Go by Example: Errors

In Go it’s idiomatic to communicate errors via an explicit, separate return value. This contrasts with the exceptions used in languages like Java and Ruby and the overloaded single result / error value sometimes used in C. Go’s approach makes it easy to see which functions return errors and to handle them using the same language constructs employed for other, non-error tasks.

See the documentation of the errors package and this blog post for additional details.

package main
import (

By convention, errors are the last return value and have type error, a built-in interface.

func f(arg int) (int, error) {
    if arg == 42 {

errors.New constructs a basic error value with the given error message.

        return -1, errors.New("can't work with 42")

A nil value in the error position indicates that there was no error.

    return arg + 3, nil

A sentinel error is a predeclared variable that is used to signify a specific error condition.

var ErrOutOfTea = fmt.Errorf("no more tea available")
var ErrPower = fmt.Errorf("can't boil water")
func makeTea(arg int) error {
    if arg == 2 {
        return ErrOutOfTea
    } else if arg == 4 {

We can wrap errors with higher-level errors to add context. The simplest way to do this is with the %w verb in fmt.Errorf. Wrapped errors create a logical chain (A wraps B, which wraps C, etc.) that can be queried with functions like errors.Is and errors.As.

        return fmt.Errorf("making tea: %w", ErrPower)
    return nil
func main() {
    for _, i := range []int{7, 42} {

It’s common to use an inline error check in the if line.

        if r, e := f(i); e != nil {
            fmt.Println("f failed:", e)
        } else {
            fmt.Println("f worked:", r)
    for i := range 5 {
        if err := makeTea(i); err != nil {

errors.Is checks that a given error (or any error in its chain) matches a specific error value. This is especially useful with wrapped or nested errors, allowing you to identify specific error types or sentinel errors in a chain of errors.

            if errors.Is(err, ErrOutOfTea) {
                fmt.Println("We should buy new tea!")
            } else if errors.Is(err, ErrPower) {
                fmt.Println("Now it is dark.")
            } else {
                fmt.Printf("unknown error: %s\n", err)
        fmt.Println("Tea is ready!")
$ go run errors.sh
f worked: 10
f failed: can't work with 42
Tea is ready!
Tea is ready!
We should buy new tea!
Tea is ready!
Now it is dark.

Next example: Custom Errors.