4.8. Warnings and sanity-checking

GHC has a number of options that select which types of non-fatal error messages, otherwise known as warnings, can be generated during compilation. By default, you get a standard set of warnings which are generally likely to indicate bugs in your program. These are: -fwarn-overlpapping-patterns, -fwarn-deprecations, -fwarn-duplicate-exports, -fwarn-missing-fields, and -fwarn-missing-methods. The following flags are simple ways to select standard “packages” of warnings:


Provides the standard warnings plus -fwarn-incomplete-patterns, -fwarn-unused-matches, -fwarn-unused-imports, -fwarn-misc, and -fwarn-unused-binds.


Turns off all warnings, including the standard ones.


Turns on all warning options.

The full set of warning options is described below. To turn off any warning, simply give the corresponding -fno-warn-... option on the command line.


Causes a warning to be emitted when a deprecated function or type is used. Entities can be marked as deprecated using a pragma, see Section 7.6.7.


Have the compiler warn about duplicate entries in export lists. This is useful information if you maintain large export lists, and want to avoid the continued export of a definition after you've deleted (one) mention of it in the export list.

This option is on by default.


Causes the compiler to emit a warning when a module or interface file in the current directory is shadowing one with the same module name in a library or other directory.


Similarly for incomplete patterns, the function g below will fail when applied to non-empty lists, so the compiler will emit a warning about this when -fwarn-incomplete-patterns is enabled.

g [] = 2

This option isn't enabled be default because it can be a bit noisy, and it doesn't always indicate a bug in the program. However, it's generally considered good practice to cover all the cases in your functions.


Turns on warnings for various harmless but untidy things. This currently includes: importing a type with (..) when the export is abstract, and listing duplicate class assertions in a qualified type.


This option is on by default, and warns you whenever the construction of a labelled field constructor isn't complete, missing initializers for one or more fields. While not an error (the missing fields are initialised with bottoms), it is often an indication of a programmer error.


This option is on by default, and warns you whenever an instance declaration is missing one or more methods, and the corresponding class declaration has no default declaration for them.


If you would like GHC to check that every top-level function/value has a type signature, use the -fwarn-missing-signatures option. This option is off by default.


This option causes a warning to be emitted whenever an inner-scope value has the same name as an outer-scope value, i.e. the inner value shadows the outer one. This can catch typographical errors that turn into hard-to-find bugs, e.g., in the inadvertent cyclic definition let x = ... x ... in.

Consequently, this option does will complain about cyclic recursive definitions.


By default, the compiler will warn you if a set of patterns are overlapping, i.e.,

f :: String -> Int
f []     = 0
f (_:xs) = 1
f "2"    = 2

where the last pattern match in f won't ever be reached, as the second pattern overlaps it. More often than not, redundant patterns is a programmer mistake/error, so this option is enabled by default.


Causes the compiler to warn about lambda-bound patterns that can fail, eg. \(x:xs)->.... Normally, these aren't treated as incomplete patterns by -fwarn-incomplete-patterns.


Have the compiler warn/inform you where in your source the Haskell defaulting mechanism for numeric types kicks in. This is useful information when converting code from a context that assumed one default into one with another, e.g., the `default default' for Haskell 1.4 caused the otherwise unconstrained value 1 to be given the type Int, whereas Haskell 98 defaults it to Integer. This may lead to differences in performance and behaviour, hence the usefulness of being non-silent about this.

This warning is off by default.


Report any function definitions (and local bindings) which are unused. For top-level functions, the warning is only given if the binding is not exported.


Report any objects that are explicitly imported but never used.


Report all unused variables which arise from pattern matches, including patterns consisting of a single variable. For instance f x y = [] would report x and y as unused. To eliminate the warning, all unused variables can be replaced with wildcards.

If you're feeling really paranoid, the -dcore-lint option is a good choice. It turns on heavyweight intra-pass sanity-checking within GHC. (It checks GHC's sanity, not yours.)