6.11.1. Explicit universal quantification (forall)¶

ExplicitForAll
¶ Implied by: ScopedTypeVariables
,LiberalTypeSynonyms
,RankNTypes
,ExistentialQuantification
Since: 6.12.1 Status: Included in GHC2024
,GHC2021
Allow use of the
forall
keyword in places where universal quantification is implicit.
Haskell type signatures are implicitly quantified. When the language
option ExplicitForAll
is used, the keyword forall
allows us to
say exactly what this means. For example:
g :: b > b
means this:
g :: forall b. (b > b)
The two are treated identically, except that the latter may bring type variables into scope (see Lexically scoped type variables).
This extension also enables explicit quantification of type and kind variables in Data instance declarations, Type instance declarations, Closed type families, Associated instances, and Rewrite rules.
Notes:
As well as in type signatures, you can also use an explicit
forall
in an instance declaration:instance forall a. Eq a => Eq [a] where ...
Note that the use of
forall
s in instance declarations is somewhat restricted in comparison to other types. For example, instance declarations are not allowed to contain nestedforall
s. See Formal syntax for instance declaration types for more information.If the
Wunusedforalls
flag is enabled, a warning will be emitted when you write a type variable in an explicitforall
statement that is otherwise unused. For instance:g :: forall a b. (b > b)
would warn about the unused type variable a.
6.11.1.1. The forall
ornothing rule¶
In certain forms of types, type variables obey what is known as the
“forall
ornothing” rule: if a type has an outermost, explicit,
invisible forall
, then all of the type variables in the type must be
explicitly quantified. These two examples illustrate how the rule works:
f :: forall a b. a > b > b  OK, `a` and `b` are explicitly bound
g :: forall a. a > forall b. b > b  OK, `a` and `b` are explicitly bound
h :: forall a. a > b > b  Rejected, `b` is not in scope
The type signatures for f
, g
, and h
all begin with an outermost
invisible forall
, so every type variable in these signatures must be
explicitly bound by a forall
. Both f
and g
obey the
forall
ornothing rule, since they explicitly quantify a
and b
. On
the other hand, h
does not explicitly quantify b
, so GHC will reject
its type signature for being improperly scoped.
In places where the forall
ornothing rule takes effect, if a type does
not have an outermost invisible forall
, then any type variables that are
not explicitly bound by a forall
become implicitly quantified. For example:
i :: a > b > b  `a` and `b` are implicitly quantified
j :: a > forall b. b > b  `a` is implicitly quantified
k :: (forall a. a > b > b)  `b` is implicitly quantified
type L :: forall a > b > b  `b` is implicitly quantified
GHC will accept i
, j
, and k
’s type signatures, as well as L
’s
kind signature. Note that:
j
’s signature is accepted despite its mixture of implicit and explicit quantification. As long as aforall
is not an outermost one, it is fine to use it among implicitly bound type variables.k
’s signature is accepted because the outermost parentheses imply that theforall
is not an outermostforall
. Theforall
ornothing rule is one of the few places in GHC where the presence or absence of parentheses can be semantically significant!L
’s signature begins with an outermostforall
, but it is a visibleforall
, not an invisibleforall
, and therefore does not trigger theforall
ornothing rule.
The forall
ornothing rule takes effect in the following places:
 Type signature declarations for functions, values, and class methods
 Expression type annotations
 Instance declarations
 Default method signatures
 Type signatures in a SPECIALIZE pragma or SPECIALIZE instance pragma
 Standalone kind signatures and polymorphic recursion
 Type signatures for Generalised Algebraic Data Types (GADTs) constructors
 Type signatures for Pattern synonyms
 Data instance declarations, Type instance declarations, Closed type families, and Associated instances
 Rewrite rules in which the type variables are explicitly quantified
Notes:
Pattern type signatures are a notable example of a place where types do not obey the
forall
ornothing rule. For example, GHC will accept the following:f (g :: forall a. a > b) x = g x :: b
Furthermore, Rewrite rules do not obey the
forall
ornothing rule when their type variables are not explicitly quantified:{# RULES "f" forall (g :: forall a. a > b) x. f g x = g x :: b #}
GADT constructors are extra particular about their
forall
s. In addition to adhering to theforall
ornothing rule, GADT constructors also forbid nestedforall
s. For example, GHC would reject the following GADT:data T where MkT :: (forall a. a > b > T)
Because of the lack of an outermost
forall
in the type ofMkT
, theb
would be implicitly quantified. In effect, it would be as if one had writtenMkT :: forall b. (forall a. a > b > T)
, which contains nestedforall
s. See Formal syntax for GADTs.