I have a list with some User objects and i’m trying to sort the list, but only works using method reference, with lambda expression the compiler gives an error:

List<User> userList = Arrays.asList(u1, u2, u3);
userList.sort(Comparator.comparing(u -> u.getName())); // works
userList.sort(Comparator.comparing(User::getName).reversed()); // works
userList.sort(Comparator.comparing(u -> u.getName()).reversed()); // Compiler error


comjava8collectionapiCollectionTest.java:35: error: cannot find symbol
            userList.sort(Comparator.comparing(u -> u.getName()).reversed());
symbol:   method getName()
location: variable u of type Object
1 error


This is a weakness in the compiler’s type inferencing mechanism. In order to infer the type of u in the lambda, the target type for the lambda needs to be established. This is accomplished as follows. userList.sort() is expecting an argument of type Comparator<User>. In the first line, Comparator.comparing() needs to return Comparator<User>. This implies that Comparator.comparing() needs a Function that takes a User argument. Thus in the lambda on the first line, u must be of type User and everything works.

In the second and third lines, the target typing is disrupted by the presence of the call to reversed(). I’m not entirely sure why; both the receiver and the return type of reversed() are Comparator<T> so it seems like the target type should be propagated back to the receiver, but it isn’t. (Like I said, it’s a weakness.)

In the second line, the method reference provides additional type information that fills this gap. This information is absent from the third line, so the compiler infers u to be Object (the inference fallback of last resort), which fails.

Obviously if you can use a method reference, do that and it’ll work. Sometimes you can’t use a method reference, e.g., if you want to pass an additional parameter, so you have to use a lambda expression. In that case you’d provide an explicit parameter type in the lambda:

userList.sort(Comparator.comparing((User u) -> u.getName()).reversed());

It might be possible for the compiler to be enhanced to cover this case in a future release.


You can work around this limitation by using the two-argument Comparator.comparing with Comparator.reverseOrder() as the second argument:

users.sort(comparing(User::getName, reverseOrder()));


Contrary to the accepted and upvoted answer for which bounty has been awarded, this doesn’t really have anything to do with lambdas.

The following compiles:

Comparator<LocalDate> dateComparator = naturalOrder();
Comparator<LocalDate> reverseComparator = dateComparator.reversed();

while the following does not:

Comparator<LocalDate> reverseComparator = naturalOrder().reversed();

This is because the compiler’s type inference mechanism isn’t strong enough to take two steps at once: determine that the reversed() method call needs type parameter LocalDate and therefore also the naturalOrder() method call will need the same type parameter.

There is a way to call methods and explicitly pass a type parameter. In simple cases it isn’t necessary because it’s inferred, but it can be done this way:

Comparator<LocalDate> reverseComparator = Comparator.<LocalDate>naturalOrder().reversed();

In the example given in the question, this would become:

userList.sort(Comparator.comparing<User, String>(u -> u.getName()).reversed());

But as shown in the currently accepted answer, anything that helps the compiler inferring type User for the comparing method call without taking extra steps will work, so in this case you can also specify the type of the lambda parameter explicitly or use a method reference User::getName that also includes the type User.


The static method Collections.reverseOrder(Comparator<T>) seems to be the most elegant solution that has been proposed. Just one caveat:
Comparator.reverseOrder() requires that T implements comparable and relies on the natural sorting order.

Collections.reverseOrder(Comparator<T>) has no restriction applied on type T