(i).Name, rp.Field(i).Pointer(), rp.Field(i).Elem().CanSet())


    // Yields nil pointer error
    // rp.Field(1).Elem().SetString("Johnson")
    // fmt.Println(*p.LastName)

    // fmt.Println(rp.Field(1).Elem().Type()) // nil pointer here also

See in Golang Playground


@JimB 2017-05-02 18:06:06

You first need a pointer to a Person{}, because you need to set a value to the LastName Field.

p := &Person{}

Then you can set a valid pointer value to the LastName field, which will allow you to set the string value:


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