The Haskell Report is vague about exactly when a
deriving clause is
legal. For example:
data T0 f a = MkT0 a deriving( Eq ) data T1 f a = MkT1 (f a) deriving( Eq ) data T2 f a = MkT2 (f (f a)) deriving( Eq )
The natural generated
Eq code would result in these instance declarations:
instance Eq a => Eq (T0 f a) where ... instance Eq (f a) => Eq (T1 f a) where ... instance Eq (f (f a)) => Eq (T2 f a) where ...
The first of these is obviously fine. The second is still fine, although less obviously. The third is not Haskell 98, and risks losing termination of instances.
GHC takes a conservative position: it accepts the first two, but not the third. The rule is this: each constraint in the inferred instance context must consist only of type variables, with no repetitions.
This rule is applied regardless of flags. If you want a more exotic context, you can write it yourself, using the standalone deriving mechanism.
GHC now allows stand-alone
deriving declarations, enabled by
data Foo a = Bar a | Baz String deriving instance Eq a => Eq (Foo a)
The syntax is identical to that of an ordinary instance declaration apart from (a) the keyword
deriving, and (b) the absence of the
Note the following points:
You must supply an explicit context (in the example the context is
exactly as you would in an ordinary instance declaration.
(In contrast, in a
attached to a data type declaration, the context is inferred.)
deriving instance declaration
must obey the same rules concerning form and termination as ordinary instance declarations,
controlled by the same flags; see Section 7.6.3, “Instance declarations”.
declaration attached to a
data declaration, the instance can be more specific
than the data type (assuming you also use
-XFlexibleInstances, Section 220.127.116.11, “Relaxed rules for instance contexts”). Consider
data Foo a = Bar a | Baz String deriving instance Eq a => Eq (Foo [a]) deriving instance Eq a => Eq (Foo (Maybe a))
This will generate a derived instance for
(Foo [a]) and
(Foo (Maybe a)),
but other types such as
(Foo (Int,Bool)) will not be an instance of
declaration attached to a
GHC does not restrict the form of the data type. Instead, GHC simply generates the appropriate
boilerplate code for the specified class, and typechecks it. If there is a type error, it is
your problem. (GHC will show you the offending code if it has a type error.)
The merit of this is that you can derive instances for GADTs and other exotic
data types, providing only that the boilerplate code does indeed typecheck. For example:
data T a where T1 :: T Int T2 :: T Bool deriving instance Show (T a)
In this example, you cannot say
... deriving( Show ) on the
data type declaration for
T is a GADT, but you can generate
the instance declaration using stand-alone deriving.
The stand-alone syntax is generalised for newtypes in exactly the same
way that ordinary
deriving clauses are generalised (Section 7.5.4, “Generalised derived instances for newtypes”).
newtype Foo a = MkFoo (State Int a) deriving instance MonadState Int Foo
GHC always treats the last parameter of the instance
Foo in this example) as the type whose instance is being derived.
Haskell 98 allows the programmer to add "
deriving( Eq, Ord )" to a data type
declaration, to generate a standard instance declaration for classes specified in the
In Haskell 98, the only classes that may appear in the
deriving clause are the standard
GHC extends this list with several more classes that may be automatically derived:
-XDeriveDataTypeable, you can derive instances of the classes
Data, defined in the library
An instance of
Typeable can only be derived if the
data type has seven or fewer type parameters, all of kind
The reason for this is that the
Typeable class is derived using the scheme
Scrap More Boilerplate: Reflection, Zips, and Generalised Casts
(Section 7.4 of the paper describes the multiple
Typeable classes that
are used, and only
Typeable1 up to
Typeable7 are provided in the library.)
In other cases, there is nothing to stop the programmer writing a
class, whose kind suits that of the data type constructor, and
then writing the data type instance by hand.
-XDeriveGeneric, you can derive
instances of the class
Generic, defined in
GHC.Generics. You can use these to define generic functions,
as described in Section 7.17, “Generic programming”.
-XDeriveFunctor, you can derive instances of
-XDeriveFoldable, you can derive instances of
-XDeriveTraversable, you can derive instances of
In each case the appropriate class must be in scope before it
can be mentioned in the
When you define an abstract type using
newtype, you may want
the new type to inherit some instances from its representation. In
Haskell 98, you can inherit instances of
Bounded by deriving them, but for any
other classes you have to write an explicit instance declaration. For
example, if you define
newtype Dollars = Dollars Int
and you want to use arithmetic on
Dollars, you have to
explicitly define an instance of
instance Num Dollars where Dollars a + Dollars b = Dollars (a+b) ...
All the instance does is apply and remove the
constructor. It is particularly galling that, since the constructor
doesn't appear at run-time, this instance declaration defines a
dictionary which is wholly equivalent to the
dictionary, only slower!
GHC now permits such instances to be derived instead,
using the flag
so one can write
newtype Dollars = Dollars Int deriving (Eq,Show,Num)
and the implementation uses the same
Dollars as for
Int. Notionally, the compiler
derives an instance declaration of the form
instance Num Int => Num Dollars
which just adds or removes the
newtype constructor according to the type.
We can also derive instances of constructor classes in a similar way. For example, suppose we have implemented state and failure monad transformers, such that
instance Monad m => Monad (State s m) instance Monad m => Monad (Failure m)
In Haskell 98, we can define a parsing monad by
type Parser tok m a = State [tok] (Failure m) a
which is automatically a monad thanks to the instance declarations
above. With the extension, we can make the parser type abstract,
without needing to write an instance of class
newtype Parser tok m a = Parser (State [tok] (Failure m) a) deriving Monad
In this case the derived instance declaration is of the form
instance Monad (State [tok] (Failure m)) => Monad (Parser tok m)
Notice that, since
Monad is a constructor class, the
instance is a partial application of the new type, not the
entire left hand side. We can imagine that the type declaration is
"eta-converted" to generate the context of the instance
We can even derive instances of multi-parameter classes, provided the
newtype is the last class parameter. In this case, a ``partial
application'' of the class appears in the
clause. For example, given the class
class StateMonad s m | m -> s where ... instance Monad m => StateMonad s (State s m) where ...
then we can derive an instance of
newtype Parser tok m a = Parser (State [tok] (Failure m) a) deriving (Monad, StateMonad [tok])
The derived instance is obtained by completing the application of the class to the new type:
instance StateMonad [tok] (State [tok] (Failure m)) => StateMonad [tok] (Parser tok m)
As a result of this extension, all derived instances in newtype
declarations are treated uniformly (and implemented just by reusing
the dictionary for the representation type), except
Read, which really behave differently for
the newtype and its representation.
Derived instance declarations are constructed as follows. Consider the declaration (after expansion of any type synonyms)
newtype T v1...vn = T' (t vk+1...vn) deriving (c1...cm)
ci are partial applications of
classes of the form
C t1'...tj', where the arity of
j+1. That is,
C lacks exactly one type argument.
k is chosen so that
ci (T v1...vk) is well-kinded.
t is an arbitrary type.
The type variables
vk+1...vn do not occur in
nor in the
None of the
Data. These classes
should not "look through" the type or its constructor. You can still
derive these classes for a newtype, but it happens in the usual way, not
via this new mechanism.
Then, for each
ci, the derived instance
instance ci t => ci (T v1...vk)
As an example which does not work, consider
newtype NonMonad m s = NonMonad (State s m s) deriving Monad
Here we cannot derive the instance
instance Monad (State s m) => Monad (NonMonad m)
because the type variable
s occurs in
State s m,
and so cannot be "eta-converted" away. It is a good thing that this
deriving clause is rejected, because
NonMonad m is
not, in fact, a monad --- for the same reason. Try defining
>>= with the correct type: you won't be able to.
Notice also that the order of class parameters becomes
important, since we can only derive instances for the last one. If the
StateMonad class above were instead defined as
class StateMonad m s | m -> s where ...
then we would not have been able to derive an instance for the
Parser type above. We hypothesise that multi-parameter
classes usually have one "main" parameter for which deriving new
instances is most interesting.
Lastly, all of this applies only for classes other than
Data, for which the built-in derivation applies (section
4.3.3. of the Haskell Report).
(For the standard classes
Bounded it is immaterial whether
the standard method is used or the one described here.)