6.10.2. Equality constraints and Coercible constraint Equality constraints

A type context can include equality constraints of the form t1 ~ t2, which denote that the types t1 and t2 need to be the same. In the presence of type families, whether two types are equal cannot generally be decided locally. Hence, the contexts of function signatures may include equality constraints, as in the following example:

sumCollects :: (Collects c1, Collects c2, Elem c1 ~ Elem c2) => c1 -> c2 -> c2

where we require that the element type of c1 and c2 are the same. In general, the types t1 and t2 of an equality constraint may be arbitrary monotypes; i.e., they may not contain any quantifiers, independent of whether higher-rank types are otherwise enabled.

Equality constraints can also appear in class and instance contexts. The former enable a simple translation of programs using functional dependencies into programs using family synonyms instead. The general idea is to rewrite a class declaration of the form

class C a b | a -> b


class (F a ~ b) => C a b where
  type F a

That is, we represent every functional dependency (FD) a1 .. an -> b by an FD type family F a1 .. an and a superclass context equality F a1 .. an ~ b, essentially giving a name to the functional dependency. In class instances, we define the type instances of FD families in accordance with the class head. Method signatures are not affected by that process. Heterogeneous equality

GHC also supports kind-heterogeneous equality, which relates two types of potentially different kinds. Heterogeneous equality is spelled ~~. Here are the kinds of ~ and ~~ to better understand their difference:

(~)  :: forall k. k -> k -> Constraint
(~~) :: forall k1 k2. k1 -> k2 -> Constraint

Users will most likely want ~, but ~~ is available if GHC cannot know, a priori, that the two types of interest have the same kind. Evidence that (a :: k1) ~~ (b :: k2) tells GHC both that k1 and k2 are the same and that a and b are the same.

Because ~ is the more common equality relation, GHC prints out ~~ like ~ unless -fprint-equality-relations is set. Unlifted heterogeneous equality

Internal to GHC is yet a third equality relation (~#). It is heterogeneous (like ~~) and is used only internally. It may appear in error messages and other output only when -fprint-equality-relations is enabled. The Coercible constraint

The constraint Coercible t1 t2 is similar to t1 ~ t2, but denotes representational equality between t1 and t2 in the sense of Roles (Roles). It is exported by Data.Coerce, which also contains the documentation. More details and discussion can be found in the paper “Safe Coercions”.