As with all known Haskell systems, GHC implements some extensions to the standard Haskell language. They can all be enabled or disabled by command line flags or language pragmas. By default GHC understands the most recent Haskell version it supports, plus a handful of extensions.
Some of the Glasgow extensions serve to give you access to the underlying facilities with which we implement Haskell. Thus, you can get at the Raw Iron, if you are willing to write some nonportable code at a more primitive level. You need not be “stuck” on performance because of the implementation costs of Haskell’s “highlevel” features—you can always code “under” them. In an extreme case, you can write all your timecritical code in C, and then just glue it together with Haskell!
Before you get too carried away working at the lowest level (e.g.,
sloshing MutableByteArray#
s around your program), you may wish to
check if there are libraries that provide a “Haskellised veneer” over
the features you want. The separate
libraries documentation describes all the
libraries that come with GHC.
9.1. Language options¶
The language option flags control what variation of the language are permitted.
Language options can be controlled in two ways:
 Every language option can switched on by a commandline flag
“
X...
” (e.g.XTemplateHaskell
), and switched off by the flag “XNo...
”; (e.g.XNoTemplateHaskell
).  Language options recognised by Cabal can also be enabled using the
LANGUAGE
pragma, thus{# LANGUAGE TemplateHaskell #}
(see LANGUAGE pragma).
Although not recommended, the deprecated fglasgowexts
flag enables
a large swath of the extensions supported by GHC at once.

fglasgowexts
The flag
fglasgowexts
is equivalent to enabling the following extensions:XConstrainedClassMethods
XDeriveDataTypeable
XDeriveFoldable
XDeriveFunctor
XDeriveGeneric
XDeriveTraversable
XEmptyDataDecls
XExistentialQuantification
XExplicitNamespaces
XFlexibleContexts
XFlexibleInstances
XForeignFunctionInterface
XFunctionalDependencies
XGeneralizedNewtypeDeriving
XImplicitParams
XKindSignatures
XLiberalTypeSynonyms
XMagicHash
XMultiParamTypeClasses
XParallelListComp
XPatternGuards
XPostfixOperators
XRankNTypes
XRecursiveDo
XScopedTypeVariables
XStandaloneDeriving
XTypeOperators
XTypeSynonymInstances
XUnboxedTuples
XUnicodeSyntax
XUnliftedFFITypes
Enabling these options is the only effect of
fglasgowexts
. We are trying to move away from this portmanteau flag, and towards enabling features individually.
9.2. Unboxed types and primitive operations¶
GHC is built on a raft of primitive data types and operations; “primitive” in the sense that they cannot be defined in Haskell itself. While you really can use this stuff to write fast code, we generally find it a lot less painful, and more satisfying in the long run, to use higherlevel language features and libraries. With any luck, the code you write will be optimised to the efficient unboxed version in any case. And if it isn’t, we’d like to know about it.
All these primitive data types and operations are exported by the
library GHC.Prim
, for which there is
detailed online documentation. (This
documentation is generated from the file compiler/prelude/primops.txt.pp
.)
If you want to mention any of the primitive data types or operations in
your program, you must first import GHC.Prim
to bring them into
scope. Many of them have names ending in #
, and to mention such names
you need the XMagicHash
extension (The magic hash).
The primops make extensive use of unboxed types and unboxed tuples, which we briefly summarise here.
9.2.1. Unboxed types¶
Most types in GHC are boxed, which means that values of that type are
represented by a pointer to a heap object. The representation of a
Haskell Int
, for example, is a twoword heap object. An unboxed
type, however, is represented by the value itself, no pointers or heap
allocation are involved.
Unboxed types correspond to the “raw machine” types you would use in C:
Int#
(long int), Double#
(double), Addr#
(void *), etc. The
primitive operations (PrimOps) on these types are what you might
expect; e.g., (+#)
is addition on Int#
s, and is the
machineaddition that we all know and love—usually one instruction.
Primitive (unboxed) types cannot be defined in Haskell, and are
therefore built into the language and compiler. Primitive types are
always unlifted; that is, a value of a primitive type cannot be bottom.
(Note: a “boxed” type means that a value is represented by a pointer to a heap
object; a “lifted” type means that terms of that type may be bottom. See
the next paragraph for an example.)
We use the convention (but it is only a convention) that primitive
types, values, and operations have a #
suffix (see
The magic hash). For some primitive types we have special syntax for
literals, also described in the same section.
Primitive values are often represented by a simple bitpattern, such as
Int#
, Float#
, Double#
. But this is not necessarily the case:
a primitive value might be represented by a pointer to a heapallocated
object. Examples include Array#
, the type of primitive arrays. Thus,
Array#
is an unlifted, boxed type. A
primitive array is heapallocated because it is too big a value to fit
in a register, and would be too expensive to copy around; in a sense, it
is accidental that it is represented by a pointer. If a pointer
represents a primitive value, then it really does point to that value:
no unevaluated thunks, no indirections. Nothing can be at the other end
of the pointer than the primitive value. A numericallyintensive program
using unboxed types can go a lot faster than its “standard”
counterpart—we saw a threefold speedup on one example.
9.2.2. Unboxed type kinds¶
Because unboxed types are represented without the use of pointers, we
cannot store them in use a polymorphic datatype at an unboxed type.
For example, the Just
node
of Just 42#
would have to be different from the Just
node of
Just 42
; the former stores an integer directly, while the latter
stores a pointer. GHC currently does not support this variety of Just
nodes (nor for any other datatype). Accordingly, the kind of an unboxed
type is different from the kind of a boxed type.
The Haskell Report describes that *
is the kind of ordinary datatypes,
such as Int
. Furthermore, type constructors can have kinds with arrows;
for example, Maybe
has kind * > *
. Unboxed types have a kind that
specifies their runtime representation. For example, the type Int#
has
kind TYPE 'IntRep
and Double#
has kind TYPE 'DoubleRep
. These
kinds say that the runtime representation of an Int#
is a machine integer,
and the runtime representation of a Double#
is a machine doubleprecision
floating point. In contrast, the kind *
is actually just a synonym
for TYPE 'PtrRepLifted
. More details of the TYPE
mechanisms appear in
the section on runtime representation polymorphism.
Given that Int#
‘s kind is not *
, it then it follows that
Maybe Int#
is disallowed. Similarly, because type variables tend
to be of kind *
(for example, in (.) :: (b > c) > (a > b) > a > c
,
all the type variables have kind *
), polymorphism tends not to work
over primitive types. Stepping back, this makes some sense, because
a polymorphic function needs to manipulate the pointers to its data,
and most primitive types are unboxed.
There are some restrictions on the use of primitive types:
You cannot define a newtype whose representation type (the argument type of the data constructor) is an unboxed type. Thus, this is illegal:
newtype A = MkA Int#
You cannot bind a variable with an unboxed type in a toplevel binding.
You cannot bind a variable with an unboxed type in a recursive binding.
You may bind unboxed variables in a (nonrecursive, nontoplevel) pattern binding, but you must make any such patternmatch strict. (Failing to do so emits a warning
Wunbangedstrictpatterns
.) For example, rather than:data Foo = Foo Int Int# f x = let (Foo a b, w) = ..rhs.. in ..body..
you must write:
data Foo = Foo Int Int# f x = let !(Foo a b, w) = ..rhs.. in ..body..
since
b
has typeInt#
.
9.2.3. Unboxed tuples¶

XUnboxedTuples
Enable the use of unboxed tuple syntax.
Unboxed tuples aren’t really exported by GHC.Exts
; they are a
syntactic extension enabled by the language flag XUnboxedTuples
. An
unboxed tuple looks like this:
(# e_1, ..., e_n #)
where e_1..e_n
are expressions of any type (primitive or
nonprimitive). The type of an unboxed tuple looks the same.
Note that when unboxed tuples are enabled, (#
is a single lexeme, so
for example when using operators like #
and #
you need to write
( # )
and ( # )
rather than (#)
and (#)
.
Unboxed tuples are used for functions that need to return multiple
values, but they avoid the heap allocation normally associated with
using fullyfledged tuples. When an unboxed tuple is returned, the
components are put directly into registers or on the stack; the unboxed
tuple itself does not have a composite representation. Many of the
primitive operations listed in primops.txt.pp
return unboxed tuples.
In particular, the IO
and ST
monads use unboxed tuples to avoid
unnecessary allocation during sequences of operations.
There are some restrictions on the use of unboxed tuples:
The typical use of unboxed tuples is simply to return multiple values, binding those multiple results with a
case
expression, thus:f x y = (# x+1, y1 #) g x = case f x x of { (# a, b #) > a + b }
You can have an unboxed tuple in a pattern binding, thus
f x = let (# p,q #) = h x in ..body..
If the types of
p
andq
are not unboxed, the resulting binding is lazy like any other Haskell pattern binding. The above example desugars like this:f x = let t = case h x of { (# p,q #) > (p,q) } p = fst t q = snd t in ..body..
Indeed, the bindings can even be recursive.
9.2.4. Unboxed sums¶

XUnboxedSums
Enable the use of unboxed sum syntax.
XUnboxedSums enables new syntax for anonymous, unboxed sum types. The syntax for an unboxed sum type with N alternatives is
(# t_1  t_2  ...  t_N #)
where t_1 ... t_N are types (which can be unlifted, including unboxed tuple and sums).
Unboxed tuples can be used for multiarity alternatives. For example:
(# (# Int, String #)  Bool #)
Term level syntax is similar. Leading and preceding bars () indicate which alternative it is. Here is two terms of the type shown above:
(# (# 1, "foo" #)  #)  first alternative
(#  True #)  second alternative
Pattern syntax reflects the term syntax:
case x of
(# (# i, str #)  #) > ...
(#  bool #) > ...
Unboxed sums are “unboxed” in the sense that, instead of allocating sums in the heap and representing values as pointers, unboxed sums are represented as their components, just like unboxed tuples. These “components” depend on alternatives of a sum type. Code generator tries to generate as compact layout as possible. In the best case, size of an unboxed sum is size of its biggest alternative + one word (for tag). The algorithm for generating memory layout for a sum type works like this:
All types are classified as one of these classes: 32bit word, 64bit word, 32bit float, 64bit float, pointer.
For each alternative of the sum type, a layout that consists of these fields is generated. For example, if an alternative has Int, Float# and String fields, the layout will have an 32bit word, 32bit float and pointer fields.
Layout fields are then overlapped so that the final layout will be as compact as possible. E.g. say two alternatives have these fields:
Word32, String, Float# Float#, Float#, Maybe Int
Final layout will be something like
Int32, Float32, Float32, Word32, Pointer
First Int32 is for the tag. It has two Float32 fields because floating point types can’t overlap with other types, because of limitations of the code generator that we’re hoping to overcome in the future, and second alternative needs two Float32 fields. Word32 field is for the Word32 in the first alternative. Pointer field is shared between String and Maybe Int values of the alternatives.
In the case of enumeration types (like Bool), the unboxed sum layout only has an Int32 field (i.e. the whole thing is represented by an integer).
In the example above, a value of this type is thus represented as 5 values. As an another example, this is the layout for unboxed version of Maybe a type:
Int32, Pointer
The Pointer field is not used when tag says that it’s Nothing. Otherwise Pointer points to the value in Just.
9.3. Syntactic extensions¶
9.3.1. Unicode syntax¶

XUnicodeSyntax
Enable the use of Unicode characters in place of their equivalent ASCII sequences.
The language extension XUnicodeSyntax
enables
Unicode characters to be used to stand for certain ASCII character
sequences. The following alternatives are provided:
ASCII  Unicode alternative  Code point  Name 

:: 
∷  0x2237  PROPORTION 
=> 
⇒  0x21D2  RIGHTWARDS DOUBLE ARROW 
> 
→  0x2192  RIGHTWARDS ARROW 
< 
←  0x2190  LEFTWARDS ARROW 
> 
⤚  0x291a  RIGHTWARDS ARROWTAIL 
< 
⤙  0x2919  LEFTWARDS ARROWTAIL 
>> 
⤜  0x291C  RIGHTWARDS DOUBLE ARROWTAIL 
<< 
⤛  0x291B  LEFTWARDS DOUBLE ARROWTAIL 
* 
★  0x2605  BLACK STAR 
forall 
∀  0x2200  FOR ALL 
( 
⦇  0x2987  Z NOTATION LEFT IMAGE BRACKET 
) 
⦈  0x2988  Z NOTATION RIGHT IMAGE BRACKET 
[ 
⟦  0x27E6  MATHEMATICAL LEFT WHITE SQUARE BRACKET 
] 
⟧  0x27E7  MATHEMATICAL RIGHT WHITE SQUARE BRACKET 
9.3.2. The magic hash¶

XMagicHash
Enable the use of the hash character (
#
) as an identifier suffix.
The language extension XMagicHash
allows #
as a postfix modifier
to identifiers. Thus, x#
is a valid variable, and T#
is a valid type
constructor or data constructor.
The hash sign does not change semantics at all. We tend to use variable
names ending in “#” for unboxed values or types (e.g. Int#
), but
there is no requirement to do so; they are just plain ordinary
variables. Nor does the XMagicHash
extension bring anything into
scope. For example, to bring Int#
into scope you must import
GHC.Prim
(see Unboxed types and primitive operations); the XMagicHash
extension then
allows you to refer to the Int#
that is now in scope. Note that
with this option, the meaning of x#y = 0
is changed: it defines a
function x#
taking a single argument y
; to define the operator
#
, put a space: x # y = 0
.
The XMagicHash
also enables some new forms of literals (see
Unboxed types):
'x'#
has typeChar#
"foo"#
has typeAddr#
3#
has typeInt#
. In general, any Haskell integer lexeme followed by a#
is anInt#
literal, e.g.0x3A#
as well as32#
.3##
has typeWord#
. In general, any nonnegative Haskell integer lexeme followed by##
is aWord#
.3.2#
has typeFloat#
.3.2##
has typeDouble#
9.3.3. Negative literals¶

XNegativeLiterals
Since: 7.8.1 Enable the use of unparenthesized negative numeric literals.
The literal 123
is, according to Haskell98 and Haskell 2010,
desugared as negate (fromInteger 123)
. The language extension
XNegativeLiterals
means that it is instead desugared as
fromInteger (123)
.
This can make a difference when the positive and negative range of a
numeric data type don’t match up. For example, in 8bit arithmetic 128
is representable, but +128 is not. So negate (fromInteger 128)
will
elicit an unexpected integerliteraloverflow message.
9.3.4. Fractional looking integer literals¶

XNumDecimals
Since: 7.8.1 Allow the use of floatingpoint literal syntax for integral types.
Haskell 2010 and Haskell 98 define floating literals with the syntax
1.2e6
. These literals have the type Fractional a => a
.
The language extension XNumDecimals
allows you to also use the
floating literal syntax for instances of Integral
, and have values
like (1.2e6 :: Num a => a)
9.3.5. Binary integer literals¶

XBinaryLiterals
Since: 7.10.1 Allow the use of binary notation in integer literals.
Haskell 2010 and Haskell 98 allows for integer literals to be given in
decimal, octal (prefixed by 0o
or 0O
), or hexadecimal notation
(prefixed by 0x
or 0X
).
The language extension XBinaryLiterals
adds support for expressing
integer literals in binary notation with the prefix 0b
or 0B
. For
instance, the binary integer literal 0b11001001
will be desugared into
fromInteger 201
when XBinaryLiterals
is enabled.
9.3.6. Pattern guards¶

XNoPatternGuards
Implied by: XHaskell98
Since: 6.8.1
Disable pattern guards.
9.3.7. View patterns¶

XViewPatterns
Allow use of view pattern syntax.
View patterns are enabled by the flag XViewPatterns
. More
information and examples of view patterns can be found on the
Wiki page.
View patterns are somewhat like pattern guards that can be nested inside of other patterns. They are a convenient way of patternmatching against values of abstract types. For example, in a programming language implementation, we might represent the syntax of the types of the language as follows:
type Typ
data TypView = Unit
 Arrow Typ Typ
view :: Typ > TypView
 additional operations for constructing Typ's ...
The representation of Typ is held abstract, permitting implementations to use a fancy representation (e.g., hashconsing to manage sharing). Without view patterns, using this signature is a little inconvenient:
size :: Typ > Integer
size t = case view t of
Unit > 1
Arrow t1 t2 > size t1 + size t2
It is necessary to iterate the case, rather than using an equational
function definition. And the situation is even worse when the matching
against t
is buried deep inside another pattern.
View patterns permit calling the view function inside the pattern and matching against the result:
size (view > Unit) = 1
size (view > Arrow t1 t2) = size t1 + size t2
That is, we add a new form of pattern, written ⟨expression⟩ >
⟨pattern⟩ that means “apply the expression to whatever we’re trying to
match against, and then match the result of that application against the
pattern”. The expression can be any Haskell expression of function type,
and view patterns can be used wherever patterns are used.
The semantics of a pattern (
⟨exp⟩ >
⟨pat⟩ )
are as
follows:
Scoping: The variables bound by the view pattern are the variables bound by ⟨pat⟩.
Any variables in ⟨exp⟩ are bound occurrences, but variables bound “to the left” in a pattern are in scope. This feature permits, for example, one argument to a function to be used in the view of another argument. For example, the function
clunky
from Pattern guards can be written using view patterns as follows:clunky env (lookup env > Just val1) (lookup env > Just val2) = val1 + val2 ...other equations for clunky...
More precisely, the scoping rules are:
In a single pattern, variables bound by patterns to the left of a view pattern expression are in scope. For example:
example :: Maybe ((String > Integer,Integer), String) > Bool example Just ((f,_), f > 4) = True
Additionally, in function definitions, variables bound by matching earlier curried arguments may be used in view pattern expressions in later arguments:
example :: (String > Integer) > String > Bool example f (f > 4) = True
That is, the scoping is the same as it would be if the curried arguments were collected into a tuple.
In mutually recursive bindings, such as
let
,where
, or the top level, view patterns in one declaration may not mention variables bound by other declarations. That is, each declaration must be selfcontained. For example, the following program is not allowed:let {(x > y) = e1 ; (y > x) = e2 } in x
(For some amplification on this design choice see Trac #4061.
Typing: If ⟨exp⟩ has type ⟨T1⟩
>
⟨T2⟩ and ⟨pat⟩ matches a ⟨T2⟩, then the whole view pattern matches a ⟨T1⟩.Matching: To the equations in Section 3.17.3 of the Haskell 98 Report, add the following:
case v of { (e > p) > e1 ; _ > e2 } = case (e v) of { p > e1 ; _ > e2 }
That is, to match a variable ⟨v⟩ against a pattern
(
⟨exp⟩>
⟨pat⟩)
, evaluate(
⟨exp⟩ ⟨v⟩)
and match the result against ⟨pat⟩.Efficiency: When the same view function is applied in multiple branches of a function definition or a case expression (e.g., in
size
above), GHC makes an attempt to collect these applications into a single nested case expression, so that the view function is only applied once. Pattern compilation in GHC follows the matrix algorithm described in Chapter 4 of The Implementation of Functional Programming Languages. When the top rows of the first column of a matrix are all view patterns with the “same” expression, these patterns are transformed into a single nested case. This includes, for example, adjacent view patterns that line up in a tuple, as inf ((view > A, p1), p2) = e1 f ((view > B, p3), p4) = e2
The current notion of when two view pattern expressions are “the same” is very restricted: it is not even full syntactic equality. However, it does include variables, literals, applications, and tuples; e.g., two instances of
view ("hi", "there")
will be collected. However, the current implementation does not compare up to alphaequivalence, so two instances of(x, view x > y)
will not be coalesced.
9.3.8. n+k patterns¶

XNPlusKPatterns
Implied by: XHaskell98
Since: 6.12 Enable use of
n+k
patterns.
9.3.9. The recursive donotation¶

XRecursiveDo
Allow the use of recursive
do
notation.
The donotation of Haskell 98 does not allow recursive bindings, that is, the variables bound in a doexpression are visible only in the textually following code block. Compare this to a letexpression, where bound variables are visible in the entire binding group.
It turns out that such recursive bindings do indeed make sense for a
variety of monads, but not all. In particular, recursion in this sense
requires a fixedpoint operator for the underlying monad, captured by
the mfix
method of the MonadFix
class, defined in
Control.Monad.Fix
as follows:
class Monad m => MonadFix m where
mfix :: (a > m a) > m a
Haskell’s Maybe
, []
(list), ST
(both strict and lazy
versions), IO
, and many other monads have MonadFix
instances. On
the negative side, the continuation monad, with the signature
(a > r) > r
, does not.
For monads that do belong to the MonadFix
class, GHC provides an
extended version of the donotation that allows recursive bindings. The
XRecursiveDo
(language pragma: RecursiveDo
) provides the
necessary syntactic support, introducing the keywords mdo
and
rec
for higher and lower levels of the notation respectively. Unlike
bindings in a do
expression, those introduced by mdo
and rec
are recursively defined, much like in an ordinary letexpression. Due to
the new keyword mdo
, we also call this notation the mdonotation.
Here is a simple (albeit contrived) example:
{# LANGUAGE RecursiveDo #}
justOnes = mdo { xs < Just (1:xs)
; return (map negate xs) }
or equivalently
{# LANGUAGE RecursiveDo #}
justOnes = do { rec { xs < Just (1:xs) }
; return (map negate xs) }
As you can guess justOnes
will evaluate to Just [1,1,1,...
.
GHC’s implementation the mdonotation closely follows the original
translation as described in the paper A recursive do for
Haskell, which
in turn is based on the work Value Recursion in Monadic
Computations.
Furthermore, GHC extends the syntax described in the former paper with a
lower level syntax flagged by the rec
keyword, as we describe next.
9.3.9.1. Recursive binding groups¶
The flag XRecursiveDo
also introduces a new keyword rec
, which
wraps a mutuallyrecursive group of monadic statements inside a do
expression, producing a single statement. Similar to a let
statement
inside a do
, variables bound in the rec
are visible throughout
the rec
group, and below it. For example, compare
do { a < getChar do { a < getChar
; let { r1 = f a r2 ; rec { r1 < f a r2
; ; r2 = g r1 } ; ; r2 < g r1 }
; return (r1 ++ r2) } ; return (r1 ++ r2) }
In both cases, r1
and r2
are available both throughout the
let
or rec
block, and in the statements that follow it. The
difference is that let
is nonmonadic, while rec
is monadic. (In
Haskell let
is really letrec
, of course.)
The semantics of rec
is fairly straightforward. Whenever GHC finds a
rec
group, it will compute its set of bound variables, and will
introduce an appropriate call to the underlying monadic valuerecursion
operator mfix
, belonging to the MonadFix
class. Here is an
example:
rec { b < f a c ===> (b,c) < mfix (\ ~(b,c) > do { b < f a c
; c < f b a } ; c < f b a
; return (b,c) })
As usual, the metavariables b
, c
etc., can be arbitrary
patterns. In general, the statement rec ss
is desugared to the
statement
vs < mfix (\ ~vs > do { ss; return vs })
where vs
is a tuple of the variables bound by ss
.
Note in particular that the translation for a rec
block only
involves wrapping a call to mfix
: it performs no other analysis on
the bindings. The latter is the task for the mdo
notation, which is
described next.
9.3.9.2. The mdo
notation¶
A rec
block tells the compiler where precisely the recursive knot
should be tied. It turns out that the placement of the recursive knots
can be rather delicate: in particular, we would like the knots to be
wrapped around as minimal groups as possible. This process is known as
segmentation, and is described in detail in Section 3.2 of A
recursive do for
Haskell.
Segmentation improves polymorphism and reduces the size of the recursive
knot. Most importantly, it avoids unnecessary interference caused by a
fundamental issue with the socalled rightshrinking axiom for monadic
recursion. In brief, most monads of interest (IO, strict state, etc.) do
not have recursion operators that satisfy this axiom, and thus not
performing segmentation can cause unnecessary interference, changing the
termination behavior of the resulting translation. (Details can be found
in Sections 3.1 and 7.2.2 of Value Recursion in Monadic
Computations.)
The mdo
notation removes the burden of placing explicit rec
blocks in the code. Unlike an ordinary do
expression, in which
variables bound by statements are only in scope for later statements,
variables bound in an mdo
expression are in scope for all statements
of the expression. The compiler then automatically identifies minimal
mutually recursively dependent segments of statements, treating them as
if the user had wrapped a rec
qualifier around them.
The definition is syntactic:
 A generator ⟨g⟩ depends on a textually following generator ⟨g’⟩, if
 ⟨g’⟩ defines a variable that is used by ⟨g⟩, or
 ⟨g’⟩ textually appears between ⟨g⟩ and ⟨g’‘⟩, where ⟨g⟩ depends on ⟨g’‘⟩.
 A segment of a given
mdo
expression is a minimal sequence of generators such that no generator of the sequence depends on an outside generator. As a special case, although it is not a generator, the final expression in anmdo
expression is considered to form a segment by itself.
Segments in this sense are related to stronglyconnected components analysis, with the exception that bindings in a segment cannot be reordered and must be contiguous.
Here is an example mdo
expression, and its translation to rec
blocks:
mdo { a < getChar ===> do { a < getChar
; b < f a c ; rec { b < f a c
; c < f b a ; ; c < f b a }
; z < h a b ; z < h a b
; d < g d e ; rec { d < g d e
; e < g a z ; ; e < g a z }
; putChar c } ; putChar c }
Note that a given mdo
expression can cause the creation of multiple
rec
blocks. If there are no recursive dependencies, mdo
will
introduce no rec
blocks. In this latter case an mdo
expression
is precisely the same as a do
expression, as one would expect.
In summary, given an mdo
expression, GHC first performs
segmentation, introducing rec
blocks to wrap over minimal recursive
groups. Then, each resulting rec
is desugared, using a call to
Control.Monad.Fix.mfix
as described in the previous section. The
original mdo
expression typechecks exactly when the desugared
version would do so.
Here are some other important points in using the recursivedo notation:
 It is enabled with the flag
XRecursiveDo
, or theLANGUAGE RecursiveDo
pragma. (The same flag enables bothmdo
notation, and the use ofrec
blocks insidedo
expressions.) rec
blocks can also be used insidemdo
expressions, which will be treated as a single statement. However, it is good style to either usemdo
orrec
blocks in a single expression. If recursive bindings are required for a monad, then that monad must
be declared an instance of the
MonadFix
class.  The following instances of
MonadFix
are automatically provided: List, Maybe, IO. Furthermore, theControl.Monad.ST
andControl.Monad.ST.Lazy
modules provide the instances of theMonadFix
class for Haskell’s internal state monad (strict and lazy, respectively).  Like
let
andwhere
bindings, name shadowing is not allowed within anmdo
expression or arec
block; that is, all the names bound in a singlerec
must be distinct. (GHC will complain if this is not the case.)
9.3.10. Applicative donotation¶

XApplicativeDo
Since: 8.0.1 Allow use of
Applicative
do
notation.
The language option XApplicativeDo
enables an alternative translation for
the donotation, which uses the operators <$>
, <*>
, along with join
as far as possible. There are two main reasons for wanting to do this:
 We can use donotation with types that are an instance of
Applicative
andFunctor
, but notMonad
 In some monads, using the applicative operators is more efficient than monadic bind. For example, it may enable more parallelism.
Applicative donotation desugaring preserves the original semantics, provided
that the Applicative
instance satisfies <*> = ap
and pure = return
(these are true of all the common monadic types). Thus, you can normally turn on
XApplicativeDo
without fear of breaking your program. There is one pitfall
to watch out for; see Things to watch out for.
There are no syntactic changes with XApplicativeDo
. The only way it shows
up at the source level is that you can have a do
expression that doesn’t
require a Monad
constraint. For example, in GHCi:
Prelude> :set XApplicativeDo
Prelude> :t \m > do { x < m; return (not x) }
\m > do { x < m; return (not x) }
:: Functor f => f Bool > f Bool
This example only requires Functor
, because it is translated into (\x >
not x) <$> m
. A more complex example requires Applicative
,
Prelude> :t \m > do { x < m 'a'; y < m 'b'; return (x  y) }
\m > do { x < m 'a'; y < m 'b'; return (x  y) }
:: Applicative f => (Char > f Bool) > f Bool
Here GHC has translated the expression into
(\x y > x  y) <$> m 'a' <*> m 'b'
It is possible to see the actual translation by using ddumpds
, but be
warned, the output is quite verbose.
Note that if the expression can’t be translated into uses of <$>
, <*>
only, then it will incur a Monad
constraint as usual. This happens when
there is a dependency on a value produced by an earlier statement in the
do
block:
Prelude> :t \m > do { x < m True; y < m x; return (x  y) }
\m > do { x < m True; y < m x; return (x  y) }
:: Monad m => (Bool > m Bool) > m Bool
Here, m x
depends on the value of x
produced by the first statement, so
the expression cannot be translated using <*>
.
In general, the rule for when a do
statement incurs a Monad
constraint
is as follows. If the doexpression has the following form:
do p1 < E1; ...; pn < En; return E
where none of the variables defined by p1...pn
are mentioned in E1...En
,
then the expression will only require Applicative
. Otherwise, the expression
will require Monad
. The block may return a pure expression E
depending
upon the results p1...pn
with either return
or pure
.
Note: the final statement must match one of these patterns exactly:
return E
return $ E
pure E
pure $ E
otherwise GHC cannot recognise it as a return
statement, and the
transformation to use <$>
that we saw above does not apply. In
particular, slight variations such as return . Just $ x
or let x
= e in return x
would not be recognised.
If the final statement is not of one of these forms, GHC falls back to
standard do
desugaring, and the expression will require a
Monad
constraint.
When the statements of a do
expression have dependencies between
them, and ApplicativeDo
cannot infer an Applicative
type, it
uses a heuristic algorithm to try to use <*>
as much as possible.
This algorithm usually finds the best solution, but in rare complex
cases it might miss an opportunity. There is an algorithm that finds
the optimal solution, provided as an option:

foptimalapplicativedo
Since: 8.0.1 Enables an alternative algorithm for choosing where to use
<*>
in conjunction with theApplicativeDo
language extension. This algorithm always finds the optimal solution, but it is expensive:O(n^3)
, so this option can lead to long compile times when there are very largedo
expressions (over 100 statements). The defaultApplicativeDo
algorithm isO(n^2)
.
9.3.10.1. Things to watch out for¶
Your code should just work as before when XApplicativeDo
is enabled,
provided you use conventional Applicative
instances. However, if you define
a Functor
or Applicative
instance using donotation, then it will likely
get turned into an infinite loop by GHC. For example, if you do this:
instance Functor MyType where
fmap f m = do x < m; return (f x)
Then applicative desugaring will turn it into
instance Functor MyType where
fmap f m = fmap (\x > f x) m
And the program will loop at runtime. Similarly, an Applicative
instance
like this
instance Applicative MyType where
pure = return
x <*> y = do f < x; a < y; return (f a)
will result in an infinte loop when <*>
is called.
Just as you wouldn’t define a Monad
instance using the donotation, you
shouldn’t define Functor
or Applicative
instance using donotation (when
using ApplicativeDo
) either. The correct way to define these instances in
terms of Monad
is to use the Monad
operations directly, e.g.
instance Functor MyType where
fmap f m = m >>= return . f
instance Applicative MyType where
pure = return
(<*>) = ap
9.3.11. Parallel List Comprehensions¶

XParallelListComp
Allow parallel list comprehension syntax.
Parallel list comprehensions are a natural extension to list
comprehensions. List comprehensions can be thought of as a nice syntax
for writing maps and filters. Parallel comprehensions extend this to
include the zipWith
family.
A parallel list comprehension has multiple independent branches of
qualifier lists, each separated by a 
symbol. For example, the
following zips together two lists:
[ (x, y)  x < xs  y < ys ]
The behaviour of parallel list comprehensions follows that of zip, in that the resulting list will have the same length as the shortest branch.
We can define parallel list comprehensions by translation to regular comprehensions. Here’s the basic idea:
Given a parallel comprehension of the form:
[ e  p1 < e11, p2 < e12, ...
 q1 < e21, q2 < e22, ...
...
]
This will be translated to:
[ e  ((p1,p2), (q1,q2), ...) < zipN [(p1,p2)  p1 < e11, p2 < e12, ...]
[(q1,q2)  q1 < e21, q2 < e22, ...]
...
]
where zipN
is the appropriate zip for the given number of branches.
9.3.12. Generalised (SQLlike) List Comprehensions¶

XTransformListComp
Allow use of generalised list (SQLlike) comprehension syntax. This introduces the
group
,by
, andusing
keywords.
Generalised list comprehensions are a further enhancement to the list comprehension syntactic sugar to allow operations such as sorting and grouping which are familiar from SQL. They are fully described in the paper Comprehensive comprehensions: comprehensions with “order by” and “group by”, except that the syntax we use differs slightly from the paper.
The extension is enabled with the flag XTransformListComp
.
Here is an example:
employees = [ ("Simon", "MS", 80)
, ("Erik", "MS", 100)
, ("Phil", "Ed", 40)
, ("Gordon", "Ed", 45)
, ("Paul", "Yale", 60) ]
output = [ (the dept, sum salary)
 (name, dept, salary) < employees
, then group by dept using groupWith
, then sortWith by (sum salary)
, then take 5 ]
In this example, the list output
would take on the value:
[("Yale", 60), ("Ed", 85), ("MS", 180)]
There are three new keywords: group
, by
, and using
. (The
functions sortWith
and groupWith
are not keywords; they are
ordinary functions that are exported by GHC.Exts
.)
There are five new forms of comprehension qualifier, all introduced by
the (existing) keyword then
:
then f
This statement requires that f have the type forall a. [a] > [a] . You can see an example of its use in the motivating example, as this form is used to apply take 5 .
then f by e
This form is similar to the previous one, but allows you to create a function which will be passed as the first argument to f. As a consequence f must have the type
forall a. (a > t) > [a] > [a]
. As you can see from the type, this function lets f “project out” some information from the elements of the list it is transforming.An example is shown in the opening example, where
sortWith
is supplied with a function that lets it find out thesum salary
for any item in the list comprehension it transforms.then group by e using f
This is the most general of the groupingtype statements. In this form, f is required to have type
forall a. (a > t) > [a] > [[a]]
. As with thethen f by e
case above, the first argument is a function supplied to f by the compiler which lets it compute e on every element of the list being transformed. However, unlike the nongrouping case, f additionally partitions the list into a number of sublists: this means that at every point after this statement, binders occurring before it in the comprehension refer to lists of possible values, not single values. To help understand this, let’s look at an example: This works similarly to groupWith in GHC.Exts, but doesn't sort its input first groupRuns :: Eq b => (a > b) > [a] > [[a]] groupRuns f = groupBy (\x y > f x == f y) output = [ (the x, y)  x < ([1..3] ++ [1..2]) , y < [4..6] , then group by x using groupRuns ]
This results in the variable
output
taking on the value below:[(1, [4, 5, 6]), (2, [4, 5, 6]), (3, [4, 5, 6]), (1, [4, 5, 6]), (2, [4, 5, 6])]
Note that we have used the
the
function to change the type of x from a list to its original numeric type. The variable y, in contrast, is left unchanged from the list form introduced by the grouping.then group using f
With this form of the group statement, f is required to simply have the type
forall a. [a] > [[a]]
, which will be used to group up the comprehension so far directly. An example of this form is as follows:output = [ x  y < [1..5] , x < "hello" , then group using inits]
This will yield a list containing every prefix of the word “hello” written out 5 times:
["","h","he","hel","hell","hello","helloh","hellohe","hellohel","hellohell","hellohello","hellohelloh",...]
9.3.13. Monad comprehensions¶

XMonadComprehensions
Since: 7.2 Enable list comprehension syntax for arbitrary monads.
Monad comprehensions generalise the list comprehension notation, including parallel comprehensions (Parallel List Comprehensions) and transform comprehensions (Generalised (SQLlike) List Comprehensions) to work for any monad.
Monad comprehensions support:
Bindings:
[ x + y  x < Just 1, y < Just 2 ]
Bindings are translated with the
(>>=)
andreturn
functions to the usual donotation:do x < Just 1 y < Just 2 return (x+y)
Guards:
[ x  x < [1..10], x <= 5 ]
Guards are translated with the
guard
function, which requires aMonadPlus
instance:do x < [1..10] guard (x <= 5) return x
Transform statements (as with
XTransformListComp
):[ x+y  x < [1..10], y < [1..x], then take 2 ]
This translates to:
do (x,y) < take 2 (do x < [1..10] y < [1..x] return (x,y)) return (x+y)
Group statements (as with
XTransformListComp
):[ x  x < [1,1,2,2,3], then group by x using GHC.Exts.groupWith ] [ x  x < [1,1,2,2,3], then group using myGroup ]
Parallel statements (as with
XParallelListComp
):[ (x+y)  x < [1..10]  y < [11..20] ]
Parallel statements are translated using the
mzip
function, which requires aMonadZip
instance defined in Control.Monad.Zip:do (x,y) < mzip (do x < [1..10] return x) (do y < [11..20] return y) return (x+y)
All these features are enabled by default if the XMonadComprehensions
extension is enabled. The types and more detailed examples on how to use
comprehensions are explained in the previous chapters
Generalised (SQLlike) List Comprehensions and
Parallel List Comprehensions. In general you just have to replace
the type [a]
with the type Monad m => m a
for monad
comprehensions.
Note
Even though most of these examples are using the list monad, monad
comprehensions work for any monad. The base
package offers all
necessary instances for lists, which make XMonadComprehensions
backward compatible to builtin, transform and parallel list
comprehensions.
More formally, the desugaring is as follows. We write D[ e  Q]
to
mean the desugaring of the monad comprehension [ e  Q]
:
Expressions: e
Declarations: d
Lists of qualifiers: Q,R,S
 Basic forms
D[ e  ] = return e
D[ e  p < e, Q ] = e >>= \p > D[ e  Q ]
D[ e  e, Q ] = guard e >> \p > D[ e  Q ]
D[ e  let d, Q ] = let d in D[ e  Q ]
 Parallel comprehensions (iterate for multiple parallel branches)
D[ e  (Q  R), S ] = mzip D[ Qv  Q ] D[ Rv  R ] >>= \(Qv,Rv) > D[ e  S ]
 Transform comprehensions
D[ e  Q then f, R ] = f D[ Qv  Q ] >>= \Qv > D[ e  R ]
D[ e  Q then f by b, R ] = f (\Qv > b) D[ Qv  Q ] >>= \Qv > D[ e  R ]
D[ e  Q then group using f, R ] = f D[ Qv  Q ] >>= \ys >
case (fmap selQv1 ys, ..., fmap selQvn ys) of
Qv > D[ e  R ]
D[ e  Q then group by b using f, R ] = f (\Qv > b) D[ Qv  Q ] >>= \ys >
case (fmap selQv1 ys, ..., fmap selQvn ys) of
Qv > D[ e  R ]
where Qv is the tuple of variables bound by Q (and used subsequently)
selQvi is a selector mapping Qv to the ith component of Qv
Operator Standard binding Expected type

return GHC.Base t1 > m t2
(>>=) GHC.Base m1 t1 > (t2 > m2 t3) > m3 t3
(>>) GHC.Base m1 t1 > m2 t2 > m3 t3
guard Control.Monad t1 > m t2
fmap GHC.Base forall a b. (a>b) > n a > n b
mzip Control.Monad.Zip forall a b. m a > m b > m (a,b)
The comprehension should typecheck when its desugaring would typecheck,
except that (as discussed in Generalised (SQLlike) List Comprehensions) in the
“then f
” and “then group using f
” clauses, when the “by b
” qualifier
is omitted, argument f
should have a polymorphic type. In particular, “then
Data.List.sort
” and “then group using Data.List.group
” are
insufficiently polymorphic.
Monad comprehensions support rebindable syntax
(Rebindable syntax and the implicit Prelude import). Without rebindable syntax, the operators
from the “standard binding” module are used; with rebindable syntax, the
operators are looked up in the current lexical scope. For example,
parallel comprehensions will be typechecked and desugared using whatever
“mzip
” is in scope.
The rebindable operators must have the “Expected type” given in the table above. These types are surprisingly general. For example, you can use a bind operator with the type
(>>=) :: T x y a > (a > T y z b) > T x z b
In the case of transform comprehensions, notice that the groups are
parameterised over some arbitrary type n
(provided it has an
fmap
, as well as the comprehension being over an arbitrary monad.
9.3.14. New monadic failure desugaring mechanism¶

XMonadFailDesugaring
Since: 8.0.1 Use the
MonadFail.fail
instead of the legacyMonad.fail
function when desugaring refutable patterns indo
blocks.
The XMonadFailDesugaring
extension switches the desugaring of
do
blocks to use MonadFail.fail
instead of Monad.fail
. This will
eventually be the default behaviour in a future GHC release, under the
MonadFail Proposal (MFP).
This extension is temporary, and will be deprecated in a future release. It is included so that library authors have a hard check for whether their code will work with future GHC versions.
9.3.15. Rebindable syntax and the implicit Prelude import¶

XNoImplicitPrelude
Don’t import
Prelude
by default.
GHC normally imports Prelude.hi
files for
you. If you’d rather it didn’t, then give it a XNoImplicitPrelude
option. The idea is that you can then import a Prelude of your own. (But
don’t call it Prelude
; the Haskell module namespace is flat, and you
must not conflict with any Prelude module.)

XRebindableSyntax
Implies: XNoImplicitPrelude
Since: 7.0.1 Enable rebinding of a variety of usuallybuiltin operations.
Suppose you are importing a Prelude of your own in order to define your
own numeric class hierarchy. It completely defeats that purpose if the
literal “1” means “Prelude.fromInteger 1
”, which is what the Haskell
Report specifies. So the XRebindableSyntax
flag causes the
following pieces of builtin syntax to refer to whatever is in scope,
not the Prelude versions:
 An integer literal
368
means “fromInteger (368::Integer)
”, rather than “Prelude.fromInteger (368::Integer)
”.  Fractional literals are handed in just the same way, except that the
translation is
fromRational (3.68::Rational)
.  The equality test in an overloaded numeric pattern uses whatever
(==)
is in scope.  The subtraction operation, and the greaterthanorequal test, in
n+k
patterns use whatever()
and(>=)
are in scope.  Negation (e.g. “
 (f x)
”) means “negate (f x)
”, both in numeric patterns, and expressions.  Conditionals (e.g. “
if
e1then
e2else
e3”) means “ifThenElse
e1 e2 e3”. Howevercase
expressions are unaffected.  “Do” notation is translated using whatever functions
(>>=)
,(>>)
, andfail
, are in scope (not the Prelude versions). List comprehensions,mdo
(The recursive donotation), and parallel array comprehensions, are unaffected.  Arrow notation (see Arrow notation) uses whatever
arr
,(>>>)
,first
,app
,()
andloop
functions are in scope. But unlike the other constructs, the types of these functions must match the Prelude types very closely. Details are in flux; if you want to use this, ask!  List notation, such as
[x,y]
or[m..n]
can also be treated via rebindable syntax if you use XOverloadedLists; see Overloaded lists.
XRebindableSyntax
implies XNoImplicitPrelude
.
In all cases (apart from arrow notation), the static semantics should be
that of the desugared form, even if that is a little unexpected. For
example, the static semantics of the literal 368
is exactly that of
fromInteger (368::Integer)
; it’s fine for fromInteger
to have
any of the types:
fromInteger :: Integer > Integer
fromInteger :: forall a. Foo a => Integer > a
fromInteger :: Num a => a > Integer
fromInteger :: Integer > Bool > Bool
Be warned: this is an experimental facility, with fewer checks than
usual. Use dcorelint
to typecheck the desugared program. If Core
Lint is happy you should be all right.
9.3.15.1. Things unaffected by XRebindableSyntax
¶
XRebindableSyntax
does not apply to any code generated from a
deriving
clause or declaration. To see why, consider the following code:
{# LANGUAGE RebindableSyntax, OverloadedStrings #}
newtype Text = Text String
fromString :: String > Text
fromString = Text
data Foo = Foo deriving Show
This will generate code to the effect of:
instance Show Foo where
showsPrec _ Foo = showString "Foo"
But because XRebindableSyntax
and XOverloadedStrings
are enabled, the "Foo"
string literal would now be of type Text
, not
String
, which showString
doesn’t accept! This causes the generated
Show
instance to fail to typecheck. It’s hard to imagine any scenario where
it would be desirable have XRebindableSyntax
behavior within
derived code, so GHC simply ignores XRebindableSyntax
entirely
when checking derived code.
9.3.16. Postfix operators¶

XPostfixOperators
Allow the use of postfix operators
The XPostfixOperators
flag enables a small extension to the syntax
of left operator sections, which allows you to define postfix operators.
The extension is this: the left section
(e !)
is equivalent (from the point of view of both type checking and execution) to the expression
((!) e)
(for any expression e
and operator (!)
. The strict Haskell 98
interpretation is that the section is equivalent to
(\y > (!) e y)
That is, the operator must be a function of two arguments. GHC allows it to take only one argument, and that in turn allows you to write the function postfix.
The extension does not extend to the lefthand side of function definitions; you must define such a function in prefix form.
9.3.17. Tuple sections¶

XTupleSections
Since: 6.12 Allow the use of tuple section syntax
The XTupleSections
flag enables Pythonstyle partially applied
tuple constructors. For example, the following program
(, True)
is considered to be an alternative notation for the more unwieldy alternative
\x > (x, True)
You can omit any combination of arguments to the tuple, as in the following
(, "I", , , "Love", , 1337)
which translates to
\a b c d > (a, "I", b, c, "Love", d, 1337)
If you have unboxed tuples enabled, tuple sections will also be available for them, like so
(# , True #)
Because there is no unboxed unit tuple, the following expression
(# #)
continues to stand for the unboxed singleton tuple data constructor.
9.3.18. Lambdacase¶

XLambdaCase
Since: 7.6.1 Allow the use of lambdacase syntax.
The XLambdaCase
flag enables expressions of the form
\case { p1 > e1; ...; pN > eN }
which is equivalent to
\freshName > case freshName of { p1 > e1; ...; pN > eN }
Note that \case
starts a layout, so you can write
\case
p1 > e1
...
pN > eN
9.3.19. Empty case alternatives¶

XEmptyCase
Since: 7.8.1 Allow empty case expressions.
The XEmptyCase
flag enables case expressions, or lambdacase
expressions, that have no alternatives, thus:
case e of { }  No alternatives
or
\case { }  XLambdaCase is also required
This can be useful when you know that the expression being scrutinised has no nonbottom values. For example:
data Void
f :: Void > Int
f x = case x of { }
With dependentlytyped features it is more useful (see Trac #2431). For
example, consider these two candidate definitions of absurd
:
data a :==: b where
Refl :: a :==: a
absurd :: True :~: False > a
absurd x = error "absurd"  (A)
absurd x = case x of {}  (B)
We much prefer (B). Why? Because GHC can figure out that
(True :~: False)
is an empty type. So (B) has no partiality and GHC
should be able to compile with Wincompletepatterns
. (Though
the pattern match checking is not yet clever enough to do that.) On the
other hand (A) looks dangerous, and GHC doesn’t check to make sure that,
in fact, the function can never get called.
9.3.20. Multiway ifexpressions¶

XMultiWayIf
Since: 7.6.1 Allow the use of multiway
if
syntax.
With XMultiWayIf
flag GHC accepts conditional expressions with
multiple branches:
if  guard1 > expr1
 ...
 guardN > exprN
which is roughly equivalent to
case () of
_  guard1 > expr1
...
_  guardN > exprN
Multiway if expressions introduce a new layout context. So the example above is equivalent to:
if {  guard1 > expr1
;  ...
;  guardN > exprN
}
The following behaves as expected:
if  guard1 > if  guard2 > expr2
 guard3 > expr3
 guard4 > expr4
because layout translates it as
if {  guard1 > if {  guard2 > expr2
;  guard3 > expr3
}
;  guard4 > expr4
}
Layout with multiway if works in the same way as other layout contexts, except that the semicolons between guards in a multiway if are optional. So it is not necessary to line up all the guards at the same column; this is consistent with the way guards work in function definitions and case expressions.
9.3.21. Local Fixity Declarations¶
A careful reading of the Haskell 98 Report reveals that fixity
declarations (infix
, infixl
, and infixr
) are permitted to
appear inside local bindings such those introduced by let
and
where
. However, the Haskell Report does not specify the semantics of
such bindings very precisely.
In GHC, a fixity declaration may accompany a local binding:
let f = ...
infixr 3 `f`
in
...
and the fixity declaration applies wherever the binding is in scope. For
example, in a let
, it applies in the righthand sides of other
let
bindings and the body of the let
C. Or, in recursive do
expressions (The recursive donotation), the local fixity
declarations of a let
statement scope over other statements in the
group, just as the bound name does.
Moreover, a local fixity declaration must accompany a local binding of that name: it is not possible to revise the fixity of name bound elsewhere, as in
let infixr 9 $ in ...
Because local fixity declarations are technically Haskell 98, no flag is necessary to enable them.
9.3.22. Import and export extensions¶
9.3.22.1. Hiding things the imported module doesn’t export¶
Technically in Haskell 2010 this is illegal:
module A( f ) where
f = True
module B where
import A hiding( g )  A does not export g
g = f
The import A hiding( g )
in module B
is technically an error
(Haskell Report,
5.3.1)
because A
does not export g
. However GHC allows it, in the
interests of supporting backward compatibility; for example, a newer
version of A
might export g
, and you want B
to work in
either case.
The warning Wdodgyimports
, which is off by default but included
with W
, warns if you hide something that the imported module does
not export.
9.3.22.2. Packagequalified imports¶

XPackageImports
Allow the use of packagequalified
import
syntax.
With the XPackageImports
flag, GHC allows import declarations to be
qualified by the package name that the module is intended to be imported
from. For example:
import "network" Network.Socket
would import the module Network.Socket
from the package network
(any version). This may be used to disambiguate an import when the same
module is available from multiple packages, or is present in both the
current package being built and an external package.
The special package name this
can be used to refer to the current
package being built.
Note
You probably don’t need to use this feature, it was added mainly so that we can build backwardscompatible versions of packages when APIs change. It can lead to fragile dependencies in the common case: modules occasionally move from one package to another, rendering any packagequalified imports broken. See also Thinning and renaming modules for an alternative way of disambiguating between module names.
9.3.22.3. Safe imports¶

XSafe

XTrustworthy

XUnsafe
Since: 7.2 Declare the Safe Haskell state of the current module.
With the XSafe
, XTrustworthy
and XUnsafe
language flags, GHC extends the import declaration syntax to take an optional
safe
keyword after the import
keyword. This feature is part of the Safe
Haskell GHC extension. For example:
import safe qualified Network.Socket as NS
would import the module Network.Socket
with compilation only
succeeding if Network.Socket
can be safely imported. For a description of
when a import is considered safe see Safe Haskell.
9.3.22.4. Explicit namespaces in import/export¶

XExplicitNamespaces
Since: 7.6.1 Enable use of explicit namespaces in module export lists.
In an import or export list, such as
module M( f, (++) ) where ...
import N( f, (++) )
...
the entities f
and (++)
are values. However, with type
operators (Type operators) it becomes possible to declare
(++)
as a type constructor. In that case, how would you export or
import it?
The XExplicitNamespaces
extension allows you to prefix the name of
a type constructor in an import or export list with “type
” to
disambiguate this case, thus:
module M( f, type (++) ) where ...
import N( f, type (++) )
...
module N( f, type (++) ) where
data family a ++ b = L a  R b
The extension XExplicitNamespaces
is implied by
XTypeOperators
and (for some reason) by XTypeFamilies
.
In addition, with XPatternSynonyms
you can prefix the name of a
data constructor in an import or export list with the keyword
pattern
, to allow the import or export of a data constructor without
its parent type constructor (see Import and export of pattern synonyms).
9.3.23. Summary of stolen syntax¶
Turning on an option that enables special syntax might cause working Haskell 98 code to fail to compile, perhaps because it uses a variable name which has become a reserved word. This section lists the syntax that is “stolen” by language extensions. We use notation and nonterminal names from the Haskell 98 lexical syntax (see the Haskell 98 Report). We only list syntax changes here that might affect existing working programs (i.e. “stolen” syntax). Many of these extensions will also enable new contextfree syntax, but in all cases programs written to use the new syntax would not be compilable without the option enabled.
There are two classes of special syntax:
 New reserved words and symbols: character sequences which are no longer available for use as identifiers in the program.
 Other special syntax: sequences of characters that have a different meaning when this particular option is turned on.
The following syntax is stolen:
forall
Stolen (in types) by:
XExplicitForAll
, and hence byXScopedTypeVariables
,XLiberalTypeSynonyms
,XRankNTypes
,XExistentialQuantification
mdo
Stolen by:
XRecursiveDo
foreign
Stolen by:
XForeignFunctionInterface
rec
,proc
,<
,>
,<<
,>>
,(
,)
Stolen by:
XArrows
?varid
Stolen by:
XImplicitParams
[
,[e
,[p
,[d
,[t
,[
,[e
Stolen by:
XQuasiQuotes
. Moreover, this introduces an ambiguity with list comprehension syntax. See the discussion on quasiquoting for details.$(
,$$(
,$varid
,$$varid
Stolen by:
XTemplateHaskell
[varid
Stolen by:
XQuasiQuotes
 ⟨varid⟩,
#
⟨char⟩,#
, ⟨string⟩,#
, ⟨integer⟩,#
, ⟨float⟩,#
, ⟨float⟩,##
 Stolen by:
XMagicHash
(#
,#)
 Stolen by:
XUnboxedTuples
 ⟨varid⟩,
!
, ⟨varid⟩  Stolen by:
XBangPatterns
pattern
 Stolen by:
XPatternSynonyms
9.4. Extensions to data types and type synonyms¶
9.4.1. Data types with no constructors¶

XEmptyDataDecls
Allow definition of empty
data
types.
With the XEmptyDataDecls
flag (or equivalent LANGUAGE
pragma), GHC
lets you declare a data type with no constructors. For example:
data S  S :: *
data T a  T :: * > *
Syntactically, the declaration lacks the “= constrs” part. The type can
be parameterised over types of any kind, but if the kind is not *
then an explicit kind annotation must be used (see Explicitlykinded quantification).
Such data types have only one value, namely bottom. Nevertheless, they can be useful when defining “phantom types”.
9.4.2. Data type contexts¶

XDatatypeContexts
Since: 7.0.1 Allow contexts on
data
types.
Haskell allows datatypes to be given contexts, e.g.
data Eq a => Set a = NilSet  ConsSet a (Set a)
give constructors with types:
NilSet :: Set a
ConsSet :: Eq a => a > Set a > Set a
This is widely considered a misfeature, and is going to be removed from
the language. In GHC, it is controlled by the deprecated extension
DatatypeContexts
.
9.4.3. Infix type constructors, classes, and type variables¶
GHC allows type constructors, classes, and type variables to be operators, and to be written infix, very much like expressions. More specifically:
A type constructor or class can be any nonreserved operator. Symbols used in types are always like capitalized identifiers; they are never variables. Note that this is different from the lexical syntax of data constructors, which are required to begin with a
:
.Data type and typesynonym declarations can be written infix, parenthesised if you want further arguments. E.g.
data a :*: b = Foo a b type a :+: b = Either a b class a :=: b where ... data (a :**: b) x = Baz a b x type (a :++: b) y = Either (a,b) y
Types, and class constraints, can be written infix. For example
x :: Int :*: Bool f :: (a :=: b) => a > b
Backquotes work as for expressions, both for type constructors and type variables; e.g.
Int `Either` Bool
, orInt `a` Bool
. Similarly, parentheses work the same; e.g.(:*:) Int Bool
.Fixities may be declared for type constructors, or classes, just as for data constructors. However, one cannot distinguish between the two in a fixity declaration; a fixity declaration sets the fixity for a data constructor and the corresponding type constructor. For example:
infixl 7 T, :*:
sets the fixity for both type constructor
T
and data constructorT
, and similarly for:*:
.Int `a` Bool
.Function arrow is
infixr
with fixity 0 (this might change; it’s not clear what it should be).
9.4.4. Type operators¶

XTypeOperators
Implies: XExplicitNamespaces
Allow the use and definition of types with operator names.
In types, an operator symbol like (+)
is normally treated as a type
variable, just like a
. Thus in Haskell 98 you can say
type T (+) = ((+), (+))
 Just like: type T a = (a,a)
f :: T Int > Int
f (x,y)= x
As you can see, using operators in this way is not very useful, and Haskell 98 does not even allow you to write them infix.
The language XTypeOperators
changes this behaviour:
Operator symbols become type constructors rather than type variables.
Operator symbols in types can be written infix, both in definitions and uses. For example:
data a + b = Plus a b type Foo = Int + Bool
There is now some potential ambiguity in import and export lists; for example if you write
import M( (+) )
do you mean the function(+)
or the type constructor(+)
? The default is the former, but withXExplicitNamespaces
(which is implied byXTypeOperators
) GHC allows you to specify the latter by preceding it with the keywordtype
, thus:import M( type (+) )
The fixity of a type operator may be set using the usual fixity declarations but, as in Infix type constructors, classes, and type variables, the function and type constructor share a single fixity.
9.4.5. Liberalised type synonyms¶

XLiberalTypeSynonyms
Implies: XExplicitForAll
Relax many of the Haskell 98 rules on type synonym definitions.
Type synonyms are like macros at the type level, but Haskell 98 imposes
many rules on individual synonym declarations. With the
XLiberalTypeSynonyms
extension, GHC does validity checking on types
only after expanding type synonyms. That means that GHC can be very
much more liberal about type synonyms than Haskell 98.
You can write a
forall
(including overloading) in a type synonym, thus:type Discard a = forall b. Show b => a > b > (a, String) f :: Discard a f x y = (x, show y) g :: Discard Int > (Int,String)  A rank2 type g f = f 3 True
If you also use
XUnboxedTuples
, you can write an unboxed tuple in a type synonym:type Pr = (# Int, Int #) h :: Int > Pr h x = (# x, x #)
You can apply a type synonym to a forall type:
type Foo a = a > a > Bool f :: Foo (forall b. b>b)
After expanding the synonym,
f
has the legal (in GHC) type:f :: (forall b. b>b) > (forall b. b>b) > Bool
You can apply a type synonym to a partially applied type synonym:
type Generic i o = forall x. i x > o x type Id x = x foo :: Generic Id []
After expanding the synonym,
foo
has the legal (in GHC) type:foo :: forall x. x > [x]
GHC currently does kind checking before expanding synonyms (though even that could be changed).
After expanding type synonyms, GHC does validity checking on types, looking for the following malformedness which isn’t detected simply by kind checking:
 Type constructor applied to a type involving foralls (if
XImpredicativeTypes
is off)  Partiallyapplied type synonym.
So, for example, this will be rejected:
type Pr = forall a. a
h :: [Pr]
h = ...
because GHC does not allow type constructors applied to forall types.
9.4.6. Existentially quantified data constructors¶

XExistentialQuantification
Implies: XExplicitForAll
Allow existentially quantified type variables in types.
The idea of using existential quantification in data type declarations
was suggested by Perry, and implemented in Hope+ (Nigel Perry, The
Implementation of Practical Functional Programming Languages, PhD
Thesis, University of London, 1991). It was later formalised by Laufer
and Odersky (Polymorphic type inference and abstract data types,
TOPLAS, 16(5), pp. 14111430, 1994). It’s been in Lennart Augustsson’s
hbc
Haskell compiler for several years, and proved very useful.
Here’s the idea. Consider the declaration:
data Foo = forall a. MkFoo a (a > Bool)
 Nil
The data type Foo
has two constructors with types:
MkFoo :: forall a. a > (a > Bool) > Foo
Nil :: Foo
Notice that the type variable a
in the type of MkFoo
does not
appear in the data type itself, which is plain Foo
. For example, the
following expression is fine:
[MkFoo 3 even, MkFoo 'c' isUpper] :: [Foo]
Here, (MkFoo 3 even)
packages an integer with a function even
that maps an integer to Bool
; and MkFoo 'c'
isUpper
packages a character with a compatible function. These two
things are each of type Foo
and can be put in a list.
What can we do with a value of type Foo
? In particular, what
happens when we patternmatch on MkFoo
?
f (MkFoo val fn) = ???
Since all we know about val
and fn
is that they are compatible,
the only (useful) thing we can do with them is to apply fn
to
val
to get a boolean. For example:
f :: Foo > Bool
f (MkFoo val fn) = fn val
What this allows us to do is to package heterogeneous values together with a bunch of functions that manipulate them, and then treat that collection of packages in a uniform manner. You can express quite a bit of objectorientedlike programming this way.
9.4.6.1. Why existential?¶
What has this to do with existential quantification? Simply that
MkFoo
has the (nearly) isomorphic type
MkFoo :: (exists a . (a, a > Bool)) > Foo
But Haskell programmers can safely think of the ordinary universally quantified type given above, thereby avoiding adding a new existential quantification construct.
9.4.6.2. Existentials and type classes¶
An easy extension is to allow arbitrary contexts before the constructor. For example:
data Baz = forall a. Eq a => Baz1 a a
 forall b. Show b => Baz2 b (b > b)
The two constructors have the types you’d expect:
Baz1 :: forall a. Eq a => a > a > Baz
Baz2 :: forall b. Show b => b > (b > b) > Baz
But when pattern matching on Baz1
the matched values can be compared
for equality, and when pattern matching on Baz2
the first matched
value can be converted to a string (as well as applying the function to
it). So this program is legal:
f :: Baz > String
f (Baz1 p q)  p == q = "Yes"
 otherwise = "No"
f (Baz2 v fn) = show (fn v)
Operationally, in a dictionarypassing implementation, the constructors
Baz1
and Baz2
must store the dictionaries for Eq
and
Show
respectively, and extract it on pattern matching.
9.4.6.3. Record Constructors¶
GHC allows existentials to be used with records syntax as well. For example:
data Counter a = forall self. NewCounter
{ _this :: self
, _inc :: self > self
, _display :: self > IO ()
, tag :: a
}
Here tag
is a public field, with a welltyped selector function
tag :: Counter a > a
. The self
type is hidden from the outside;
any attempt to apply _this
, _inc
or _display
as functions
will raise a compiletime error. In other words, GHC defines a record
selector function only for fields whose type does not mention the
existentiallyquantified variables. (This example used an underscore in
the fields for which record selectors will not be defined, but that is
only programming style; GHC ignores them.)
To make use of these hidden fields, we need to create some helper functions:
inc :: Counter a > Counter a
inc (NewCounter x i d t) = NewCounter
{ _this = i x, _inc = i, _display = d, tag = t }
display :: Counter a > IO ()
display NewCounter{ _this = x, _display = d } = d x
Now we can define counters with different underlying implementations:
counterA :: Counter String
counterA = NewCounter
{ _this = 0, _inc = (1+), _display = print, tag = "A" }
counterB :: Counter String
counterB = NewCounter
{ _this = "", _inc = ('#':), _display = putStrLn, tag = "B" }
main = do
display (inc counterA)  prints "1"
display (inc (inc counterB))  prints "##"
Record update syntax is supported for existentials (and GADTs):
setTag :: Counter a > a > Counter a
setTag obj t = obj{ tag = t }
The rule for record update is this:
the types of the updated fields may mention only the universallyquantified type variables of the data constructor. For GADTs, the field may mention only types that appear as a simple typevariable argument in the constructor’s result type.
For example:
data T a b where { T1 { f1::a, f2::b, f3::(b,c) } :: T a b }  c is existential
upd1 t x = t { f1=x }  OK: upd1 :: T a b > a' > T a' b
upd2 t x = t { f3=x }  BAD (f3's type mentions c, which is
 existentially quantified)
data G a b where { G1 { g1::a, g2::c } :: G a [c] }
upd3 g x = g { g1=x }  OK: upd3 :: G a b > c > G c b
upd4 g x = g { g2=x }  BAD (f2's type mentions c, which is not a simple
 typevariable argument in G1's result type)
9.4.6.4. Restrictions¶
There are several restrictions on the ways in which existentiallyquantified constructors can be used.
When pattern matching, each pattern match introduces a new, distinct, type for each existential type variable. These types cannot be unified with any other type, nor can they escape from the scope of the pattern match. For example, these fragments are incorrect:
f1 (MkFoo a f) = a
Here, the type bound by
MkFoo
“escapes”, becausea
is the result off1
. One way to see why this is wrong is to ask what typef1
has:f1 :: Foo > a  Weird!
What is this “
a
” in the result type? Clearly we don’t mean this:f1 :: forall a. Foo > a  Wrong!
The original program is just plain wrong. Here’s another sort of error
f2 (Baz1 a b) (Baz1 p q) = a==q
It’s ok to say
a==b
orp==q
, buta==q
is wrong because it equates the two distinct types arising from the twoBaz1
constructors.You can’t patternmatch on an existentially quantified constructor in a
let
orwhere
group of bindings. So this is illegal:f3 x = a==b where { Baz1 a b = x }
Instead, use a
case
expression:f3 x = case x of Baz1 a b > a==b
In general, you can only patternmatch on an existentiallyquantified constructor in a
case
expression or in the patterns of a function definition. The reason for this restriction is really an implementation one. Typechecking binding groups is already a nightmare without existentials complicating the picture. Also an existential pattern binding at the top level of a module doesn’t make sense, because it’s not clear how to prevent the existentiallyquantified type “escaping”. So for now, there’s a simpletostate restriction. We’ll see how annoying it is.You can’t use existential quantification for
newtype
declarations. So this is illegal:newtype T = forall a. Ord a => MkT a
Reason: a value of type
T
must be represented as a pair of a dictionary forOrd t
and a value of typet
. That contradicts the idea thatnewtype
should have no concrete representation. You can get just the same efficiency and effect by usingdata
instead ofnewtype
. If there is no overloading involved, then there is more of a case for allowing an existentiallyquantifiednewtype
, because thedata
version does carry an implementation cost, but singlefield existentially quantified constructors aren’t much use. So the simple restriction (no existential stuff onnewtype
) stands, unless there are convincing reasons to change it.You can’t use
deriving
to define instances of a data type with existentially quantified data constructors. Reason: in most cases it would not make sense. For example:;data T = forall a. MkT [a] deriving( Eq )
To derive
Eq
in the standard way we would need to have equality between the single component of twoMkT
constructors:instance Eq T where (MkT a) == (MkT b) = ???
But
a
andb
have distinct types, and so can’t be compared. It’s just about possible to imagine examples in which the derived instance would make sense, but it seems altogether simpler simply to prohibit such declarations. Define your own instances!
9.4.7. Declaring data types with explicit constructor signatures¶

XGADTSyntax
Since: 7.2 Allow the use of GADT syntax in data type definitions (but not GADTs themselves; for this see
XGADTs
)
When the GADTSyntax
extension is enabled, GHC allows you to declare
an algebraic data type by giving the type signatures of constructors
explicitly. For example:
data Maybe a where
Nothing :: Maybe a
Just :: a > Maybe a
The form is called a “GADTstyle declaration” because Generalised Algebraic Data Types, described in Generalised Algebraic Data Types (GADTs), can only be declared using this form.
Notice that GADTstyle syntax generalises existential types (Existentially quantified data constructors). For example, these two declarations are equivalent:
data Foo = forall a. MkFoo a (a > Bool)
data Foo' where { MKFoo :: a > (a>Bool) > Foo' }
Any data type that can be declared in standard Haskell 98 syntax can also be declared using GADTstyle syntax. The choice is largely stylistic, but GADTstyle declarations differ in one important respect: they treat class constraints on the data constructors differently. Specifically, if the constructor is given a typeclass context, that context is made available by pattern matching. For example:
data Set a where
MkSet :: Eq a => [a] > Set a
makeSet :: Eq a => [a] > Set a
makeSet xs = MkSet (nub xs)
insert :: a > Set a > Set a
insert a (MkSet as)  a `elem` as = MkSet as
 otherwise = MkSet (a:as)
A use of MkSet
as a constructor (e.g. in the definition of
makeSet
) gives rise to a (Eq a)
constraint, as you would expect.
The new feature is that patternmatching on MkSet
(as in the
definition of insert
) makes available an (Eq a)
context. In
implementation terms, the MkSet
constructor has a hidden field that
stores the (Eq a)
dictionary that is passed to MkSet
; so when
patternmatching that dictionary becomes available for the righthand
side of the match. In the example, the equality dictionary is used to
satisfy the equality constraint generated by the call to elem
, so
that the type of insert
itself has no Eq
constraint.
For example, one possible application is to reify dictionaries:
data NumInst a where
MkNumInst :: Num a => NumInst a
intInst :: NumInst Int
intInst = MkNumInst
plus :: NumInst a > a > a > a
plus MkNumInst p q = p + q
Here, a value of type NumInst a
is equivalent to an explicit
(Num a)
dictionary.
All this applies to constructors declared using the syntax of
Existentials and type classes. For example, the NumInst
data type
above could equivalently be declared like this:
data NumInst a
= Num a => MkNumInst (NumInst a)
Notice that, unlike the situation when declaring an existential, there
is no forall
, because the Num
constrains the data type’s
universally quantified type variable a
. A constructor may have both
universal and existential type variables: for example, the following two
declarations are equivalent:
data T1 a
= forall b. (Num a, Eq b) => MkT1 a b
data T2 a where
MkT2 :: (Num a, Eq b) => a > b > T2 a
All this behaviour contrasts with Haskell 98’s peculiar treatment of contexts on a data type declaration (Section 4.2.1 of the Haskell 98 Report). In Haskell 98 the definition
data Eq a => Set' a = MkSet' [a]
gives MkSet'
the same type as MkSet
above. But instead of
making available an (Eq a)
constraint, patternmatching on
MkSet'
requires an (Eq a)
constraint! GHC faithfully
implements this behaviour, odd though it is. But for GADTstyle
declarations, GHC’s behaviour is much more useful, as well as much more
intuitive.
The rest of this section gives further details about GADTstyle data type declarations.
The result type of each data constructor must begin with the type constructor being defined. If the result type of all constructors has the form
T a1 ... an
, wherea1 ... an
are distinct type variables, then the data type is ordinary; otherwise is a generalised data type (Generalised Algebraic Data Types (GADTs)).As with other type signatures, you can give a single signature for several data constructors. In this example we give a single signature for
T1
andT2
:data T a where T1,T2 :: a > T a T3 :: T a
The type signature of each constructor is independent, and is implicitly universally quantified as usual. In particular, the type variable(s) in the “
data T a where
” header have no scope, and different constructors may have different universallyquantified type variables:data T a where  The 'a' has no scope T1,T2 :: b > T b  Means forall b. b > T b T3 :: T a  Means forall a. T a
A constructor signature may mention type class constraints, which can differ for different constructors. For example, this is fine:
data T a where T1 :: Eq b => b > b > T b T2 :: (Show c, Ix c) => c > [c] > T c
When pattern matching, these constraints are made available to discharge constraints in the body of the match. For example:
f :: T a > String f (T1 x y)  x==y = "yes"  otherwise = "no" f (T2 a b) = show a
Note that
f
is not overloaded; theEq
constraint arising from the use of==
is discharged by the pattern match onT1
and similarly theShow
constraint arising from the use ofshow
.Unlike a Haskell98style data type declaration, the type variable(s) in the “
data Set a where
” header have no scope. Indeed, one can write a kind signature instead:data Set :: * > * where ...
or even a mixture of the two:
data Bar a :: (* > *) > * where ...
The type variables (if given) may be explicitly kinded, so we could also write the header for
Foo
like this:data Bar a (b :: * > *) where ...
You can use strictness annotations, in the obvious places in the constructor type:
data Term a where Lit :: !Int > Term Int If :: Term Bool > !(Term a) > !(Term a) > Term a Pair :: Term a > Term b > Term (a,b)
You can use a
deriving
clause on a GADTstyle data type declaration. For example, these two declarations are equivalentdata Maybe1 a where { Nothing1 :: Maybe1 a ; Just1 :: a > Maybe1 a } deriving( Eq, Ord ) data Maybe2 a = Nothing2  Just2 a deriving( Eq, Ord )
The type signature may have quantified type variables that do not appear in the result type:
data Foo where MkFoo :: a > (a>Bool) > Foo Nil :: Foo
Here the type variable
a
does not appear in the result type of either constructor. Although it is universally quantified in the type of the constructor, such a type variable is often called “existential”. Indeed, the above declaration declares precisely the same type as thedata Foo
in Existentially quantified data constructors.The type may contain a class context too, of course:
data Showable where MkShowable :: Show a => a > Showable
You can use record syntax on a GADTstyle data type declaration:
data Person where Adult :: { name :: String, children :: [Person] } > Person Child :: Show a => { name :: !String, funny :: a } > Person
As usual, for every constructor that has a field
f
, the type of fieldf
must be the same (modulo alpha conversion). TheChild
constructor above shows that the signature may have a context, existentiallyquantified variables, and strictness annotations, just as in the nonrecord case. (NB: the “type” that follows the doublecolon is not really a type, because of the record syntax and strictness annotations. A “type” of this form can appear only in a constructor signature.)Record updates are allowed with GADTstyle declarations, only fields that have the following property: the type of the field mentions no existential type variables.
As in the case of existentials declared using the Haskell98like record syntax (Record Constructors), recordselector functions are generated only for those fields that have welltyped selectors. Here is the example of that section, in GADTstyle syntax:
data Counter a where NewCounter :: { _this :: self , _inc :: self > self , _display :: self > IO () , tag :: a } > Counter a
As before, only one selector function is generated here, that for
tag
. Nevertheless, you can still use all the field names in pattern matching and record construction.In a GADTstyle data type declaration there is no obvious way to specify that a data constructor should be infix, which makes a difference if you derive
Show
for the type. (Data constructors declared infix are displayed infix by the derivedshow
.) So GHC implements the following design: a data constructor declared in a GADTstyle data type declaration is displayed infix byShow
iff (a) it is an operator symbol, (b) it has two arguments, (c) it has a programmersupplied fixity declaration. For exampleinfix 6 (::) data T a where (::) :: Int > Bool > T Int
9.4.8. Generalised Algebraic Data Types (GADTs)¶

XGADTs
Implies: XMonoLocalBinds
,XGADTSyntax
Allow use of Generalised Algebraic Data Types (GADTs).
Generalised Algebraic Data Types generalise ordinary algebraic data types by allowing constructors to have richer return types. Here is an example:
data Term a where
Lit :: Int > Term Int
Succ :: Term Int > Term Int
IsZero :: Term Int > Term Bool
If :: Term Bool > Term a > Term a > Term a
Pair :: Term a > Term b > Term (a,b)
Notice that the return type of the constructors is not always
Term a
, as is the case with ordinary data types. This generality
allows us to write a welltyped eval
function for these Terms
:
eval :: Term a > a
eval (Lit i) = i
eval (Succ t) = 1 + eval t
eval (IsZero t) = eval t == 0
eval (If b e1 e2) = if eval b then eval e1 else eval e2
eval (Pair e1 e2) = (eval e1, eval e2)
The key point about GADTs is that pattern matching causes type refinement. For example, in the right hand side of the equation
eval :: Term a > a
eval (Lit i) = ...
the type a
is refined to Int
. That’s the whole point! A precise
specification of the type rules is beyond what this user manual aspires
to, but the design closely follows that described in the paper Simple
unificationbased type inference for
GADTs, (ICFP
2006). The general principle is this: type refinement is only carried
out based on usersupplied type annotations. So if no type signature is
supplied for eval
, no type refinement happens, and lots of obscure
error messages will occur. However, the refinement is quite general. For
example, if we had:
eval :: Term a > a > a
eval (Lit i) j = i+j
the pattern match causes the type a
to be refined to Int
(because of the type of the constructor Lit
), and that refinement
also applies to the type of j
, and the result type of the case
expression. Hence the addition i+j
is legal.
These and many other examples are given in papers by Hongwei Xi, and Tim Sheard. There is a longer introduction on the wiki, and Ralf Hinze’s Fun with phantom types also has a number of examples. Note that papers may use different notation to that implemented in GHC.
The rest of this section outlines the extensions to GHC that support
GADTs. The extension is enabled with XGADTs
. The XGADTs
flag
also sets XGADTSyntax
and XMonoLocalBinds
.
A GADT can only be declared using GADTstyle syntax (Declaring data types with explicit constructor signatures); the old Haskell 98 syntax for data declarations always declares an ordinary data type. The result type of each constructor must begin with the type constructor being defined, but for a GADT the arguments to the type constructor can be arbitrary monotypes. For example, in the
Term
data type above, the type of each constructor must end withTerm ty
, but thety
need not be a type variable (e.g. theLit
constructor).It is permitted to declare an ordinary algebraic data type using GADTstyle syntax. What makes a GADT into a GADT is not the syntax, but rather the presence of data constructors whose result type is not just
T a b
.You cannot use a
deriving
clause for a GADT; only for an ordinary data type.As mentioned in Declaring data types with explicit constructor signatures, record syntax is supported. For example:
data Term a where Lit :: { val :: Int } > Term Int Succ :: { num :: Term Int } > Term Int Pred :: { num :: Term Int } > Term Int IsZero :: { arg :: Term Int } > Term Bool Pair :: { arg1 :: Term a , arg2 :: Term b } > Term (a,b) If :: { cnd :: Term Bool , tru :: Term a , fls :: Term a } > Term a
However, for GADTs there is the following additional constraint: every constructor that has a field
f
must have the same result type (modulo alpha conversion) Hence, in the above example, we cannot merge thenum
andarg
fields above into a single name. Although their field types are bothTerm Int
, their selector functions actually have different types:num :: Term Int > Term Int arg :: Term Bool > Term Int
When patternmatching against data constructors drawn from a GADT, for example in a
case
expression, the following rules apply: The type of the scrutinee must be rigid.
 The type of the entire
case
expression must be rigid.  The type of any free variable mentioned in any of the
case
alternatives must be rigid.
A type is “rigid” if it is completely known to the compiler at its binding site. The easiest way to ensure that a variable a rigid type is to give it a type signature. For more precise details see Simple unificationbased type inference for GADTs. The criteria implemented by GHC are given in the Appendix.
9.5. Extensions to the record system¶
9.5.1. Traditional record syntax¶

XNoTraditionalRecordSyntax
Since: 7.4.1 Disallow use of record syntax.
Traditional record syntax, such as C {f = x}
, is enabled by default.
To disable it, you can use the XNoTraditionalRecordSyntax
flag.
9.5.2. Record field disambiguation¶

XDisambiguateRecordFields
Allow the compiler to automatically choose between identicallynamed record selectors based on type (if the choice is unambiguous).
In record construction and record pattern matching it is entirely unambiguous which field is referred to, even if there are two different data types in scope with a common field name. For example:
module M where
data S = MkS { x :: Int, y :: Bool }
module Foo where
import M
data T = MkT { x :: Int }
ok1 (MkS { x = n }) = n+1  Unambiguous
ok2 n = MkT { x = n+1 }  Unambiguous
bad1 k = k { x = 3 }  Ambiguous
bad2 k = x k  Ambiguous
Even though there are two x
‘s in scope, it is clear that the x
in the pattern in the definition of ok1
can only mean the field
x
from type S
. Similarly for the function ok2
. However, in
the record update in bad1
and the record selection in bad2
it is
not clear which of the two types is intended.
Haskell 98 regards all four as ambiguous, but with the
XDisambiguateRecordFields
flag, GHC will accept the former two. The
rules are precisely the same as those for instance declarations in
Haskell 98, where the method names on the lefthand side of the method
bindings in an instance declaration refer unambiguously to the method of
that class (provided they are in scope at all), even if there are other
variables in scope with the same name. This reduces the clutter of
qualified names when you import two records from different modules that
use the same field name.
Some details:
Field disambiguation can be combined with punning (see Record puns). For example:
module Foo where import M x=True ok3 (MkS { x }) = x+1  Uses both disambiguation and punning
With
XDisambiguateRecordFields
you can use unqualified field names even if the corresponding selector is only in scope qualified For example, assuming the same moduleM
as in our earlier example, this is legal:module Foo where import qualified M  Note qualified ok4 (M.MkS { x = n }) = n+1  Unambiguous
Since the constructor
MkS
is only in scope qualified, you must name itM.MkS
, but the fieldx
does not need to be qualified even thoughM.x
is in scope butx
is not (In effect, it is qualified by the constructor).
9.5.3. Duplicate record fields¶

XDuplicateRecordFields
Implies: XDisambiguateRecordFields
Since: 8.0.1 Allow definition of record types with identicallynamed fields.
Going beyond XDisambiguateRecordFields
(see Record field disambiguation),
the XDuplicateRecordFields
extension allows multiple datatypes to be
declared using the same field names in a single module. For example, it allows
this:
module M where
data S = MkS { x :: Int }
data T = MkT { x :: Bool }
Uses of fields that are always unambiguous because they mention the constructor,
including construction and patternmatching, may freely use duplicated field
names. For example, the following are permitted (just as with
XDisambiguateRecordFields
):
s = MkS { x = 3 }
f (MkT { x = b }) = b
Field names used as selector functions or in record updates must be unambiguous, either because there is only one such field in scope, or because a type signature is supplied, as described in the following sections.
9.5.3.1. Selector functions¶
Fields may be used as selector functions only if they are unambiguous, so this
is still not allowed if both S(x)
and T(x)
are in scope:
bad r = x r
An ambiguous selector may be disambiguated by the type being “pushed down” to the occurrence of the selector (see Type inference for more details on what “pushed down” means). For example, the following are permitted:
ok1 = x :: S > Int
ok2 :: S > Int
ok2 = x
ok3 = k x  assuming we already have k :: (S > Int) > _
In addition, the datatype that is meant may be given as a type signature on the argument to the selector:
ok4 s = x (s :: S)
However, we do not infer the type of the argument to determine the datatype, or have any way of deferring the choice to the constraint solver. Thus the following is ambiguous:
bad :: S > Int
bad s = x s
Even though a field label is duplicated in its defining module, it may be
possible to use the selector unambiguously elsewhere. For example, another
module could import S(x)
but not T(x)
, and then use x
unambiguously.
9.5.3.2. Record updates¶
In a record update such as e { x = 1 }
, if there are multiple x
fields
in scope, then the type of the context must fix which record datatype is
intended, or a type annotation must be supplied. Consider the following
definitions:
data S = MkS { foo :: Int }
data T = MkT { foo :: Int, bar :: Int }
data U = MkU { bar :: Int, baz :: Int }
Without XDuplicateRecordFields
, an update mentioning foo
will always be
ambiguous if all these definitions were in scope. When the extension is enabled,
there are several options for disambiguating updates:
Check for types that have all the fields being updated. For example:
f x = x { foo = 3, bar = 2 }
Here
f
must be updatingT
because neitherS
norU
have both fields.Use the type being pushed in to the record update, as in the following:
g1 :: T > T g1 x = x { foo = 3 } g2 x = x { foo = 3 } :: T g3 = k (x { foo = 3 })  assuming we already have k :: T > _
Use an explicit type signature on the record expression, as in:
h x = (x :: T) { foo = 3 }
The type of the expression being updated will not be inferred, and no constraintsolving will be performed, so the following will be rejected as ambiguous:
let x :: T
x = blah
in x { foo = 3 }
\x > [x { foo = 3 }, blah :: T ]
\ (x :: T) > x { foo = 3 }
9.5.3.3. Import and export of record fields¶
When XDuplicateRecordFields
is enabled, an ambiguous field must be exported
as part of its datatype, rather than at the top level. For example, the
following is legal:
module M (S(x), T(..)) where
data S = MkS { x :: Int }
data T = MkT { x :: Bool }
However, this would not be permitted, because x
is ambiguous:
module M (x) where ...
Similar restrictions apply on import.
9.5.4. Record puns¶

XNamedFieldPuns
Allow use of record puns.
Record puns are enabled by the flag XNamedFieldPuns
.
When using records, it is common to write a pattern that binds a variable with the same name as a record field, such as:
data C = C {a :: Int}
f (C {a = a}) = a
Record punning permits the variable name to be elided, so one can simply write
f (C {a}) = a
to mean the same pattern as above. That is, in a record pattern, the
pattern a
expands into the pattern a = a
for the same name
a
.
Note that:
Record punning can also be used in an expression, writing, for example,
let a = 1 in C {a}
instead of
let a = 1 in C {a = a}
The expansion is purely syntactic, so the expanded righthand side expression refers to the nearest enclosing variable that is spelled the same as the field name.
Puns and other patterns can be mixed in the same record:
data C = C {a :: Int, b :: Int} f (C {a, b = 4}) = a
Puns can be used wherever record patterns occur (e.g. in
let
bindings or at the toplevel).A pun on a qualified field name is expanded by stripping off the module qualifier. For example:
f (C {M.a}) = a
means
f (M.C {M.a = a}) = a
(This is useful if the field selector
a
for constructorM.C
is only in scope in qualified form.)
9.5.5. Record wildcards¶

XRecordWildCards
Implies: XDisambiguateRecordFields
.Allow the use of wildcards in record construction and pattern matching.
Record wildcards are enabled by the flag XRecordWildCards
. This
flag implies XDisambiguateRecordFields
.
For records with many fields, it can be tiresome to write out each field individually in a record pattern, as in
data C = C {a :: Int, b :: Int, c :: Int, d :: Int}
f (C {a = 1, b = b, c = c, d = d}) = b + c + d
Record wildcard syntax permits a “..
” in a record pattern, where
each elided field f
is replaced by the pattern f = f
. For
example, the above pattern can be written as
f (C {a = 1, ..}) = b + c + d
More details:
Record wildcards in patterns can be mixed with other patterns, including puns (Record puns); for example, in a pattern
(C {a = 1, b, ..})
. Additionally, record wildcards can be used wherever record patterns occur, including inlet
bindings and at the toplevel. For example, the toplevel bindingC {a = 1, ..} = e
defines
b
,c
, andd
.Record wildcards can also be used in an expression, when constructing a record. For example,
let {a = 1; b = 2; c = 3; d = 4} in C {..}
in place of
let {a = 1; b = 2; c = 3; d = 4} in C {a=a, b=b, c=c, d=d}
The expansion is purely syntactic, so the record wildcard expression refers to the nearest enclosing variables that are spelled the same as the omitted field names.
Record wildcards may not be used in record updates. For example this is illegal:
f r = r { x = 3, .. }
For both pattern and expression wildcards, the “
..
” expands to the missing inscope record fields. Specifically the expansion of “C {..}
” includesf
if and only if:f
is a record field of constructorC
. The record field
f
is in scope somehow (either qualified or unqualified).  In the case of expressions (but not patterns), the variable
f
is in scope unqualified, and is not imported or bound at top level. For example,f
can be bound by an enclosing pattern match or let/wherebinding. (The motivation here is that it should be easy for the reader to figure out what the “..
” expands to.)
These rules restrict record wildcards to the situations in which the user could have written the expanded version. For example
module M where data R = R { a,b,c :: Int } module X where import M( R(a,c) ) f b = R { .. }
The
R{..}
expands toR{M.a=a}
, omittingb
since the record field is not in scope, and omittingc
since the variablec
is not in scope (apart from the binding of the record selectorc
, of course).Record wildcards cannot be used (a) in a record update construct, and (b) for data constructors that are not declared with record fields. For example:
f x = x { v=True, .. }  Illegal (a) data T = MkT Int Bool g = MkT { .. }  Illegal (b) h (MkT { .. }) = True  Illegal (b)
9.6. Extensions to the “deriving” mechanism¶
9.6.1. Inferred context for deriving clauses¶
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.
9.6.2. Standalone deriving declarations¶

XStandaloneDeriving
Allow the use of standalone
deriving
declarations.
GHC allows standalone deriving
declarations, enabled by
XStandaloneDeriving
:
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
where
part.
However, standalone deriving differs from a deriving
clause in a
number of important ways:
The standalone deriving declaration does not need to be in the same module as the data type declaration. (But be aware of the dangers of orphan instances (Orphan modules and instance declarations).
You must supply an explicit context (in the example the context is
(Eq a)
), exactly as you would in an ordinary instance declaration. (In contrast, in aderiving
clause attached to a data type declaration, the context is inferred.)Unlike a
deriving
declaration attached to adata
declaration, the instance can be more specific than the data type (assuming you also useXFlexibleInstances
, Relaxed rules for instance contexts). Consider for exampledata 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 ofEq
.Unlike a
deriving
declaration attached to adata
declaration, 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 forT
, becauseT
is a GADT, but you can generate the instance declaration using standalone deriving.The downside is that, if the boilerplate code fails to typecheck, you will get an error message about that code, which you did not write. Whereas, with a
deriving
clause the sideconditions are necessarily more conservative, but any error message may be more comprehensible.Under most circumstances, you cannot use standalone deriving to create an instance for a data type whose constructors are not all in scope. This is because the derived instance would generate code that uses the constructors behind the scenes, which would break abstraction.
The one exception to this rule is
XDeriveAnyClass
, since deriving an instance viaXDeriveAnyClass
simply generates an empty instance declaration, which does not require the use of any constructors. See the deriving any class section for more details.
In other ways, however, a standalone deriving obeys the same rules as ordinary deriving:
A
deriving instance
declaration must obey the same rules concerning form and termination as ordinary instance declarations, controlled by the same flags; see Instance declarations.The standalone syntax is generalised for newtypes in exactly the same way that ordinary
deriving
clauses are generalised (Generalised derived instances for newtypes). For example: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.
9.6.3. Deriving instances of extra classes (Data
, etc.)¶

XDeriveGeneric
Since: 7.2 Allow automatic deriving of instances for the
Generic
typeclass.

XDeriveFunctor
Since: 6.12 Allow automatic deriving of instances for the
Functor
typeclass.

XDeriveFoldable
Since: 6.12 Allow automatic deriving of instances for the
Foldable
typeclass.

XDeriveTraversable
Since: 6.12 Implies: XDeriveFoldable
,XDeriveFunctor
Allow automatic deriving of instances for the
Traversable
typeclass.
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 deriving
clause. In Haskell 98, the only
classes that may appear in the deriving
clause are the standard
classes Eq
, Ord
, Enum
, Ix
, Bounded
, Read
, and
Show
.
GHC extends this list with several more classes that may be automatically derived:
 With
XDeriveGeneric
, you can derive instances of the classesGeneric
andGeneric1
, defined inGHC.Generics
. You can use these to define generic functions, as described in Generic programming.  With
XDeriveFunctor
, you can derive instances of the classFunctor
, defined inGHC.Base
. See Deriving Functor instances.  With
XDeriveDataTypeable
, you can derive instances of the classData
, defined inData.Data
. See Deriving Typeable instances for derivingTypeable
.  With
XDeriveFoldable
, you can derive instances of the classFoldable
, defined inData.Foldable
. See Deriving Foldable instances.  With
XDeriveTraversable
, you can derive instances of the classTraversable
, defined inData.Traversable
. Since theTraversable
instance dictates the instances ofFunctor
andFoldable
, you’ll probably want to derive them too, soXDeriveTraversable
impliesXDeriveFunctor
andXDeriveFoldable
. See Deriving Traversable instances.  With
XDeriveLift
, you can derive instances of the classLift
, defined in theLanguage.Haskell.TH.Syntax
module of thetemplatehaskell
package. See Deriving Lift instances.
You can also use a standalone deriving declaration instead (see Standalone deriving declarations).
In each case the appropriate class must be in scope before it can be
mentioned in the deriving
clause.
9.6.4. Deriving Functor
instances¶
With XDeriveFunctor
, one can derive Functor
instances for data types
of kind * > *
. For example, this declaration:
data Example a = Ex a Char (Example a) (Example Char)
deriving Functor
would generate the following instance:
instance Functor Example where
fmap f (Ex a1 a2 a3 a4) = Ex (f a1) a2 (fmap f a3) a4
The basic algorithm for XDeriveFunctor
walks the arguments of each
constructor of a data type, applying a mapping function depending on the type
of each argument. If a plain type variable is found that is syntactically
equivalent to the last type parameter of the data type (a
in the above
example), then we apply the function f
directly to it. If a type is
encountered that is not syntactically equivalent to the last type parameter
but does mention the last type parameter somewhere in it, then a recursive
call to fmap
is made. If a type is found which doesn’t mention the last
type parameter at all, then it is left alone.
The second of those cases, in which a type is unequal to the type parameter but does contain the type parameter, can be surprisingly tricky. For example, the following example compiles:
newtype Right a = Right (Either Int a) deriving Functor
Modifying the code slightly, however, produces code which will not compile:
newtype Wrong a = Wrong (Either a Int) deriving Functor
The difference involves the placement of the last type parameter, a
. In the
Right
case, a
occurs within the type Either Int a
, and moreover, it
appears as the last type argument of Either
. In the Wrong
case,
however, a
is not the last type argument to Either
; rather, Int
is.
This distinction is important because of the way XDeriveFunctor
works. The
derived Functor Right
instance would be:
instance Functor Right where
fmap f (Right a) = Right (fmap f a)
Given a value of type Right a
, GHC must produce a value of type
Right b
. Since the argument to the Right
constructor has type
Either Int a
, the code recursively calls fmap
on it to produce a value
of type Either Int b
, which is used in turn to construct a final value of
type Right b
.
The generated code for the Functor Wrong
instance would look exactly the
same, except with Wrong
replacing every occurrence of Right
. The
problem is now that fmap
is being applied recursively to a value of type
Either a Int
. This cannot possibly produce a value of type
Either b Int
, as fmap
can only change the last type parameter! This
causes the generated code to be illtyped.
As a general rule, if a data type has a derived Functor
instance and its
last type parameter occurs on the righthand side of the data declaration, then
either it must (1) occur bare (e.g., newtype Id a = a
), or (2) occur as the
last argument of a type constructor (as in Right
above).
There are two exceptions to this rule:
Tuple types. When a nonunit tuple is used on the righthand side of a data declaration,
XDeriveFunctor
treats it as a product of distinct types. In other words, the following code:newtype Triple a = Triple (a, Int, [a]) deriving Functor
Would result in a generated
Functor
instance like so:instance Functor Triple where fmap f (Triple a) = Triple (case a of (a1, a2, a3) > (f a1, a2, fmap f a3))
That is,
XDeriveFunctor
patternmatches its way into tuples and maps over each type that constitutes the tuple. The generated code is reminiscient of what would be generated fromdata Triple a = Triple a Int [a]
, except with extra machinery to handle the tuple.Function types. The last type parameter can appear anywhere in a function type as long as it occurs in a covariant position. To illustrate what this means, consider the following three examples:
newtype CovFun1 a = CovFun1 (Int > a) deriving Functor newtype CovFun2 a = CovFun2 ((a > Int) > a) deriving Functor newtype CovFun3 a = CovFun3 (((Int > a) > Int) > a) deriving Functor
All three of these examples would compile without issue. On the other hand:
newtype ContraFun1 a = ContraFun1 (a > Int) deriving Functor newtype ContraFun2 a = ContraFun2 ((Int > a) > Int) deriving Functor newtype ContraFun3 a = ContraFun3 (((a > Int) > a) > Int) deriving Functor
While these examples look similar, none of them would successfully compile. This is because all occurrences of the last type parameter
a
occur in contravariant positions, not covariant ones.Intuitively, a covariant type is produced, and a contravariant type is consumed. Most types in Haskell are covariant, but the function type is special in that the lefthand side of a function arrow reverses variance. If a function type
a > b
appears in a covariant position (e.g.,CovFun1
above), thena
is in a contravariant position andb
is in a covariant position. Similarly, ifa > b
appears in a contravariant position (e.g.,CovFun2
above), thena
is ina
covariant position andb
is in a contravariant position.To see why a data type with a contravariant occurrence of its last type parameter cannot have a derived
Functor
instance, let’s suppose that aFunctor ContraFun1
instance exists. The implementation would look something like this:instance Functor ContraFun1 where fmap f (ContraFun g) = ContraFun (\x > _)
We have
f :: a > b
,g :: a > Int
, andx :: b
. Using these, we must somehow fill in the hole (denoted with an underscore) with a value of typeInt
. What are our options?We could try applying
g
tox
. This won’t work though, asg
expects an argument of typea
, andx :: b
. Even worse, we can’t turnx
into something of typea
, sincef
also needs an argument of typea
! In short, there’s no good way to make this work.On the other hand, a derived
Functor
instances for theCovFun
s are within the realm of possibility:instance Functor CovFun1 where fmap f (CovFun1 g) = CovFun1 (\x > f (g x)) instance Functor CovFun2 where fmap f (CovFun2 g) = CovFun2 (\h > f (g (\x > h (f x)))) instance Functor CovFun3 where fmap f (CovFun3 g) = CovFun3 (\h > f (g (\k > h (\x > f (k x)))))
There are some other scenarios in which a derived Functor
instance will
fail to compile:
A data type has no type parameters (e.g.,
data Nothing = Nothing
).A data type’s last type variable is used in a
XDatatypeContexts
constraint (e.g.,data Ord a => O a = O a
).A data type’s last type variable is used in an
XExistentialQuantification
constraint, or is refined in a GADT. For example,data T a b where T4 :: Ord b => b > T a b T5 :: b > T b b T6 :: T a (b,b) deriving instance Functor (T a)
would not compile successfully due to the way in which
b
is constrained.
9.6.5. Deriving Foldable
instances¶
With XDeriveFoldable
, one can derive Foldable
instances for data types
of kind * > *
. For example, this declaration:
data Example a = Ex a Char (Example a) (Example Char)
deriving Foldable
would generate the following instance:
instance Foldable Example where
foldr f z (Ex a1 a2 a3 a4) = f a1 (foldr f z a3)
foldMap f (Ex a1 a2 a3 a4) = mappend (f a1) (foldMap f a3)
The algorithm for XDeriveFoldable
is adapted from the XDeriveFunctor
algorithm, but it generates definitions for foldMap
and foldr
instead
of fmap
. In addition, XDeriveFoldable
filters out all
constructor arguments on the RHS expression whose types do not mention the last
type parameter, since those arguments do not need to be folded over.
Here are the differences between the generated code in each extension:
 When a bare type variable
a
is encountered,XDeriveFunctor
would generatef a
for anfmap
definition.XDeriveFoldable
would generatef a z
forfoldr
, andf a
forfoldMap
.  When a type that is not syntactically equivalent to
a
, but which does containa
, is encountered,XDeriveFunctor
recursively callsfmap
on it. Similarly,XDeriveFoldable
would recursively callfoldr
andfoldMap
. XDeriveFunctor
puts everything back together again at the end by invoking the constructor.XDeriveFoldable
, however, builds up a value of some type. Forfoldr
, this is accomplished by chaining applications off
and recursivefoldr
calls on the state valuez
. ForfoldMap
, this happens by combining all values withmappend
.
There are some other differences regarding what data types can have derived
Foldable
instances:
Data types containing function types on the righthand side cannot have derived
Foldable
instances.Foldable
instances can be derived for data types in which the last type parameter is existentially constrained or refined in a GADT. For example, this data type:data E a where E1 :: (a ~ Int) => a > E a E2 :: Int > E Int E3 :: (a ~ Int) => a > E Int E4 :: (a ~ Int) => Int > E a deriving instance Foldable E
would have the following generated
Foldable
instance:instance Foldable E where foldr f z (E1 e) = f e z foldr f z (E2 e) = z foldr f z (E3 e) = z foldr f z (E4 e) = z foldMap f (E1 e) = f e foldMap f (E2 e) = mempty foldMap f (E3 e) = mempty foldMap f (E4 e) = mempty
Notice how every constructor of
E
utilizes some sort of existential quantification, but only the argument ofE1
is actually “folded over”. This is because we make a deliberate choice to only fold over universally polymorphic types that are syntactically equivalent to the last type parameter. In particular:
 We don’t fold over the arguments of
E1
orE4
beacause even though(a ~ Int)
,Int
is not syntactically equivalent toa
. We don’t fold over the argument of
E3
becausea
is not universally polymorphic. Thea
inE3
is (implicitly) existentially quantified, so it is not the same as the last type parameter ofE
.
9.6.6. Deriving Traversable
instances¶
With XDeriveTraversable
, one can derive Traversable
instances for data
types of kind * > *
. For example, this declaration:
data Example a = Ex a Char (Example a) (Example Char)
deriving (Functor, Foldable, Traversable)
would generate the following Traversable
instance:
instance Traversable Example where
traverse f (Ex a1 a2 a3 a4)
= fmap (\b1 b3 > Ex b1 a2 b3 a4) (f a1) <*> traverse f a3
The algorithm for XDeriveTraversable
is adapted from the
XDeriveFunctor
algorithm, but it generates a definition for traverse
instead of fmap
. In addition, XDeriveTraversable
filters out
all constructor arguments on the RHS expression whose types do not mention the
last type parameter, since those arguments do not produce any effects in a
traversal. Here are the differences between the generated code in each
extension:
 When a bare type variable
a
is encountered, bothXDeriveFunctor
andXDeriveTraversable
would generatef a
for anfmap
andtraverse
definition, respectively.  When a type that is not syntactically equivalent to
a
, but which does containa
, is encountered,XDeriveFunctor
recursively callsfmap
on it. Similarly,XDeriveTraversable
would recursively calltraverse
. XDeriveFunctor
puts everything back together again at the end by invoking the constructor.XDeriveTraversable
does something similar, but it works in anApplicative
context by chaining everything together with(<*>)
.
Unlike XDeriveFunctor
, XDeriveTraversable
cannot be used on data
types containing a function type on the righthand side.
For a full specification of the algorithms used in XDeriveFunctor
,
XDeriveFoldable
, and XDeriveTraversable
, see
this wiki page.
9.6.7. Deriving Typeable
instances¶

XDeriveDataTypeable
Enable automatic deriving of instances for the
Typeable
typeclass
The class Typeable
is very special:
Typeable
is kindpolymorphic (see Kind polymorphism and TypeinType).GHC has a custom solver for discharging constraints that involve class
Typeable
, and handwritten instances are forbidden. This ensures that the programmer cannot subvert the type system by writing bogus instances.Derived instances of
Typeable
are ignored, and may be reported as an error in a later version of the compiler.The rules for solving `Typeable` constraints are as follows:
A concrete type constructor applied to some types.
instance (Typeable t1, .., Typeable t_n) => Typeable (T t1 .. t_n)
This rule works for any concrete type constructor, including type constructors with polymorphic kinds. The only restriction is that if the type constructor has a polymorphic kind, then it has to be applied to all of its kinds parameters, and these kinds need to be concrete (i.e., they cannot mention kind variables).
A type variable applied to some types. instance (Typeable f, Typeable t1, .., Typeable t_n) => Typeable (f t1 .. t_n)
A concrete type literal. instance Typeable 0  Type natural literals instance Typeable "Hello"  Typelevel symbols
9.6.8. Deriving Lift
instances¶

XDeriveLift
Since: 8.0.1 Enable automatic deriving of instances for the
Lift
typeclass for Template Haskell.
The class Lift
, unlike other derivable classes, lives in
templatehaskell
instead of base
. Having a data type be an instance of
Lift
permits its values to be promoted to Template Haskell expressions (of
type ExpQ
), which can then be spliced into Haskell source code.
Here is an example of how one can derive Lift
:
{# LANGUAGE DeriveLift #}
module Bar where
import Language.Haskell.TH.Syntax
data Foo a = Foo a  a :^: a deriving Lift
{
instance (Lift a) => Lift (Foo a) where
lift (Foo a)
= appE
(conE
(mkNameG_d "packagename" "Bar" "Foo"))
(lift a)
lift (u :^: v)
= infixApp
(lift u)
(conE
(mkNameG_d "packagename" "Bar" ":^:"))
(lift v)
}

{# LANGUAGE TemplateHaskell #}
module Baz where
import Bar
import Language.Haskell.TH.Lift
foo :: Foo String
foo = $(lift $ Foo "foo")
fooExp :: Lift a => Foo a > Q Exp
fooExp f = [ f ]
XDeriveLift
also works for certain unboxed types (Addr#
, Char#
,
Double#
, Float#
, Int#
, and Word#
):
{# LANGUAGE DeriveLift, MagicHash #}
module Unboxed where
import GHC.Exts
import Language.Haskell.TH.Syntax
data IntHash = IntHash Int# deriving Lift
{
instance Lift IntHash where
lift (IntHash i)
= appE
(conE
(mkNameG_d "packagename" "Unboxed" "IntHash"))
(litE
(intPrimL (toInteger (I# i))))
}
9.6.9. Generalised derived instances for newtypes¶

XGeneralisedNewtypeDeriving

XGeneralizedNewtypeDeriving
Enable GHC’s cunning generalised deriving mechanism for
newtype
s
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 Eq
, Ord
, Enum
and 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 Num
:
instance Num Dollars where
Dollars a + Dollars b = Dollars (a+b)
...
All the instance does is apply and remove the newtype
constructor.
It is particularly galling that, since the constructor doesn’t appear at
runtime, this instance declaration defines a dictionary which is
wholly equivalent to the Int
dictionary, only slower!
9.6.9.1. Generalising the deriving clause¶
GHC now permits such instances to be derived instead, using the flag
XGeneralizedNewtypeDeriving
, so one can write
newtype Dollars = Dollars { getDollars :: Int } deriving (Eq,Show,Num)
and the implementation uses the same Num
dictionary for
Dollars
as for Int
. In other words, GHC will generate something that
resembles the following code
instance Num Int => Num Dollars
and then attempt to simplify the Num Int
context as much as possible.
GHC knows that there is a Num Int
instance in scope, so it is able to
discharge the Num Int
constraint, leaving the code that GHC actually
generates
instance Num Dollars
One can think of this instance being implemented with the same code as the
Num Int
instance, but with Dollars
and getDollars
added wherever
necessary in order to make it typecheck. (In practice, GHC uses a somewhat
different approach to code generation. See the A more precise specification
section below for more details.)
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 Monad
, via
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 “etaconverted” to generate the
context of the instance declaration.
We can even derive instances of multiparameter classes, provided the
newtype is the last class parameter. In this case, a “partial
application” of the class appears in the deriving
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 StateMonad
for Parser
by
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 Show
and Read
,
which really behave differently for the newtype and its representation.
9.6.9.2. A more precise specification¶
A derived instance is derived only for declarations of these forms (after expansion of any type synonyms)
newtype T v1..vn = MkT (t vk+1..vn) deriving (C t1..tj)
newtype instance T s1..sk vk+1..vn = MkT (t vk+1..vn) deriving (C t1..tj)
where
v1..vn
are type variables, andt
,s1..sk
,t1..tj
are types. The
(C t1..tj)
is a partial applications of the classC
, where the arity ofC
is exactlyj+1
. That is,C
lacks exactly one type argument. k
is chosen so thatC t1..tj (T v1...vk)
is wellkinded. (Or, in the case of adata instance
, so thatC t1..tj (T s1..sk)
is well kinded.) The type
t
is an arbitrary type.  The type variables
vk+1...vn
do not occur in the typest
,s1..sk
, ort1..tj
. C
is notRead
,Show
,Typeable
, orData
. 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. It is safe to coerce each of the methods of
C
. That is, the missing last argument toC
is not used at a nominal role in any of theC
‘s methods. (See Roles.) C
is allowed to have associated type families, provided they meet the requirements laid out in the section on GND and associated types.
Then the derived instance declaration is of the form
instance C t1..tj t => C t1..tj (T v1...vk)
Note that if C
does not contain any class methods, the instance context
is wholly unnecessary, and as such GHC will instead generate:
instance C t1..tj (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 “etaconverted” 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 multiparameter classes
usually have one “main” parameter for which deriving new instances is
most interesting.
Lastly, all of this applies only for classes other than Read
,
Show
, Typeable
, and Data
, for which the stock derivation
applies (section 4.3.3. of the Haskell Report). (For the standard
classes Eq
, Ord
, Ix
, and Bounded
it is immaterial
whether the stock method is used or the one described here.)
9.6.9.3. Associated type families¶
XGeneralizedNewtypeDeriving
also works for some type classes with
associated type families. Here is an example:
class HasRing a where
type Ring a
newtype L1Norm a = L1Norm a
deriving HasRing
The derived HasRing
instance would look like
instance HasRing (L1Norm a) where
type Ring (L1Norm a) = Ring a
To be precise, if the class being derived is of the form
class C c_1 c_2 ... c_m where
type T1 t1_1 t1_2 ... t1_n
...
type Tk tk_1 tk_2 ... tk_p
and the newtype is of the form
newtype N n_1 n_2 ... n_q = MkN <reptype>
then you can derive a C c_1 c_2 ... c_(m1)
instance for
N n_1 n_2 ... n_q
, provided that:
The type parameter
c_m
occurs once in each of the type variables ofT1
throughTk
. Imagine a class where this condition didn’t hold. For example:class Bad a b where type B a instance Bad Int a where type B Int = Char newtype Foo a = Foo a deriving (Bad Int)
For the derived
Bad Int
instance, GHC would need to generate something like this:instance Bad Int (Foo a) where type B Int = B ???
Now we’re stuck, since we have no way to refer to
a
on the righthand side of theB
family instance, so this instance doesn’t really make sense in aXGeneralizedNewtypeDeriving
setting.C
does not have any associated data families (only type families). To see why data families are forbidden, imagine the following scenario:class Ex a where data D a instance Ex Int where data D Int = DInt Bool newtype Age = MkAge Int deriving Ex
For the derived
Ex
instance, GHC would need to generate something like this:instance Ex Age where data D Age = ???
But it is not clear what GHC would fill in for
???
, as each data family instance must generate fresh data constructors.
If both of these conditions are met, GHC will generate this instance:
instance C c_1 c_2 ... c_(m1) <reptype> =>
C c_1 c_2 ... c_(m1) (N n_1 n_2 ... n_q) where
type T1 t1_1 t1_2 ... (N n_1 n_2 ... n_q) ... t1_n
= T1 t1_1 t1_2 ... <reptype> ... t1_n
...
type Tk tk_1 tk_2 ... (N n_1 n_2 ... n_q) ... tk_p
= Tk tk_1 tk_2 ... <reptype> ... tk_p
Again, if C
contains no class methods, the instance context will be
redundant, so GHC will instead generate
instance C c_1 c_2 ... c_(m1) (N n_1 n_2 ... n_q)
.
Beware that in some cases, you may need to enable the
XUndecidableInstances
extension in order to use this feature.
Here’s a pathological case that illustrates why this might happen:
class C a where
type T a
newtype Loop = MkLoop Loop
deriving C
This will generate the derived instance:
instance C Loop where
type T Loop = T Loop
Here, it is evident that attempting to use the type T Loop
will throw the
typechecker into an infinite loop, as its definition recurses endlessly. In
other cases, you might need to enable XUndecidableInstances
even
if the generated code won’t put the typechecker into a loop. For example:
instance C Int where
type C Int = Int
newtype MyInt = MyInt Int
deriving C
This will generate the derived instance:
instance C MyInt where
type T MyInt = T Int
Although typechecking T MyInt
will terminate, GHC’s termination checker
isn’t sophisticated enough to determine this, so you’ll need to enable
XUndecidableInstances
in order to use this derived instance. If
you do go down this route, make sure you can convince yourself that all of
the type family instances you’re deriving will eventually terminate if used!
9.6.10. Deriving any other class¶

XDeriveAnyClass
Since: 7.10.1 Allow use of any typeclass in
deriving
clauses.
With XDeriveAnyClass
you can derive any other class. The compiler
will simply generate an instance declaration with no explicitlydefined
methods.
This is
mostly useful in classes whose minimal set is
empty, and especially when writing
generic functions.
As an example, consider a simple prettyprinter class SPretty
, which outputs
pretty strings:
{# LANGUAGE DefaultSignatures, DeriveAnyClass #}
class SPretty a where
sPpr :: a > String
default sPpr :: Show a => a > String
sPpr = show
If a user does not provide a manual implementation for sPpr
, then it will
default to show
. Now we can leverage the XDeriveAnyClass
extension to
easily implement a SPretty
instance for a new data type:
data Foo = Foo deriving (Show, SPretty)
The above code is equivalent to:
data Foo = Foo deriving Show
instance SPretty Foo
That is, an SPretty Foo
instance will be created with empty implementations
for all methods. Since we are using XDefaultSignatures
in this example, a
default implementation of sPpr
is filled in automatically.
Note the following details
In case you try to derive some class on a newtype, and
XGeneralizedNewtypeDeriving
is also on,XDeriveAnyClass
takes precedence.The instance context is determined by the type signatures of the derived class’s methods. For instance, if the class is:
class Foo a where bar :: a > String default bar :: Show a => a > String bar = show baz :: a > a > Bool default baz :: Ord a => a > a > Bool baz x y = compare x y == EQ
And you attempt to derive it using
XDeriveAnyClass
:instance Eq a => Eq (Option a) where ... instance Ord a => Ord (Option a) where ... instance Show a => Show (Option a) where ... data Option a = None  Some a deriving Foo
Then the derived
Foo
instance will be:instance (Show a, Ord a) => Foo (Option a)
Since the default type signatures for
bar
andbaz
requireShow a
andOrd a
constraints, respectively.Constraints on the nondefault type signatures can play a role in inferring the instance context as well. For example, if you have this class:
class HigherEq f where (==#) :: f a > f a > Bool default (==#) :: Eq (f a) => f a > f a > Bool x ==# y = (x == y)
And you tried to derive an instance for it:
instance Eq a => Eq (Option a) where ... data Option a = None  Some a deriving HigherEq
Then it will fail with an error to the effect of:
No instance for (Eq a) arising from the 'deriving' clause of a data type declaration
That is because we require an
Eq (Option a)
instance from the default type signature for(==#)
, which in turn requires anEq a
instance, which we don’t have in scope. But if you tweak the definition ofHigherEq
slightly:class HigherEq f where (==#) :: Eq a => f a > f a > Bool default (==#) :: Eq (f a) => f a > f a > Bool x ==# y = (x == y)
Then it becomes possible to derive a
HigherEq Option
instance. Note that the only difference is that now the nondefault type signature for(==#)
brings in anEq a
constraint. Constraints from nondefault type signatures never appear in the derived instance context itself, but they can be used to discharge obligations that are demanded by the default type signatures. In the example above, the default type signature demanded anEq a
instance, and the nondefault signature was able to satisfy that request, so the derived instance is simply:instance HigherEq Option
XDeriveAnyClass
can be used with partially applied classes, such asdata T a = MKT a deriving( D Int )
which generates
instance D Int a => D Int (T a) where {}
XDeriveAnyClass
can be used to fill in default instances for associated type families:{# LANGUAGE DeriveAnyClass, TypeFamilies #} class Sizable a where type Size a type Size a = Int data Bar = Bar deriving Sizable doubleBarSize :: Size Bar > Size Bar doubleBarSize s = 2*s
The
deriving( Sizable )
is equivalent to sayinginstance Sizeable Bar where {}
and then the normal rules for filling in associated types from the default will apply, making
Size Bar
equal toInt
.
9.6.11. Deriving strategies¶
In most scenarios, every deriving
statement generates a typeclass instance
in an unambiguous fashion. There is a corner case, however, where
simultaneously enabling both the XGeneralizedNewtypeDeriving
and
XDeriveAnyClass
extensions can make deriving become ambiguous.
Consider the following example
{# LANGUAGE DeriveAnyClass, GeneralizedNewtypeDeriving #}
newtype Foo = MkFoo Bar deriving C
One could either pick the DeriveAnyClass
approach to deriving C
or the
GeneralizedNewtypeDeriving
approach to deriving C
, both of which would
be equally as valid. GHC defaults to favoring DeriveAnyClass
in such a
dispute, but this is not a satisfying solution, since that leaves users unable
to use both language extensions in a single module.
To make this more robust, GHC has a notion of deriving strategies, which allow
the user to explicitly request which approach to use when deriving an instance.
To enable this feature, one must enable the XDerivingStrategies
language extension. A deriving strategy can be specified in a deriving
clause
newtype Foo = MkFoo Bar
deriving newtype C
Or in a standalone deriving declaration
deriving anyclass instance C Foo
XDerivingStrategies
also allows the use of multiple deriving
clauses per data declaration so that a user can derive some instance with
one deriving strategy and other instances with another deriving strategy.
For example
newtype Baz = Baz Quux
deriving (Eq, Ord)
deriving stock (Read, Show)
deriving newtype (Num, Floating)
deriving anyclass C
Currently, the deriving strategies are:
stock
: Have GHC implement a “standard” instance for a data type, if possible (e.g.,Eq
,Ord
,Generic
,Data
,Functor
, etc.)anyclass
: UseXDeriveAnyClass
newtype
: UseXGeneralizedNewtypeDeriving
If an explicit deriving strategy is not given, GHC has an algorithm for determining how it will actually derive an instance. For brevity, the algorithm is omitted here. You can read the full algorithm at Wiki page.
9.7. Pattern synonyms¶

XPatternSynonyms
Since: 7.8.1 Allow the definition of pattern synonyms.
Pattern synonyms are enabled by the flag XPatternSynonyms
, which is
required for defining them, but not for using them. More information and
examples of view patterns can be found on the Wiki page <PatternSynonyms>.
Pattern synonyms enable giving names to parametrized pattern schemes. They can also be thought of as abstract constructors that don’t have a bearing on data representation. For example, in a programming language implementation, we might represent types of the language as follows:
data Type = App String [Type]
Here are some examples of using said representation. Consider a few
types of the Type
universe encoded like this:
App ">" [t1, t2]  t1 > t2
App "Int" []  Int
App "Maybe" [App "Int" []]  Maybe Int
This representation is very generic in that no types are given special
treatment. However, some functions might need to handle some known types
specially, for example the following two functions collect all argument
types of (nested) arrow types, and recognize the Int
type,
respectively:
collectArgs :: Type > [Type]
collectArgs (App ">" [t1, t2]) = t1 : collectArgs t2
collectArgs _ = []
isInt :: Type > Bool
isInt (App "Int" []) = True
isInt _ = False
Matching on App
directly is both hard to read and error prone to
write. And the situation is even worse when the matching is nested:
isIntEndo :: Type > Bool
isIntEndo (App ">" [App "Int" [], App "Int" []]) = True
isIntEndo _ = False
Pattern synonyms permit abstracting from the representation to expose
matchers that behave in a constructorlike manner with respect to
pattern matching. We can create pattern synonyms for the known types we
care about, without committing the representation to them (note that
these don’t have to be defined in the same module as the Type
type):
pattern Arrow t1 t2 = App ">" [t1, t2]
pattern Int = App "Int" []
pattern Maybe t = App "Maybe" [t]
Which enables us to rewrite our functions in a much cleaner style:
collectArgs :: Type > [Type]
collectArgs (Arrow t1 t2) = t1 : collectArgs t2
collectArgs _ = []
isInt :: Type > Bool
isInt Int = True
isInt _ = False
isIntEndo :: Type > Bool
isIntEndo (Arrow Int Int) = True
isIntEndo _ = False
In general there are three kinds of pattern synonyms. Unidirectional, bidirectional and explicitly bidirectional. The examples given so far are examples of bidirectional pattern synonyms. A bidirectional synonym behaves the same as an ordinary data constructor. We can use it in a pattern context to deconstruct values and in an expression context to construct values. For example, we can construct the value intEndo using the pattern synonyms Arrow and Int as defined previously.
intEndo :: Type
intEndo = Arrow Int Int
This example is equivalent to the much more complicated construction if we had directly used the Type constructors.
intEndo :: Type
intEndo = App ">" [App "Int" [], App "Int" []]
Unidirectional synonyms can only be used in a pattern context and are defined as follows:
pattern Head x < x:xs
In this case, Head
⟨x⟩ cannot be used in expressions, only patterns,
since it wouldn’t specify a value for the ⟨xs⟩ on the righthand side. However,
we can define an explicitly bidirectional pattern synonym by separately
specifying how to construct and deconstruct a type. The syntax for
doing this is as follows:
pattern HeadC x < x:xs where
HeadC x = [x]
We can then use HeadC
in both expression and pattern contexts. In a pattern
context it will match the head of any list with length at least one. In an
expression context it will construct a singleton list.
The table below summarises where each kind of pattern synonym can be used.
Context  Unidirectional  Bidirectional  Explicitly Bidirectional 

Pattern  Yes  Yes  Yes 
Expression  No  Yes (Inferred)  Yes (Explicit) 
9.7.1. Record Pattern Synonyms¶
It is also possible to define pattern synonyms which behave just like record constructors. The syntax for doing this is as follows:
pattern Point :: Int > Int > (Int, Int)
pattern Point{x, y} = (x, y)
The idea is that we can then use Point
just as if we had defined a new
datatype MyPoint
with two fields x
and y
.
data MyPoint = Point { x :: Int, y :: Int }
Whilst a normal pattern synonym can be used in two ways, there are then seven
ways in which to use Point
. Precisely the ways in which a normal record
constructor can be used.
Usage  Example 

As a constructor  zero = Point 0 0 
As a constructor with record syntax  zero = Point { x = 0, y = 0} 
In a pattern context  isZero (Point 0 0) = True 
In a pattern context with record syntax  isZero (Point { x = 0, y = 0 } 
In a pattern context with field puns  getX (Point {x}) = x 
In a record update  (0, 0) { x = 1 } == (1,0) 
Using record selectors  x (0,0) == 0 
For a unidirectional record pattern synonym we define record selectors but do not allow record updates or construction.
The syntax and semantics of pattern synonyms are elaborated in the following subsections. There are also lots more details in the paper.
See the Wiki page for more details.
9.7.2. Syntax and scoping of pattern synonyms¶
A pattern synonym declaration can be either unidirectional, bidirectional or explicitly bidirectional. The syntax for unidirectional pattern synonyms is:
pattern pat_lhs < pat
the syntax for bidirectional pattern synonyms is:
pattern pat_lhs = pat
and the syntax for explicitly bidirectional pattern synonyms is:
pattern pat_lhs < pat where
pat_lhs = expr
We can define either prefix, infix or record pattern synonyms by modifying the form of pat_lhs. The syntax for these is as follows:
Prefix  Name args 
Infix  arg1 `Name` arg2
or arg1 op arg2 
Record  Name{arg1,arg2,...,argn} 
Pattern synonym declarations can only occur in the top level of a module. In particular, they are not allowed as local definitions.
The variables in the lefthand side of the definition are bound by the pattern on the righthand side. For bidirectional pattern synonyms, all the variables of the righthand side must also occur on the lefthand side; also, wildcard patterns and view patterns are not allowed. For unidirectional and explicitly bidirectional pattern synonyms, there is no restriction on the righthand side pattern.
Pattern synonyms cannot be defined recursively.
COMPLETE pragmas can be specified in order to tell the pattern match exhaustiveness checker that a set of pattern synonyms is complete.
9.7.3. Import and export of pattern synonyms¶
The name of the pattern synonym is in the same namespace as proper data constructors. Like normal data constructors, pattern synonyms can be imported and exported through association with a type constructor or independently.
To export them on their own, in an export or import specification, you must
prefix pattern names with the pattern
keyword, e.g.:
module Example (pattern Zero) where
data MyNum = MkNum Int
pattern Zero :: MyNum
pattern Zero = MkNum 0
Without the pattern
prefix, Zero
would be interpreted as a
type constructor in the export list.
You may also use the pattern
keyword in an import/export
specification to import or export an ordinary data constructor. For
example:
import Data.Maybe( pattern Just )
would bring into scope the data constructor Just
from the Maybe
type, without also bringing the type constructor Maybe
into scope.
To bundle a pattern synonym with a type constructor, we list the pattern
synonym in the export list of a module which exports the type constructor.
For example, to bundle Zero
with MyNum
we could write the following:
module Example ( MyNum(Zero) ) where
If a module was then to import MyNum
from Example
, it would also import
the pattern synonym Zero
.
It is also possible to use the special token ..
in an export list to mean
all currently bundled constructors. For example, we could write:
module Example ( MyNum(.., Zero) ) where
in which case, Example
would export the type constructor MyNum
with
the data constructor MkNum
and also the pattern synonym Zero
.
Bundled pattern synonyms are type checked to ensure that they are of the same
type as the type constructor which they are bundled with. A pattern synonym
P
can not be bundled with a type constructor T
if P
‘s type is visibly
incompatible with T
.
A module which imports MyNum(..)
from Example
and then reexports
MyNum(..)
will also export any pattern synonyms bundled with MyNum
in
Example
. A more complete specification can be found on the
wiki.
9.7.4. Typing of pattern synonyms¶
Given a pattern synonym definition of the form
pattern P var1 var2 ... varN < pat
it is assigned a pattern type of the form
pattern P :: CReq => CProv => t1 > t2 > ... > tN > t
where ⟨CReq⟩ and ⟨CProv⟩ are type contexts, and ⟨t1⟩, ⟨t2⟩, ..., ⟨tN⟩ and ⟨t⟩ are types. Notice the unusual form of the type, with two contexts ⟨CReq⟩ and ⟨CProv⟩:
 ⟨CReq⟩ are the constraints required to match the pattern.
 ⟨CProv⟩ are the constraints made available (provided) by a successful pattern match.
For example, consider
data T a where
MkT :: (Show b) => a > b > T a
f1 :: (Num a, Eq a) => T a > String
f1 (MkT 42 x) = show x
pattern ExNumPat :: (Num a, Eq a) => (Show b) => b > T a
pattern ExNumPat x = MkT 42 x
f2 :: (Eq a, Num a) => T a > String
f2 (ExNumPat x) = show x
Here f1
does not use pattern synonyms. To match against the numeric
pattern 42
requires the caller to satisfy the constraints
(Num a, Eq a)
, so they appear in f1
‘s type. The call to show
generates a (Show b)
constraint, where b
is an existentially
type variable bound by the pattern match on MkT
. But the same
pattern match also provides the constraint (Show b)
(see MkT
‘s
type), and so all is well.
Exactly the same reasoning applies to ExNumPat
: matching against
ExNumPat
requires the constraints (Num a, Eq a)
, and
provides the constraint (Show b)
.
Note also the following points
In the common case where
CProv
is empty, (i.e.,()
), it can be omitted altogether in the above pattern type signature forP
.However, if
CProv
is nonempty, whileCReq
is, the above pattern type signature forP
must be specified asP :: () => CProv => t1 > t2 > .. > tN > t
You may specify an explicit pattern signature, as we did for
ExNumPat
above, to specify the type of a pattern, just as you can for a function. As usual, the type signature can be less polymorphic than the inferred type. For example Inferred type would be 'a > [a]' pattern SinglePair :: (a, a) > [(a, a)] pattern SinglePair x = [x]
Just like signatures on valuelevel bindings, pattern synonym signatures can apply to more than one pattern. For instance,
pattern Left', Right' :: a > Either a a pattern Left' x = Left x pattern Right' x = Right x
The GHCi
:info
command shows pattern types in this format.For a bidirectional pattern synonym, a use of the pattern synonym as an expression has the type
(CReq, CProv) => t1 > t2 > ... > tN > t
So in the previous example, when used in an expression,
ExNumPat
has typeExNumPat :: (Num a, Eq a, Show b) => b > T t
Notice that this is a tiny bit more restrictive than the expression
MkT 42 x
which would not require(Eq a)
.Consider these two pattern synonyms:
data S a where S1 :: Bool > S Bool pattern P1 :: Bool > Maybe Bool pattern P1 b = Just b pattern P2 :: () => (b ~ Bool) => Bool > S b pattern P2 b = S1 b f :: Maybe a > String f (P1 x) = "no no no"  Typeincorrect g :: S a > String g (P2 b) = "yes yes yes"  Fine
Pattern
P1
can only match against a value of typeMaybe Bool
, so functionf
is rejected because the type signature isMaybe a
. (To see this, imagine expanding the pattern synonym.)On the other hand, function
g
works fine, because matching againstP2
(which wraps the GADTS
) provides the local equality(a~Bool)
. If you were to give an explicit pattern signatureP2 :: Bool > S Bool
, thenP2
would become less polymorphic, and would behave exactly likeP1
so thatg
would then be rejected.In short, if you want GADTlike behaviour for pattern synonyms, then (unlike concrete data constructors like
S1
) you must write its type with explicit provided equalities. For a concrete data constructor likeS1
you can write its type signature as eitherS1 :: Bool > S Bool
orS1 :: (b~Bool) => Bool > S b
; the two are equivalent. Not so for pattern synonyms: the two forms are different, in order to distinguish the two cases above. (See Trac #9953 for discussion of this choice.)
9.7.5. Matching of pattern synonyms¶
A pattern synonym occurrence in a pattern is evaluated by first matching
against the pattern synonym itself, and then on the argument patterns.
For example, in the following program, f
and f'
are equivalent:
pattern Pair x y < [x, y]
f (Pair True True) = True
f _ = False
f' [x, y]  True < x, True < y = True
f' _ = False
Note that the strictness of f
differs from that of g
defined
below:
g [True, True] = True
g _ = False
*Main> f (False:undefined)
*** Exception: Prelude.undefined
*Main> g (False:undefined)
False
9.8. Class and instances declarations¶
9.8.1. Class declarations¶
This section, and the next one, documents GHC’s typeclass extensions. There’s lots of background in the paper Type classes: exploring the design space (Simon Peyton Jones, Mark Jones, Erik Meijer).
9.8.1.1. Multiparameter type classes¶

XMultiParamTypeClasses
Implies: XConstrainedClassMethods
Allow the definition of typeclasses with more than one parameter.
Multiparameter type classes are permitted, with flag
XMultiParamTypeClasses
. For example:
class Collection c a where
union :: c a > c a > c a
...etc.
9.8.1.2. The superclasses of a class declaration¶

XFlexibleContexts
Allow the use of complex constraints in class declaration contexts.
In Haskell 98 the context of a class declaration (which introduces
superclasses) must be simple; that is, each predicate must consist of a
class applied to type variables. The flag XFlexibleContexts
(The context of a type signature) lifts this restriction, so that the only
restriction on the context in a class declaration is that the class
hierarchy must be acyclic. So these class declarations are OK:
class Functor (m k) => FiniteMap m k where
...
class (Monad m, Monad (t m)) => Transform t m where
lift :: m a > (t m) a
As in Haskell 98, the class hierarchy must be acyclic. However, the definition of “acyclic” involves only the superclass relationships. For example, this is okay:
class C a where
op :: D b => a > b > b
class C a => D a where ...
Here, C
is a superclass of D
, but it’s OK for a class operation
op
of C
to mention D
. (It would not be OK for D
to be a
superclass of C
.)
With the extension that adds a kind of constraints, you can write more exotic superclass definitions. The superclass cycle check is even more liberal in these case. For example, this is OK:
class A cls c where
meth :: cls c => c > c
class A B c => B c where
A superclass context for a class C
is allowed if, after expanding
type synonyms to their righthandsides, and uses of classes (other than
C
) to their superclasses, C
does not occur syntactically in the
context.
9.8.1.3. Constrained class method types¶

XConstrainedClassMethods
Allows the definition of further constraints on individual class methods.
Haskell 98 prohibits class method types to mention constraints on the class type variable, thus:
class Seq s a where
fromList :: [a] > s a
elem :: Eq a => a > s a > Bool
The type of elem
is illegal in Haskell 98, because it contains the
constraint Eq a
, which constrains only the class type variable (in
this case a
).
this case a
). More precisely, a constraint in a class method signature is rejected if
The constraint mentions at least one type variable. So this is allowed:
class C a where op1 :: HasCallStack => a > a op2 :: (?x::Int) => Int > a
All of the type variables mentioned are bound by the class declaration, and none is locally quantified. Examples:
class C a where op3 :: Eq a => a > a  Rejected: constrains class variable only op4 :: D b => a > b  Accepted: constrains a locallyquantified varible `b` op5 :: D (a,b) => a > b  Accepted: constrains a locallyquantified varible `b`
GHC lifts this restriction with language extension
XConstrainedClassMethods
. The restriction is a pretty stupid one in
the first place, so XConstrainedClassMethods
is implied by
XMultiParamTypeClasses
.
9.8.1.4. Default method signatures¶

XDefaultSignatures
Since: 7.2 Allows the definition of default method signatures in class definitions.
Haskell 98 allows you to define a default implementation when declaring a class:
class Enum a where
enum :: [a]
enum = []
The type of the enum
method is [a]
, and this is also the type of
the default method. You can lift this restriction and give another type
to the default method using the flag XDefaultSignatures
. For
instance, if you have written a generic implementation of enumeration in
a class GEnum
with method genum
in terms of GHC.Generics
,
you can specify a default method that uses that generic implementation:
class Enum a where
enum :: [a]
default enum :: (Generic a, GEnum (Rep a)) => [a]
enum = map to genum
We reuse the keyword default
to signal that a signature applies to
the default method only; when defining instances of the Enum
class,
the original type [a]
of enum
still applies. When giving an
empty instance, however, the default implementation map to genum
is
filledin, and typechecked with the type
(Generic a, GEnum (Rep a)) => [a]
.
The type signature for a default method of a type class must take on the same
form as the corresponding main method’s type signature. Otherwise, the
typechecker will reject that class’s definition. By “take on the same form”, we
mean that the default type signature should differ from the main type signature
only in their contexts. Therefore, if you have a method bar
:
class Foo a where
bar :: forall b. C => a > b > b
Then a default method for bar
must take on the form:
default bar :: forall b. C' => a > b > b
C
is allowed to be different from C'
, but the righthand sides of the
type signatures must coincide. We require this because when you declare an
empty instance for a class that uses XDefaultSignatures
, GHC
implicitly fills in the default implementation like this:
instance Foo Int where
bar = default_bar @Int
Where @Int
utilizes visible type application
(Visible type application) to instantiate the b
in
default bar :: forall b. C' => a > b > b
. In order for this type
application to work, the default type signature for bar
must have the same
type variable order as the nondefault signature! But there is no obligation
for C
and C'
to be the same (see, for instance, the Enum
example
above, which relies on this).
To further explain this example, the righthand side of the default
type signature for bar
must be something that is alphaequivalent to
forall b. a > b > b
(where a
is bound by the class itself, and is
thus free in the methods’ type signatures). So this would also be an acceptable
default type signature:
default bar :: forall x. C' => a > x > x
But not this (since the free variable a
is in the wrong place):
default bar :: forall b. C' => b > a > b
Nor this, since we can’t match the type variable b
with the concrete type
Int
:
default bar :: C' => a > Int > Int
That last one deserves a special mention, however, since a > Int > Int
is
a straightforward instantiation of forall b. a > b > b
. You can still
write such a default type signature, but you now must use type equalities to
do so:
default bar :: forall b. (C', b ~ Int) => a > b > b
We use default signatures to simplify generic programming in GHC (Generic programming).
9.8.1.5. Nullary type classes¶

XNullaryTypeClasses
Since: 7.8.1 Allows the use definition of type classes with no parameters. This flag has been replaced by
XMultiParamTypeClasses
.
Nullary (no parameter) type classes are enabled with
XMultiParamTypeClasses
; historically, they were enabled with the
(now deprecated) XNullaryTypeClasses
. Since there are no available
parameters, there can be at most one instance of a nullary class. A nullary type
class might be used to document some assumption in a type signature (such as
reliance on the Riemann hypothesis) or add some globally configurable settings
in a program. For example,
class RiemannHypothesis where
assumeRH :: a > a
 Deterministic version of the Miller test
 correctness depends on the generalised Riemann hypothesis
isPrime :: RiemannHypothesis => Integer > Bool
isPrime n = assumeRH (...)
The type signature of isPrime
informs users that its correctness depends on
an unproven conjecture. If the function is used, the user has to acknowledge the
dependence with:
instance RiemannHypothesis where
assumeRH = id
9.8.2. Functional dependencies¶

XFunctionalDependencies
Implies: XMultiParamTypeClasses
Allow use of functional dependencies in class declarations.
Functional dependencies are implemented as described by Mark Jones in [Jones2000].
Functional dependencies are introduced by a vertical bar in the syntax of a class declaration; e.g.
class (Monad m) => MonadState s m  m > s where ...
class Foo a b c  a b > c where ...
There should be more documentation, but there isn’t (yet). Yell if you need it.
[Jones2000]  “Type Classes with Functional Dependencies”, Mark P. Jones, In Proceedings of the 9th European Symposium on Programming, ESOP 2000, Berlin, Germany, March 2000, SpringerVerlag LNCS 1782, . 
9.8.2.1. Rules for functional dependencies¶
In a class declaration, all of the class type variables must be reachable (in the sense mentioned in The context of a type signature) from the free variables of each method type. For example:
class Coll s a where
empty :: s
insert :: s > a > s
is not OK, because the type of empty
doesn’t mention a
.
Functional dependencies can make the type variable reachable:
class Coll s a  s > a where
empty :: s
insert :: s > a > s
Alternatively Coll
might be rewritten
class Coll s a where
empty :: s a
insert :: s a > a > s a
which makes the connection between the type of a collection of a
‘s
(namely (s a)
) and the element type a
. Occasionally this really
doesn’t work, in which case you can split the class like this:
class CollE s where
empty :: s
class CollE s => Coll s a where
insert :: s > a > s
9.8.2.2. Background on functional dependencies¶
The following description of the motivation and use of functional dependencies is taken from the Hugs user manual, reproduced here (with minor changes) by kind permission of Mark Jones.
Consider the following class, intended as part of a library for collection types:
class Collects e ce where
empty :: ce
insert :: e > ce > ce
member :: e > ce > Bool
The type variable e
used here represents the element type, while ce
is
the type of the container itself. Within this framework, we might want to define
instances of this class for lists or characteristic functions (both of which can
be used to represent collections of any equality type), bit sets (which can be
used to represent collections of characters), or hash tables (which can be used
to represent any collection whose elements have a hash function). Omitting
standard implementation details, this would lead to the following declarations:
instance Eq e => Collects e [e] where ...
instance Eq e => Collects e (e > Bool) where ...
instance Collects Char BitSet where ...
instance (Hashable e, Collects a ce)
=> Collects e (Array Int ce) where ...
All this looks quite promising; we have a class and a range of interesting implementations. Unfortunately, there are some serious problems with the class declaration. First, the empty function has an ambiguous type:
empty :: Collects e ce => ce
By “ambiguous” we mean that there is a type variable e
that appears on
the left of the =>
symbol, but not on the right. The problem with
this is that, according to the theoretical foundations of Haskell
overloading, we cannot guarantee a welldefined semantics for any term
with an ambiguous type.
We can sidestep this specific problem by removing the empty member from the class declaration. However, although the remaining members, insert and member, do not have ambiguous types, we still run into problems when we try to use them. For example, consider the following two functions:
f x y = insert x . insert y
g = f True 'a'
for which GHC infers the following types:
f :: (Collects a c, Collects b c) => a > b > c > c
g :: (Collects Bool c, Collects Char c) => c > c
Notice that the type for f
allows the two parameters x
and y
to be
assigned different types, even though it attempts to insert each of the
two values, one after the other, into the same collection. If we’re
trying to model collections that contain only one type of value, then
this is clearly an inaccurate type. Worse still, the definition for g is
accepted, without causing a type error. As a result, the error in this
code will not be flagged at the point where it appears. Instead, it will
show up only when we try to use g
, which might even be in a different
module.
9.8.2.2.1. An attempt to use constructor classes¶
Faced with the problems described above, some Haskell programmers might be tempted to use something like the following version of the class declaration:
class Collects e c where
empty :: c e
insert :: e > c e > c e
member :: e > c e > Bool
The key difference here is that we abstract over the type constructor c
that is used to form the collection type c e
, and not over that
collection type itself, represented by ce
in the original class
declaration. This avoids the immediate problems that we mentioned above:
empty has type Collects e c => c e
, which is not ambiguous.
The function f
from the previous section has a more accurate type:
f :: (Collects e c) => e > e > c e > c e
The function g
from the previous section is now rejected with a type
error as we would hope because the type of f
does not allow the two
arguments to have different types. This, then, is an example of a
multiple parameter class that does actually work quite well in practice,
without ambiguity problems. There is, however, a catch. This version of
the Collects
class is nowhere near as general as the original class
seemed to be: only one of the four instances for Collects
given
above can be used with this version of Collects because only one of them—the
instance for lists—has a collection type that can be written in the form c
e
, for some type constructor c
, and element type e
.
9.8.2.2.2. Adding functional dependencies¶
To get a more useful version of the Collects
class, GHC provides a
mechanism that allows programmers to specify dependencies between the
parameters of a multiple parameter class (For readers with an interest
in theoretical foundations and previous work: The use of dependency
information can be seen both as a generalisation of the proposal for
“parametric type classes” that was put forward by Chen, Hudak, and
Odersky, or as a special case of Mark Jones’s later framework for
“improvement” of qualified types. The underlying ideas are also
discussed in a more theoretical and abstract setting in a manuscript
[implparam], where they are identified as one point in a general design
space for systems of implicit parameterisation). To start with an
abstract example, consider a declaration such as:
class C a b where ...
which tells us simply that C
can be thought of as a binary relation on
types (or type constructors, depending on the kinds of a
and b
). Extra
clauses can be included in the definition of classes to add information
about dependencies between parameters, as in the following examples:
class D a b  a > b where ...
class E a b  a > b, b > a where ...
The notation a > b
used here between the 
and where
symbols —
not to be confused with a function type — indicates that the a
parameter uniquely determines the b
parameter, and might be read as “a
determines b
.” Thus D
is not just a relation, but actually a (partial)
function. Similarly, from the two dependencies that are included in the
definition of E
, we can see that E
represents a (partial) onetoone
mapping between types.
More generally, dependencies take the form x1 ... xn > y1 ... ym
,
where x1
, ..., xn
, and y1
, ..., yn
are type variables with n>0 and m>=0,
meaning that the y
parameters are uniquely determined by the x
parameters. Spaces can be used as separators if more than one variable
appears on any single side of a dependency, as in t > a b
. Note
that a class may be annotated with multiple dependencies using commas as
separators, as in the definition of E
above. Some dependencies that we
can write in this notation are redundant, and will be rejected because
they don’t serve any useful purpose, and may instead indicate an error
in the program. Examples of dependencies like this include a > a
,
a > a a
, a >
, etc. There can also be some redundancy if
multiple dependencies are given, as in a>b
, b>c
, a>c
, and
in which some subset implies the remaining dependencies. Examples like
this are not treated as errors. Note that dependencies appear only in
class declarations, and not in any other part of the language. In
particular, the syntax for instance declarations, class constraints, and
types is completely unchanged.
By including dependencies in a class declaration, we provide a mechanism
for the programmer to specify each multiple parameter class more
precisely. The compiler, on the other hand, is responsible for ensuring
that the set of instances that are in scope at any given point in the
program is consistent with any declared dependencies. For example, the
following pair of instance declarations cannot appear together in the
same scope because they violate the dependency for D
, even though either
one on its own would be acceptable:
instance D Bool Int where ...
instance D Bool Char where ...
Note also that the following declaration is not allowed, even by itself:
instance D [a] b where ...
The problem here is that this instance would allow one particular choice
of [a]
to be associated with more than one choice for b
, which
contradicts the dependency specified in the definition of D
. More
generally, this means that, in any instance of the form:
instance D t s where ...
for some particular types t
and s
, the only variables that can appear in
s
are the ones that appear in t
, and hence, if the type t
is known,
then s
will be uniquely determined.
The benefit of including dependency information is that it allows us to
define more general multiple parameter classes, without ambiguity
problems, and with the benefit of more accurate types. To illustrate
this, we return to the collection class example, and annotate the
original definition of Collects
with a simple dependency:
class Collects e ce  ce > e where
empty :: ce
insert :: e > ce > ce
member :: e > ce > Bool
The dependency ce > e
here specifies that the type e
of elements is
uniquely determined by the type of the collection ce
. Note that both
parameters of Collects are of kind *
; there are no constructor classes
here. Note too that all of the instances of Collects
that we gave
earlier can be used together with this new definition.
What about the ambiguity problems that we encountered with the original
definition? The empty function still has type Collects e ce => ce
, but
it is no longer necessary to regard that as an ambiguous type: Although
the variable e
does not appear on the right of the =>
symbol, the
dependency for class Collects
tells us that it is uniquely determined by
ce
, which does appear on the right of the =>
symbol. Hence the context
in which empty is used can still give enough information to determine
types for both ce
and e
, without ambiguity. More generally, we need only
regard a type as ambiguous if it contains a variable on the left of the
=>
that is not uniquely determined (either directly or indirectly) by
the variables on the right.
Dependencies also help to produce more accurate types for user defined
functions, and hence to provide earlier detection of errors, and less
cluttered types for programmers to work with. Recall the previous
definition for a function f
:
f x y = insert x y = insert x . insert y
for which we originally obtained a type:
f :: (Collects a c, Collects b c) => a > b > c > c
Given the dependency information that we have for Collects
, however, we
can deduce that a
and b
must be equal because they both appear as the
second parameter in a Collects
constraint with the same first parameter
c
. Hence we can infer a shorter and more accurate type for f
:
f :: (Collects a c) => a > a > c > c
In a similar way, the earlier definition of g
will now be flagged as a
type error.
Although we have given only a few examples here, it should be clear that the addition of dependency information can help to make multiple parameter classes more useful in practice, avoiding ambiguity problems, and allowing more general sets of instance declarations.
9.8.3. Instance declarations¶
An instance declaration has the form
instance ( assertion1, ..., assertionn) => class type1 ... typem where ...
The part before the “=>
” is the context, while the part after the
“=>
” is the head of the instance declaration.
9.8.3.1. Instance resolution¶
When GHC tries to resolve, say, the constraint C Int Bool
, it tries
to match every instance declaration against the constraint, by
instantiating the head of the instance declaration. Consider these
declarations:
instance context1 => C Int a where ...  (A)
instance context2 => C a Bool where ...  (B)
GHC’s default behaviour is that exactly one instance must match the
constraint it is trying to resolve. For example, the constraint
C Int Bool
matches instances (A) and (B), and hence would be
rejected; while C Int Char
matches only (A) and hence (A) is chosen.
Notice that
 When matching, GHC takes no account of the context of the instance
declaration (
context1
etc).  It is fine for there to be a potential of overlap (by including both declarations (A) and (B), say); an error is only reported if a particular constraint matches more than one.
See also Overlapping instances for flags that loosen the instance resolution rules.
9.8.3.2. Relaxed rules for the instance head¶

XTypeSynonymInstances
Allow definition of type class instances for type synonyms.

XFlexibleInstances
Implies: XTypeSynonymInstances
Allow definition of type class instances with arbitrary nested types in the instance head.
In Haskell 98 the head of an instance declaration must be of the form
C (T a1 ... an)
, where C
is the class, T
is a data type
constructor, and the a1 ... an
are distinct type variables. In the
case of multiparameter type classes, this rule applies to each
parameter of the instance head (Arguably it should be okay if just one
has this form and the others are type variables, but that’s the rules at
the moment).
GHC relaxes this rule in two ways:
With the
XTypeSynonymInstances
flag, instance heads may use type synonyms. As always, using a type synonym is just shorthand for writing the RHS of the type synonym definition. For example:type Point a = (a,a) instance C (Point a) where ...
is legal. The instance declaration is equivalent to
instance C (a,a) where ...
As always, type synonyms must be fully applied. You cannot, for example, write:
instance Monad Point where ...
The
XFlexibleInstances
flag allows the head of the instance declaration to mention arbitrary nested types. For example, this becomes a legal instance declarationinstance C (Maybe Int) where ...
See also the rules on overlap.
The
XFlexibleInstances
flag impliesXTypeSynonymInstances
.
However, the instance declaration must still conform to the rules for instance termination: see Instance termination rules.
9.8.3.3. Relaxed rules for instance contexts¶
In Haskell 98, the class constraints in the context of the instance
declaration must be of the form C a
where a
is a type variable
that occurs in the head.
The XFlexibleContexts
flag relaxes this rule, as well as relaxing
the corresponding rule for type signatures (see
The context of a type signature). Specifically, XFlexibleContexts
, allows
(wellkinded) class constraints of form (C t1 ... tn)
in the context
of an instance declaration.
Notice that the flag does not affect equality constraints in an instance
context; they are permitted by XTypeFamilies
or XGADTs
.
However, the instance declaration must still conform to the rules for instance termination: see Instance termination rules.
9.8.3.4. Instance termination rules¶

XUndecidableInstances
Permit definition of instances which may lead to typechecker nontermination.
Regardless of XFlexibleInstances
and XFlexibleContexts
,
instance declarations must conform to some rules that ensure that
instance resolution will terminate. The restrictions can be lifted with
XUndecidableInstances
(see Undecidable instances).
The rules are these:
 The Paterson Conditions: for each class constraint
(C t1 ... tn)
in the context No type variable has more occurrences in the constraint than in the head
 The constraint has fewer constructors and variables (taken together and counting repetitions) than the head
 The constraint mentions no type functions. A type function application can in principle expand to a type of arbitrary size, and so are rejected out of hand
 The Coverage Condition. For each functional dependency,
⟨tvs⟩_{left}
>
⟨tvs⟩_{right}, of the class, every type variable in S(⟨tvs⟩_{right}) must appear in S(⟨tvs⟩_{left}), where S is the substitution mapping each type variable in the class declaration to the corresponding type in the instance head.
These restrictions ensure that instance resolution terminates: each reduction step makes the problem smaller by at least one constructor. You can find lots of background material about the reason for these restrictions in the paper Understanding functional dependencies via Constraint Handling Rules.
For example, these are okay:
instance C Int [a]  Multiple parameters
instance Eq (S [a])  Structured type in head
 Repeated type variable in head
instance C4 a a => C4 [a] [a]
instance Stateful (ST s) (MutVar s)
 Head can consist of type variables only
instance C a
instance (Eq a, Show b) => C2 a b
 Nontype variables in context
instance Show (s a) => Show (Sized s a)
instance C2 Int a => C3 Bool [a]
instance C2 Int a => C3 [a] b
But these are not:
 Context assertion no smaller than head
instance C a => C a where ...
 (C b b) has more occurrences of b than the head
instance C b b => Foo [b] where ...
The same restrictions apply to instances generated by deriving
clauses. Thus the following is accepted:
data MinHeap h a = H a (h a)
deriving (Show)
because the derived instance
instance (Show a, Show (h a)) => Show (MinHeap h a)
conforms to the above rules.
A useful idiom permitted by the above rules is as follows. If one allows overlapping instance declarations then it’s quite convenient to have a “default instance” declaration that applies if something more specific does not:
instance C a where
op = ...  Default
9.8.3.5. Undecidable instances¶
Sometimes even the termination rules of Instance termination rules are
too onerous. So GHC allows you to experiment with more liberal rules: if
you use the experimental flag XUndecidableInstances
, both the Paterson
Conditions and the Coverage
Condition (described in Instance termination rules) are lifted.
Termination is still ensured by having a fixeddepth recursion stack. If
you exceed the stack depth you get a sort of backtrace, and the
opportunity to increase the stack depth with
freductiondepth=
N. However, if you should exceed the default
reduction depth limit, it is probably best just to disable depth
checking, with freductiondepth=0
. The exact depth your program
requires depends on minutiae of your code, and it may change between
minor GHC releases. The safest bet for released code – if you’re sure
that it should compile in finite time – is just to disable the check.
For example, sometimes you might want to use the following to get the effect of a “class synonym”:
class (C1 a, C2 a, C3 a) => C a where { }
instance (C1 a, C2 a, C3 a) => C a where { }
This allows you to write shorter signatures:
f :: C a => ...
instead of
f :: (C1 a, C2 a, C3 a) => ...
The restrictions on functional dependencies (Functional dependencies) are particularly troublesome. It is tempting to introduce type variables in the context that do not appear in the head, something that is excluded by the normal rules. For example:
class HasConverter a b  a > b where
convert :: a > b
data Foo a = MkFoo a
instance (HasConverter a b,Show b) => Show (Foo a) where
show (MkFoo value) = show (convert value)
This is dangerous territory, however. Here, for example, is a program that would make the typechecker loop:
class D a
class F a b  a>b
instance F [a] [[a]]
instance (D c, F a c) => D [a]  'c' is not mentioned in the head
Similarly, it can be tempting to lift the coverage condition:
class Mul a b c  a b > c where
(.*.) :: a > b > c
instance Mul Int Int Int where (.*.) = (*)
instance Mul Int Float Float where x .*. y = fromIntegral x * y
instance Mul a b c => Mul a [b] [c] where x .*. v = map (x.*.) v
The third instance declaration does not obey the coverage condition; and indeed the (somewhat strange) definition:
f = \ b x y > if b then x .*. [y] else y
makes instance inference go into a loop, because it requires the
constraint (Mul a [b] b)
.
The XUndecidableInstances
flag is also used to lift some of the
restrictions imposed on type family instances. See
Decidability of type synonym instances.
9.8.3.6. Overlapping instances¶

XOverlappingInstances

XIncoherentInstances
Deprecated flags to weaken checks intended to ensure instance resolution termination.
In general, as discussed in Instance resolution, GHC requires that it be unambiguous which instance declaration should be used to resolve a typeclass constraint. GHC also provides a way to to loosen the instance resolution, by allowing more than one instance to match, provided there is a most specific one. Moreover, it can be loosened further, by allowing more than one instance to match irrespective of whether there is a most specific one. This section gives the details.
To control the choice of instance, it is possible to specify the overlap
behavior for individual instances with a pragma, written immediately
after the instance
keyword. The pragma may be one of:
{# OVERLAPPING #}
, {# OVERLAPPABLE #}
, {# OVERLAPS #}
,
or {# INCOHERENT #}
.
The matching behaviour is also influenced by two modulelevel language
extension flags: XOverlappingInstances
and
XIncoherentInstances
. These flags are now
deprecated (since GHC 7.10) in favour of the finegrained perinstance
pragmas.
A more precise specification is as follows. The willingness to be overlapped or incoherent is a property of the instance declaration itself, controlled as follows:
 An instance is incoherent if: it has an
INCOHERENT
pragma; or if the instance has no pragma and it appears in a module compiled withXIncoherentInstances
.  An instance is overlappable if: it has an
OVERLAPPABLE
orOVERLAPS
pragma; or if the instance has no pragma and it appears in a module compiled withXOverlappingInstances
; or if the instance is incoherent.  An instance is overlapping if: it has an
OVERLAPPING
orOVERLAPS
pragma; or if the instance has no pragma and it appears in a module compiled withXOverlappingInstances
; or if the instance is incoherent.
Now suppose that, in some client module, we are searching for an
instance of the target constraint (C ty1 .. tyn)
. The search works
like this:
 Find all instances I that match the target constraint; that is, the target constraint is a substitution instance of I. These instance declarations are the candidates.
 Eliminate any candidate IX for which both of the following hold:
 There is another candidate IY that is strictly more specific; that is, IY is a substitution instance of IX but not vice versa.
 Either IX is overlappable, or IY is overlapping. (This “either/or” design, rather than a “both/and” design, allow a client to deliberately override an instance from a library, without requiring a change to the library.)
 If exactly one nonincoherent candidate remains, select it. If all remaining candidates are incoherent, select an arbitrary one. Otherwise the search fails (i.e. when more than one surviving candidate is not incoherent).
 If the selected candidate (from the previous step) is incoherent, the search succeeds, returning that candidate.
 If not, find all instances that unify with the target constraint, but do not match it. Such noncandidate instances might match when the target constraint is further instantiated. If all of them are incoherent, the search succeeds, returning the selected candidate; if not, the search fails.
Notice that these rules are not influenced by flag settings in the client module, where the instances are used. These rules make it possible for a library author to design a library that relies on overlapping instances without the client having to know.
Errors are reported lazily (when attempting to solve a constraint), rather than eagerly (when the instances themselves are defined). Consider, for example
instance C Int b where ..
instance C a Bool where ..
These potentially overlap, but GHC will not complain about the instance
declarations themselves, regardless of flag settings. If we later try to
solve the constraint (C Int Char)
then only the first instance
matches, and all is well. Similarly with (C Bool Bool)
. But if we
try to solve (C Int Bool)
, both instances match and an error is
reported.
As a more substantial example of the rules in action, consider
instance {# OVERLAPPABLE #} context1 => C Int b where ...  (A)
instance {# OVERLAPPABLE #} context2 => C a Bool where ...  (B)
instance {# OVERLAPPABLE #} context3 => C a [b] where ...  (C)
instance {# OVERLAPPING #} context4 => C Int [Int] where ...  (D)
Now suppose that the type inference engine needs to solve the constraint
C Int [Int]
. This constraint matches instances (A), (C) and (D), but
the last is more specific, and hence is chosen.
If (D) did not exist then (A) and (C) would still be matched, but
neither is most specific. In that case, the program would be rejected,
unless XIncoherentInstances
is enabled, in which case it would be
accepted and (A) or (C) would be chosen arbitrarily.
An instance declaration is more specific than another iff the head of
former is a substitution instance of the latter. For example (D) is
“more specific” than (C) because you can get from (C) to (D) by
substituting a := Int
.
GHC is conservative about committing to an overlapping instance. For example:
f :: [b] > [b]
f x = ...
Suppose that from the RHS of f
we get the constraint C b [b]
.
But GHC does not commit to instance (C), because in a particular call of
f
, b
might be instantiate to Int
, in which case instance (D)
would be more specific still. So GHC rejects the program.
If, however, you add the flag XIncoherentInstances
when compiling
the module that contains (D), GHC will instead pick (C), without
complaining about the problem of subsequent instantiations.
Notice that we gave a type signature to f
, so GHC had to check
that f
has the specified type. Suppose instead we do not give a type
signature, asking GHC to infer it instead. In this case, GHC will
refrain from simplifying the constraint C Int [b]
(for the same
reason as before) but, rather than rejecting the program, it will infer
the type
f :: C b [b] => [b] > [b]
That postpones the question of which instance to pick to the call site
for f
by which time more is known about the type b
. You can
write this type signature yourself if you use the
XFlexibleContexts
flag.
Exactly the same situation can arise in instance declarations themselves. Suppose we have
class Foo a where
f :: a > a
instance Foo [b] where
f x = ...
and, as before, the constraint C Int [b]
arises from f
‘s right
hand side. GHC will reject the instance, complaining as before that it
does not know how to resolve the constraint C Int [b]
, because it
matches more than one instance declaration. The solution is to postpone
the choice by adding the constraint to the context of the instance
declaration, thus:
instance C Int [b] => Foo [b] where
f x = ...
(You need XFlexibleInstances
to do this.)
Warning
Overlapping instances must be used with care. They can give
rise to incoherence (i.e. different instance choices are made in
different parts of the program) even without XIncoherentInstances
.
Consider:
{# LANGUAGE OverlappingInstances #}
module Help where
class MyShow a where
myshow :: a > String
instance MyShow a => MyShow [a] where
myshow xs = concatMap myshow xs
showHelp :: MyShow a => [a] > String
showHelp xs = myshow xs
{# LANGUAGE FlexibleInstances, OverlappingInstances #}
module Main where
import Help
data T = MkT
instance MyShow T where
myshow x = "Used generic instance"
instance MyShow [T] where
myshow xs = "Used more specific instance"
main = do { print (myshow [MkT]); print (showHelp [MkT]) }
In function showHelp
GHC sees no overlapping instances, and so uses
the MyShow [a]
instance without complaint. In the call to myshow
in main
, GHC resolves the MyShow [T]
constraint using the
overlapping instance declaration in module Main
. As a result, the
program prints
"Used more specific instance"
"Used generic instance"
(An alternative possible behaviour, not currently implemented, would be
to reject module Help
on the grounds that a later instance
declaration might overlap the local one.)
9.8.3.7. Instance signatures: type signatures in instance declarations¶

XInstanceSigs
Since: 7.6.1 Allow type signatures for members in instance definitions.
In Haskell, you can’t write a type signature in an instance declaration,
but it is sometimes convenient to do so, and the language extension
XInstanceSigs
allows you to do so. For example:
data T a = MkT a a
instance Eq a => Eq (T a) where
(==) :: T a > T a > Bool  The signature
(==) (MkT x1 x2) (MkTy y1 y2) = x1==y1 && x2==y2
Some details
The type signature in the instance declaration must be more polymorphic than (or the same as) the one in the class declaration, instantiated with the instance type. For example, this is fine:
instance Eq a => Eq (T a) where (==) :: forall b. b > b > Bool (==) x y = True
Here the signature in the instance declaration is more polymorphic than that required by the instantiated class method.
The code for the method in the instance declaration is typechecked against the type signature supplied in the instance declaration, as you would expect. So if the instance signature is more polymorphic than required, the code must be too.
One stylistic reason for wanting to write a type signature is simple documentation. Another is that you may want to bring scoped type variables into scope. For example:
class C a where foo :: b > a > (a, [b]) instance C a => C (T a) where foo :: forall b. b > T a > (T a, [b]) foo x (T y) = (T y, xs) where xs :: [b] xs = [x,x,x]
Provided that you also specify
XScopedTypeVariables
(Lexically scoped type variables), theforall b
scopes over the definition offoo
, and in particular over the type signature forxs
.
9.8.4. Overloaded string literals¶

XOverloadedStrings
Enable overloaded string literals (e.g. string literals desugared via the
IsString
class).
GHC supports overloaded string literals. Normally a string literal has
type String
, but with overloaded string literals enabled (with
XOverloadedStrings
) a string literal has type
(IsString a) => a
.
This means that the usual string syntax can be used, e.g., for
ByteString
, Text
, and other variations of string like types.
String literals behave very much like integer literals, i.e., they can
be used in both expressions and patterns. If used in a pattern the
literal will be replaced by an equality test, in the same way as an
integer literal is.
The class IsString
is defined as:
class IsString a where
fromString :: String > a
The only predefined instance is the obvious one to make strings work as usual:
instance IsString [Char] where
fromString cs = cs
The class IsString
is not in scope by default. If you want to
mention it explicitly (for example, to give an instance declaration for
it), you can import it from module GHC.Exts
.
Haskell’s defaulting mechanism (Haskell Report, Section
4.3.4) is
extended to cover string literals, when XOverloadedStrings
is
specified. Specifically:
 Each type in a
default
declaration must be an instance ofNum
or ofIsString
.  If no
default
declaration is given, then it is just as if the module contained the declarationdefault( Integer, Double, String)
.  The standard defaulting rule is extended thus: defaulting applies
when all the unresolved constraints involve standard classes or
IsString
; and at least one is a numeric class orIsString
.
So, for example, the expression length "foo"
will give rise to an
ambiguous use of IsString a0
which, because of the above rules, will
default to String
.
A small example:
module Main where
import GHC.Exts( IsString(..) )
newtype MyString = MyString String deriving (Eq, Show)
instance IsString MyString where
fromString = MyString
greet :: MyString > MyString
greet "hello" = "world"
greet other = other
main = do
print $ greet "hello"
print $ greet "fool"
Note that deriving Eq
is necessary for the pattern matching to work
since it gets translated into an equality comparison.
9.8.5. Overloaded labels¶

XOverloadedLabels
Since: 8.0.1 Enable use of the
#foo
overloaded label syntax.
GHC supports overloaded labels, a form of identifier whose interpretation may
depend both on its type and on its literal text. When the
XOverloadedLabels
extension is enabled, an overloaded label can written
with a prefix hash, for example #foo
. The type of this expression is
IsLabel "foo" a => a
.
The class IsLabel
is defined as:
class IsLabel (x :: Symbol) a where
fromLabel :: Proxy# x > a
This is rather similar to the class IsString
(see
Overloaded string literals), but with an additional type parameter that makes the
text of the label available as a typelevel string (see
TypeLevel Literals).
There are no predefined instances of this class. It is not in scope by default,
but can be brought into scope by importing
GHC.OverloadedLabels:. Unlike
IsString
, there are no special defaulting rules for IsLabel
.
During typechecking, GHC will replace an occurrence of an overloaded label like
#foo
with
fromLabel (proxy# :: Proxy# "foo")
This will have some type alpha
and require the solution of a class
constraint IsLabel "foo" alpha
.
The intention is for IsLabel
to be used to support overloaded record fields
and perhaps anonymous records. Thus, it may be given instances for base
datatypes (in particular (>)
) in the future.
When writing an overloaded label, there must be no space between the hash sign
and the following identifier. The magic hash makes use of postfix hash
signs; if OverloadedLabels
and MagicHash
are both enabled then x#y
means x# y
, but if only OverloadedLabels
is enabled then it means x
#y
. To avoid confusion, you are strongly encouraged to put a space before the
hash when using OverloadedLabels
.
When using OverloadedLabels
(or MagicHash
) in a .hsc
file (see
Writing Haskell interfaces to C code: hsc2hs), the hash signs must be doubled (write ##foo
instead of
#foo
) to avoid them being treated as hsc2hs
directives.
Here is an extension of the record access example in TypeLevel Literals showing how an overloaded label can be used as a record selector:
{# LANGUAGE DataKinds, KindSignatures, MultiParamTypeClasses,
FunctionalDependencies, FlexibleInstances,
OverloadedLabels, ScopedTypeVariables #}
import GHC.OverloadedLabels (IsLabel(..))
import GHC.TypeLits (Symbol)
data Label (l :: Symbol) = Get
class Has a l b  a l > b where
from :: a > Label l > b
data Point = Point Int Int deriving Show
instance Has Point "x" Int where from (Point x _) _ = x
instance Has Point "y" Int where from (Point _ y) _ = y
instance Has a l b => IsLabel l (a > b) where
fromLabel _ x = from x (Get :: Label l)
example = #x (Point 1 2)
9.8.6. Overloaded lists¶

XOverloadedLists
Since: 7.8.1 Enable overloaded list syntax (e.g. desugaring of lists via the
IsList
class).
GHC supports overloading of the list notation. Let us recap the notation for constructing lists. In Haskell, the list notation can be be used in the following seven ways:
[]  Empty list
[x]  x : []
[x,y,z]  x : y : z : []
[x .. ]  enumFrom x
[x,y ..]  enumFromThen x y
[x .. y]  enumFromTo x y
[x,y .. z]  enumFromThenTo x y z
When the OverloadedLists
extension is turned on, the aforementioned
seven notations are desugared as follows:
[]  fromListN 0 []
[x]  fromListN 1 (x : [])
[x,y,z]  fromListN 3 (x : y : z : [])
[x .. ]  fromList (enumFrom x)
[x,y ..]  fromList (enumFromThen x y)
[x .. y]  fromList (enumFromTo x y)
[x,y .. z]  fromList (enumFromThenTo x y z)
This extension allows programmers to use the list notation for
construction of structures like: Set
, Map
, IntMap
,
Vector
, Text
and Array
. The following code listing gives a
few examples:
['0' .. '9'] :: Set Char
[1 .. 10] :: Vector Int
[("default",0), (k1,v1)] :: Map String Int
['a' .. 'z'] :: Text
List patterns are also overloaded. When the OverloadedLists
extension is turned on, these definitions are desugared as follows
f [] = ...  f (toList > []) = ...
g [x,y,z] = ...  g (toList > [x,y,z]) = ...
(Here we are using viewpattern syntax for the translation, see View patterns.)
9.8.6.1. The IsList
class¶
In the above desugarings, the functions toList
, fromList
and
fromListN
are all methods of the IsList
class, which is itself
exported from the GHC.Exts
module. The type class is defined as
follows:
class IsList l where
type Item l
fromList :: [Item l] > l
toList :: l > [Item l]
fromListN :: Int > [Item l] > l
fromListN _ = fromList
The IsList
class and its methods are intended to be used in
conjunction with the OverloadedLists
extension.
 The type function
Item
returns the type of items of the structurel
.  The function
fromList
constructs the structurel
from the given list ofItem l
.  The function
fromListN
takes the input list’s length as a hint. Its behaviour should be equivalent tofromList
. The hint can be used for more efficient construction of the structurel
compared tofromList
. If the given hint is not equal to the input list’s length the behaviour offromListN
is not specified.  The function
toList
should be the inverse offromList
.
It is perfectly fine to declare new instances of IsList
, so that
list notation becomes useful for completely new data types. Here are
several example instances:
instance IsList [a] where
type Item [a] = a
fromList = id
toList = id
instance (Ord a) => IsList (Set a) where
type Item (Set a) = a
fromList = Set.fromList
toList = Set.toList
instance (Ord k) => IsList (Map k v) where
type Item (Map k v) = (k,v)
fromList = Map.fromList
toList = Map.toList
instance IsList (IntMap v) where
type Item (IntMap v) = (Int,v)
fromList = IntMap.fromList
toList = IntMap.toList
instance IsList Text where
type Item Text = Char
fromList = Text.pack
toList = Text.unpack
instance IsList (Vector a) where
type Item (Vector a) = a
fromList = Vector.fromList
fromListN = Vector.fromListN
toList = Vector.toList
9.8.6.2. Rebindable syntax¶
When desugaring list notation with XOverloadedLists
GHC uses the
fromList
(etc) methods from module GHC.Exts
. You do not need to
import GHC.Exts
for this to happen.
However if you use XRebindableSyntax
, then GHC instead uses
whatever is in scope with the names of toList
, fromList
and
fromListN
. That is, these functions are rebindable; c.f.
Rebindable syntax and the implicit Prelude import.
9.8.6.3. Defaulting¶
Currently, the IsList
class is not accompanied with defaulting
rules. Although feasible, not much thought has gone into how to specify
the meaning of the default declarations like:
default ([a])
9.8.6.4. Speculation about the future¶
The current implementation of the OverloadedLists
extension can be
improved by handling the lists that are only populated with literals in
a special way. More specifically, the compiler could allocate such lists
statically using a compact representation and allow IsList
instances
to take advantage of the compact representation. Equipped with this
capability the OverloadedLists
extension will be in a good position
to subsume the OverloadedStrings
extension (currently, as a special
case, string literals benefit from statically allocated compact
representation).
9.8.7. Undecidable (or recursive) superclasses¶

XUndecidableSuperClasses
Since: 8.0.1 Allow all superclass constraints, including those that may result in nontermination of the typechecker.
The language extension XUndecidableSuperClasses
allows much more flexible
constraints in superclasses.
A class cannot generally have itself as a superclass. So this is illegal
class C a => D a where ...
class D a => C a where ...
GHC implements this test conservatively when type functions, or type variables, are involved. For example
type family F a :: Constraint
class F a => C a where ...
GHC will complain about this, because you might later add
type instance F Int = C Int
and now we’d be in a superclass loop. Here’s an example involving a type variable
class f (C f) => C f
class c => Id c
If we expanded the superclasses of C Id
we’d get first Id (C Id)
and
thence C Id
again.
But superclass constraints like these are sometimes useful, and the conservative check is annoying where no actual recursion is involved.
Moreover genuninelyrecursive superclasses are sometimes useful. Here’s a reallife example (Trac #10318)
class (Frac (Frac a) ~ Frac a,
Fractional (Frac a),
IntegralDomain (Frac a))
=> IntegralDomain a where
type Frac a :: *
Here the superclass cycle does terminate but it’s not entirely straightforward to see that it does.
With the language extension XUndecidableSuperClasses
GHC lifts all restrictions
on superclass constraints. If there really is a loop, GHC will only
expand it to finite depth.
9.9. Type families¶

XTypeFamilies
Implies: XMonoLocalBinds
,XKindSignatures
,XExplicitNamespaces
Allow use and definition of indexed type and data families.
Indexed type families form an extension to facilitate typelevel programming. Type families are a generalisation of associated data types [AssocDataTypes2005] and associated type synonyms [AssocTypeSyn2005] Type families themselves are described in Schrijvers 2008 [TypeFamilies2008]. Type families essentially provide typeindexed data types and named functions on types, which are useful for generic programming and highly parameterised library interfaces as well as interfaces with enhanced static information, much like dependent types. They might also be regarded as an alternative to functional dependencies, but provide a more functional style of typelevel programming than the relational style of functional dependencies.
Indexed type families, or type families for short, are type constructors that represent sets of types. Set members are denoted by supplying the type family constructor with type parameters, which are called type indices. The difference between vanilla parametrised type constructors and family constructors is much like between parametrically polymorphic functions and (adhoc polymorphic) methods of type classes. Parametric polymorphic functions behave the same at all type instances, whereas class methods can change their behaviour in dependence on the class type parameters. Similarly, vanilla type constructors imply the same data representation for all type instances, but family constructors can have varying representation types for varying type indices.
Indexed type families come in three flavours: data families, open type synonym families, and closed type synonym families. They are the indexed family variants of algebraic data types and type synonyms, respectively. The instances of data families can be data types and newtypes.
Type families are enabled by the flag XTypeFamilies
. Additional
information on the use of type families in GHC is available on the
Haskell wiki page on type
families.
[AssocDataTypes2005]  “Associated Types with Class”, M. Chakravarty, G. Keller, S. Peyton Jones, and S. Marlow. In Proceedings of “The 32nd Annual ACM SIGPLANSIGACT Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages (POPL‘05)”, pages 113, ACM Press, 2005) 
[AssocTypeSyn2005]  “Type Associated Type Synonyms”. M. Chakravarty, G. Keller, and S. Peyton Jones. In Proceedings of “The Tenth ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Functional Programming”, ACM Press, pages 241253, 2005). 
[TypeFamilies2008]  “Type Checking with Open Type Functions”, T. Schrijvers, S. PeytonJones, M. Chakravarty, and M. Sulzmann, in Proceedings of “ICFP 2008: The 13th ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Functional Programming”, ACM Press, pages 5162, 2008. 
9.9.1. Data families¶
Data families appear in two flavours: (1) they can be defined on the toplevel or (2) they can appear inside type classes (in which case they are known as associated types). The former is the more general variant, as it lacks the requirement for the typeindexes to coincide with the class parameters. However, the latter can lead to more clearly structured code and compiler warnings if some type instances were  possibly accidentally  omitted. In the following, we always discuss the general toplevel form first and then cover the additional constraints placed on associated types.
9.9.1.1. Data family declarations¶
Indexed data families are introduced by a signature, such as
data family GMap k :: * > *
The special family
distinguishes family from standard data
declarations. The result kind annotation is optional and, as usual,
defaults to *
if omitted. An example is
data family Array e
Named arguments can also be given explicit kind signatures if needed.
Just as with GADT declarations named arguments are
entirely optional, so that we can declare Array
alternatively with
data family Array :: * > *
9.9.1.2. Data instance declarations¶
Instance declarations of data and newtype families are very similar to
standard data and newtype declarations. The only two differences are
that the keyword data
or newtype
is followed by instance
and
that some or all of the type arguments can be nonvariable types, but
may not contain forall types or type synonym families. However, data
families are generally allowed in type parameters, and type synonyms are
allowed as long as they are fully applied and expand to a type that is
itself admissible  exactly as this is required for occurrences of type
synonyms in class instance parameters. For example, the Either
instance for GMap
is
data instance GMap (Either a b) v = GMapEither (GMap a v) (GMap b v)
In this example, the declaration has only one variant. In general, it can be any number.
When the flag Wunusedtypepatterns
is enabled, type
variables that are mentioned in the patterns on the left hand side, but not
used on the right hand side are reported. Variables that occur multiple times
on the left hand side are also considered used. To suppress the warnings,
unused variables should be either replaced or prefixed with underscores. Type
variables starting with an underscore (_x
) are otherwise treated as
ordinary type variables.
This resembles the wildcards that can be used in
Partial Type Signatures. However, there are some differences.
No error messages reporting the inferred types are generated, nor does
the flag XPartialTypeSignatures
have any effect.
Data and newtype instance declarations are only permitted when an appropriate family declaration is in scope  just as a class instance declaration requires the class declaration to be visible. Moreover, each instance declaration has to conform to the kind determined by its family declaration. This implies that the number of parameters of an instance declaration matches the arity determined by the kind of the family.
A data family instance declaration can use the full expressiveness of
ordinary data
or newtype
declarations:
Although, a data family is introduced with the keyword “
data
”, a data family instance can use eitherdata
ornewtype
. For example:data family T a data instance T Int = T1 Int  T2 Bool newtype instance T Char = TC Bool
A
data instance
can use GADT syntax for the data constructors, and indeed can define a GADT. For example:data family G a b data instance G [a] b where G1 :: c > G [Int] b G2 :: G [a] Bool
You can use a
deriving
clause on adata instance
ornewtype instance
declaration.
Even if data families are defined as toplevel declarations, functions that perform different computations for different family instances may still need to be defined as methods of type classes. In particular, the following is not possible:
data family T a
data instance T Int = A
data instance T Char = B
foo :: T a > Int
foo A = 1
foo B = 2
Instead, you would have to write foo
as a class operation, thus:
class Foo a where
foo :: T a > Int
instance Foo Int where
foo A = 1
instance Foo Char where
foo B = 2
Given the functionality provided by GADTs (Generalised Algebraic Data Types), it might seem as if a definition, such as the above, should be feasible. However, type families  in contrast to GADTs  are open; i.e., new instances can always be added, possibly in other modules. Supporting pattern matching across different data instances would require a form of extensible case construct.
9.9.1.3. Overlap of data instances¶
The instance declarations of a data family used in a single program may not overlap at all, independent of whether they are associated or not. In contrast to type class instances, this is not only a matter of consistency, but one of type safety.
9.9.2. Synonym families¶
Type families appear in three flavours: (1) they can be defined as open families on the toplevel, (2) they can be defined as closed families on the toplevel, or (3) they can appear inside type classes (in which case they are known as associated type synonyms). Toplevel families are more general, as they lack the requirement for the typeindexes to coincide with the class parameters. However, associated type synonyms can lead to more clearly structured code and compiler warnings if some type instances were  possibly accidentally  omitted. In the following, we always discuss the general toplevel forms first and then cover the additional constraints placed on associated types. Note that closed associated type synonyms do not exist.
9.9.2.1. Type family declarations¶
Open indexed type families are introduced by a signature, such as
type family Elem c :: *
The special family
distinguishes family from standard type
declarations. The result kind annotation is optional and, as usual,
defaults to *
if omitted. An example is
type family Elem c
Parameters can also be given explicit kind signatures if needed. We call the number of parameters in a type family declaration, the family’s arity, and all applications of a type family must be fully saturated with respect to to that arity. This requirement is unlike ordinary type synonyms and it implies that the kind of a type family is not sufficient to determine a family’s arity, and hence in general, also insufficient to determine whether a type family application is well formed. As an example, consider the following declaration:
type family F a b :: * > *  F's arity is 2,
 although its overall kind is * > * > * > *
Given this declaration the following are examples of wellformed and malformed types:
F Char [Int]  OK! Kind: * > *
F Char [Int] Bool  OK! Kind: *
F IO Bool  WRONG: kind mismatch in the first argument
F Bool  WRONG: unsaturated application
The result kind annotation is optional and defaults to *
(like
argument kinds) if omitted. Polykinded type families can be declared
using a parameter in the kind annotation:
type family F a :: k
In this case the kind parameter k
is actually an implicit parameter
of the type family.
9.9.2.2. Type instance declarations¶
Instance declarations of type families are very similar to standard type
synonym declarations. The only two differences are that the keyword
type
is followed by instance
and that some or all of the type
arguments can be nonvariable types, but may not contain forall types or
type synonym families. However, data families are generally allowed, and
type synonyms are allowed as long as they are fully applied and expand
to a type that is admissible  these are the exact same requirements as
for data instances. For example, the [e]
instance for Elem
is
type instance Elem [e] = e
Type arguments can be replaced with underscores (_
) if the names of
the arguments don’t matter. This is the same as writing type variables
with unique names. Unused type arguments can be replaced or prefixed
with underscores to avoid warnings when the
Wunusedtypepatterns
flag is enabled. The same rules apply
as for Data instance declarations.
Type family instance declarations are only legitimate when an appropriate family declaration is in scope  just like class instances require the class declaration to be visible. Moreover, each instance declaration has to conform to the kind determined by its family declaration, and the number of type parameters in an instance declaration must match the number of type parameters in the family declaration. Finally, the righthand side of a type instance must be a monotype (i.e., it may not include foralls) and after the expansion of all saturated vanilla type synonyms, no synonyms, except family synonyms may remain.
9.9.2.3. Closed type families¶
A type family can also be declared with a where
clause, defining the
full set of equations for that family. For example:
type family F a where
F Int = Double
F Bool = Char
F a = String
A closed type family’s equations are tried in order, from top to bottom,
when simplifying a type family application. In this example, we declare
an instance for F
such that F Int
simplifies to Double
,
F Bool
simplifies to Char
, and for any other type a
that is
known not to be Int
or Bool
, F a
simplifies to String
.
Note that GHC must be sure that a
cannot unify with Int
or
Bool
in that last case; if a programmer specifies just F a
in
their code, GHC will not be able to simplify the type. After all, a
might later be instantiated with Int
.
A closed type family’s equations have the same restrictions as the equations for open type family instances.
A closed type family may be declared with no equations. Such closed type
families are opaque typelevel definitions that will never reduce, are
not necessarily injective (unlike empty data types), and cannot be given
any instances. This is different from omitting the equations of a closed
type family in a hsboot
file, which uses the syntax where ..
,
as in that case there may or may not be equations given in the hs
file.
9.9.2.4. Type family examples¶
Here are some examples of admissible and illegal type instances:
type family F a :: *
type instance F [Int] = Int  OK!
type instance F String = Char  OK!
type instance F (F a) = a  WRONG: type parameter mentions a type family
type instance
F (forall a. (a, b)) = b  WRONG: a forall type appears in a type parameter
type instance
F Float = forall a.a  WRONG: righthand side may not be a forall type
type family H a where  OK!
H Int = Int
H Bool = Bool
H a = String
type instance H Char = Char  WRONG: cannot have instances of closed family
type family K a where  OK!
type family G a b :: * > *
type instance G Int = (,)  WRONG: must be two type parameters
type instance G Int Char Float = Double  WRONG: must be two type parameters
9.9.2.5. Compatibility and apartness of type family equations¶
There must be some restrictions on the equations of type families, lest we define an ambiguous rewrite system. So, equations of open type families are restricted to be compatible. Two type patterns are compatible if
 all corresponding types and implicit kinds in the patterns are apart, or
 the two patterns unify producing a substitution, and the righthand sides are equal under that substitution.
Two types are considered apart if, for all possible substitutions, the types cannot reduce to a common reduct.
The first clause of “compatible” is the more straightforward one. It says that the patterns of two distinct type family instances cannot overlap. For example, the following is disallowed:
type instance F Int = Bool
type instance F Int = Char
The second clause is a little more interesting. It says that two overlapping type family instances are allowed if the righthand sides coincide in the region of overlap. Some examples help here:
type instance F (a, Int) = [a]
type instance F (Int, b) = [b]  overlap permitted
type instance G (a, Int) = [a]
type instance G (Char, a) = [a]  ILLEGAL overlap, as [Char] /= [Int]
Note that this compatibility condition is independent of whether the type family is associated or not, and it is not only a matter of consistency, but one of type safety.
For a polykinded type family, the kinds are checked for apartness just like types. For example, the following is accepted:
type family J a :: k
type instance J Int = Bool
type instance J Int = Maybe
These instances are compatible because they differ in their implicit
kind parameter; the first uses *
while the second uses * > *
.
The definition for “compatible” uses a notion of “apart”, whose definition in turn relies on type family reduction. This condition of “apartness”, as stated, is impossible to check, so we use this conservative approximation: two types are considered to be apart when the two types cannot be unified, even by a potentially infinite unifier. Allowing the unifier to be infinite disallows the following pair of instances:
type instance H x x = Int
type instance H [x] x = Bool
The type patterns in this pair equal if x
is replaced by an infinite
nesting of lists. Rejecting instances such as these is necessary for
type soundness.
Compatibility also affects closed type families. When simplifying an application of a closed type family, GHC will select an equation only when it is sure that no incompatible previous equation will ever apply. Here are some examples:
type family F a where
F Int = Bool
F a = Char
type family G a where
G Int = Int
G a = a
In the definition for F
, the two equations are incompatible – their
patterns are not apart, and yet their righthand sides do not coincide.
Thus, before GHC selects the second equation, it must be sure that the
first can never apply. So, the type F a
does not simplify; only a
type such as F Double
will simplify to Char
. In G
, on the
other hand, the two equations are compatible. Thus, GHC can ignore the
first equation when looking at the second. So, G a
will simplify to
a
.
However see Type, class and other declarations for the overlap rules in GHCi.
9.9.2.6. Decidability of type synonym instances¶

XUndeciableInstances
Relax restrictions on the decidability of type synonym family instances.
In order to guarantee that type inference in the presence of type families decidable, we need to place a number of additional restrictions on the formation of type instance declarations (c.f., Definition 5 (Relaxed Conditions) of “Type Checking with Open Type Functions”). Instance declarations have the general form
type instance F t1 .. tn = t
where we require that for every type family application (G s1 .. sm)
in t
,
s1 .. sm
do not contain any type family constructors, the total number of symbols (data type constructors and type
variables) in
s1 .. sm
is strictly smaller than int1 .. tn
, and  for every type variable
a
,a
occurs ins1 .. sm
at most as often as int1 .. tn
.
These restrictions are easily verified and ensure termination of type
inference. However, they are not sufficient to guarantee completeness of
type inference in the presence of, so called, ‘’loopy equalities’‘, such
as a ~ [F a]
, where a recursive occurrence of a type variable is
underneath a family application and data constructor application  see
the above mentioned paper for details.
If the option XUndecidableInstances
is passed to the compiler, the
above restrictions are not enforced and it is on the programmer to ensure
termination of the normalisation of type families during type inference.
9.9.3. Wildcards on the LHS of data and type family instances¶
When the name of a type argument of a data or type instance
declaration doesn’t matter, it can be replaced with an underscore
(_
). This is the same as writing a type variable with a unique name.
data family F a b :: *
data instance F Int _ = Int
 Equivalent to data instance F Int b = Int
type family T a :: *
type instance T (a,_) = a
 Equivalent to type instance T (a,b) = a
This use of underscore for wildcard in a type pattern is exactly like pattern matching in the term language, but is rather different to the use of a underscore in a partial type signature (see Type Wildcards).
A type variable beginning with an underscore is not treated specially in a type or data instance declaration. For example:
data instance F Bool _a = _a > Int
 Equivalent to data instance F Bool a = a > Int
Contrast this with the special treatment of named wildcards in type signatures (Named Wildcards).
9.9.4. Associated data and type families¶
A data or type synonym family can be declared as part of a type class, thus:
class GMapKey k where
data GMap k :: * > *
...
class Collects ce where
type Elem ce :: *
...
When doing so, we (optionally) may drop the “family
” keyword.
The type parameters must all be type variables, of course, and some (but not necessarily all) of then can be the class parameters. Each class parameter may only be used at most once per associated type, but some may be omitted and they may be in an order other than in the class head. Hence, the following contrived example is admissible:
class C a b c where
type T c a x :: *
Here c
and a
are class parameters, but the type is also indexed
on a third parameter x
.
9.9.4.1. Associated instances¶
When an associated data or type synonym family instance is declared
within a type class instance, we (optionally) may drop the instance
keyword in the family instance:
instance (GMapKey a, GMapKey b) => GMapKey (Either a b) where
data GMap (Either a b) v = GMapEither (GMap a v) (GMap b v)
...
instance Eq (Elem [e]) => Collects [e] where
type Elem [e] = e
...
The data or type family instance for an assocated type must follow the following two rules:
The type indexes corresponding to class parameters must have precisely the same as type given in the instance head. For example:
class Collects ce where type Elem ce :: * instance Eq (Elem [e]) => Collects [e] where  Choose one of the following alternatives: type Elem [e] = e  OK type Elem [x] = x  BAD; '[x]' is differnet to '[e]' from head type Elem x = x  BAD; 'x' is different to '[e]' type Elem [Maybe x] = x  BAD: '[Maybe x]' is different to '[e]'
The type indexes of the type family that do not correspond to class parameters must be distinct type variables, not mentioned in the instance head. For example:
class C b x where type F a b c :: * instance C [v] [w] where  Choose one of the following alternatives: type C a [v] c = a>c  OK; a,c are tyvars type C x [v] y = y>x  OK; x,y are tyvars type C x [v] x = x  BAD: x is repeated type C x [v] w = x  BAD: w is mentioned in instance head
The effect of these two rules is that the typefamily instance completely covers the cases covered by the instance head.
An instance for an associated family can only appear as part of an instance declarations of the class in which the family was declared, just as with the equations of the methods of a class.
The variables on the right hand side of the type family equation must, as usual, be bound on the left hand side.
The instance for an associated type can be omitted in class instances. In that case, unless there is a default instance (see Associated type synonym defaults), the corresponding instance type is not inhabited; i.e., only diverging expressions, such as
undefined
, can assume the type.A historical note. In the past (but no longer), GHC allowed you to write multiple type or data family instances for a single associated type. For example:
instance GMapKey Flob where data GMap Flob [v] = G1 v data GMap Flob Int = G2 Int ...
Here we give two data instance declarations, one in which the last parameter is
[v]
, and one for which it isInt
. Since you cannot give any subsequent instances for(GMap Flob ...)
, this facility was not very useful, except perhaps when the free indexed parameter has a fixed number of alternatives (e.g.Bool
). But in that case it is better to define an auxiliary closed type function like this:class C a where type F a (b :: Bool) :: * instance C Int where type F Int b = FInt b type family FInt a b where FInt True = Char FInt False = Bool Here the auxiliary type function is ``FInt``.
9.9.4.2. Associated type synonym defaults¶
It is possible for the class defining the associated type to specify a default for associated type instances. So for example, this is OK:
class IsBoolMap v where
type Key v
type instance Key v = Int
lookupKey :: Key v > v > Maybe Bool
instance IsBoolMap [(Int, Bool)] where
lookupKey = lookup
In an instance
declaration for the class, if no explicit
type instance
declaration is given for the associated type, the
default declaration is used instead, just as with default class methods.
Note the following points:
 The
instance
keyword is optional.  There can be at most one default declaration for an associated type synonym.
 A default declaration is not permitted for an associated data type.
 The default declaration must mention only type variables on the left hand side, and the right hand side must mention only type variables bound on the left hand side. However, unlike the associated type family declaration itself, the type variables of the default instance are independent of those of the parent class.
Here are some examples:
class C a where
type F1 a :: *
type instance F1 a = [a]  OK
type instance F1 a = a>a  BAD; only one default instance is allowed
type F2 b a  OK; note the family has more type
 variables than the class
type instance F2 c d = c>d  OK; you don't have to use 'a' in the type instance
type F3 a
type F3 [b] = b  BAD; only type variables allowed on the LHS
type F4 a
type F4 b = a  BAD; 'a' is not in scope in the RHS
9.9.4.3. Scoping of class parameters¶
The visibility of class parameters in the righthand side of associated family instances depends solely on the parameters of the family. As an example, consider the simple class declaration
class C a b where
data T a
Only one of the two class parameters is a parameter to the data family. Hence, the following instance declaration is invalid:
instance C [c] d where
data T [c] = MkT (c, d)  WRONG!! 'd' is not in scope
Here, the righthand side of the data instance mentions the type
variable d
that does not occur in its lefthand side. We cannot
admit such data instances as they would compromise type safety.
9.9.4.4. Instance contexts and associated type and data instances¶
Associated type and data instance declarations do not inherit any
context specified on the enclosing instance. For type instance
declarations, it is unclear what the context would mean. For data
instance declarations, it is unlikely a user would want the context
repeated for every data constructor. The only place where the context
might likely be useful is in a deriving
clause of an associated data
instance. However, even here, the role of the outer instance context is
murky. So, for clarity, we just stick to the rule above: the enclosing
instance context is ignored. If you need to use a nontrivial context on
a derived instance, use a standalone deriving
clause (at the top level).
9.9.5. Import and export¶
The rules for export lists (Haskell Report Section 5.2) needs adjustment for type families:
 The form
T(..)
, whereT
is a data family, names the familyT
and all the inscope constructors (whether in scope qualified or unqualified) that are data instances ofT
.  The form
T(.., ci, .., fj, ..)
, whereT
is a data family, namesT
and the specified constructorsci
and fieldsfj
as usual. The constructors and field names must belong to some data instance ofT
, but are not required to belong to the same instance.  The form
C(..)
, whereC
is a class, names the classC
and all its methods and associated types.  The form
C(.., mi, .., type Tj, ..)
, whereC
is a class, names the classC
, and the specified methodsmi
and associated typesTj
. The types need a keyword “type
” to distinguish them from data constructors.  Whenever there is no export list and a data instance is defined, the corresponding data family type constructor is exported along with the new data constructors, regardless of whether the data family is defined locally or in another module.
9.9.5.1. Examples¶
Recall our running GMapKey
class example:
class GMapKey k where
data GMap k :: * > *
insert :: GMap k v > k > v > GMap k v
lookup :: GMap k v > k > Maybe v
empty :: GMap k v
instance (GMapKey a, GMapKey b) => GMapKey (Either a b) where
data GMap (Either a b) v = GMapEither (GMap a v) (GMap b v)
...method declarations...
Here are some export lists and their meaning:
module GMap( GMapKey )
Exports just the class name.
module GMap( GMapKey(..) )
Exports the class, the associated type
GMap
and the member functionsempty
,lookup
, andinsert
. The data constructors ofGMap
(in this caseGMapEither
) are not exported.module GMap( GMapKey( type GMap, empty, lookup, insert ) )
Same as the previous item. Note the “
type
” keyword.module GMap( GMapKey(..), GMap(..) )
Same as previous item, but also exports all the data constructors for
GMap
, namelyGMapEither
.module GMap ( GMapKey( empty, lookup, insert), GMap(..) )
Same as previous item.
module GMap ( GMapKey, empty, lookup, insert, GMap(..) )
Same as previous item.
Two things to watch out for:
You cannot write
GMapKey(type GMap(..))
— i.e., subcomponent specifications cannot be nested. To specifyGMap
‘s data constructors, you have to list it separately.Consider this example:
module X where data family D module Y where import X data instance D Int = D1  D2
Module
Y
exports all the entities defined inY
, namely the data constructorsD1
andD2
, and implicitly the data familyD
, even though it’s defined inX
. This means you can writeimport Y( D(D1,D2) )
without giving an explicit export list like this:module Y( D(..) ) where ... or module Y( module Y, D ) where ...
9.9.5.2. Instances¶
Family instances are implicitly exported, just like class instances. However, this applies only to the heads of instances, not to the data constructors an instance defines.
9.9.6. Type families and instance declarations¶
Type families require us to extend the rules for the form of instance heads, which are given in Relaxed rules for the instance head. Specifically:
 Data type families may appear in an instance head
 Type synonym families may not appear (at all) in an instance head
The reason for the latter restriction is that there is no way to check for instance matching. Consider
type family F a
type instance F Bool = Int
class C a
instance C Int
instance C (F a)
Now a constraint (C (F Bool))
would match both instances. The
situation is especially bad because the type instance for F Bool
might be in another module, or even in a module that is not yet written.
However, type class instances of instances of data families can be defined much like any other data type. For example, we can say
data instance T Int = T1 Int  T2 Bool
instance Eq (T Int) where
(T1 i) == (T1 j) = i==j
(T2 i) == (T2 j) = i==j
_ == _ = False
Note that class instances are always for particular instances of a data family and never for an entire family as a whole. This is for essentially the same reasons that we cannot define a toplevel function that performs pattern matching on the data constructors of different instances of a single type family. It would require a form of extensible case construct.
Data instance declarations can also have deriving
clauses. For
example, we can write
data GMap () v = GMapUnit (Maybe v)
deriving Show
which implicitly defines an instance of the form
instance Show v => Show (GMap () v) where ...
9.9.7. Injective type families¶

XTypeFamilyDependencies
Implies: XTypeFamilies
Since: 8.0.1 Allow functional dependency annotations on type families. This allows one to define injective type families.
Starting with GHC 8.0 type families can be annotated with injectivity information. This information is then used by GHC during type checking to resolve type ambiguities in situations where a type variable appears only under type family applications. Consider this contrived example:
type family Id a
type instance Id Int = Int
type instance Id Bool = Bool
id :: Id t > Id t
id x = x
Here the definition of id
will be rejected because type variable t
appears only under type family applications and is thus ambiguous. But this
code will be accepted if we tell GHC that Id
is injective, which means it
will be possible to infer t
at call sites from the type of the argument:
type family Id a = r  r > a
Injective type families are enabled with XTypeFamilyDependencies
language
extension. This extension implies XTypeFamilies
.
For full details on injective type families refer to Haskell Symposium 2015 paper Injective type families for Haskell.
9.9.7.1. Syntax of injectivity annotation¶
Injectivity annotation is added after type family head and consists of two parts:
 a type variable that names the result of a type family. Syntax:
= tyvar
or= (tyvar :: kind)
. Type variable must be fresh.  an injectivity annotation of the form
 A > B
, whereA
is the result type variable (see previous bullet) andB
is a list of argument type and kind variables in which type family is injective. It is possible to omit some variables if type family is not injective in them.
Examples:
type family Id a = result  result > a where
type family F a b c = d  d > a c b
type family G (a :: k) b c = foo  foo > k b where
For open and closed type families it is OK to name the result but skip the injectivity annotation. This is not the case for associated type synonyms, where the named result without injectivity annotation will be interpreted as associated type synonym default.
9.9.7.2. Verifying injectivity annotation against type family equations¶
Once the user declares type family to be injective GHC must verify that this declaration is correct, ie. type family equations don’t violate the injectivity annotation. A general idea is that if at least one equation (bullets (1), (2) and (3) below) or a pair of equations (bullets (4) and (5) below) violates the injectivity annotation then a type family is not injective in a way user claims and an error is reported. In the bullets below RHS refers to the righthand side of the type family equation being checked for injectivity. LHS refers to the arguments of that type family equation. Below are the rules followed when checking injectivity of a type family:
If a RHS of a type family equation is a type family application GHC reports that the type family is not injective.
If a RHS of a type family equation is a bare type variable we require that all LHS variables (including implicit kind variables) are also bare. In other words, this has to be a sole equation of that type family and it has to cover all possible patterns. If the patterns are not covering GHC reports that the type family is not injective.
If a LHS type variable that is declared as injective is not mentioned on injective position in the RHS GHC reports that the type family is not injective. Injective position means either argument to a type constructor or injective argument to a type family.
Open type families Open type families are typechecked incrementally. This means that when a module is imported type family instances contained in that module are checked against instances present in already imported modules.
A pair of an open type family equations is checked by attempting to unify their RHSs. If the RHSs don’t unify this pair does not violate injectivity annotation. If unification succeeds with a substitution then LHSs of unified equations must be identical under that substitution. If they are not identical then GHC reports that the type family is not injective.
In a closed type family all equations are ordered and in one place. Equations are also checked pairwise but this time an equation has to be paired with all the preceeding equations. Of course a singleequation closed type family is trivially injective (unless (1), (2) or (3) above holds).
When checking a pair of closed type family equations GHC tried to unify their RHSs. If they don’t unify this pair of equations does not violate injectivity annotation. If the RHSs can be unified under some substitution (possibly empty) then either the LHSs unify under the same substitution or the LHS of the latter equation is subsumed by earlier equations. If neither condition is met GHC reports that a type family is not injective.
Note that for the purpose of injectivity check in bullets (4) and (5) GHC uses a special variant of unification algorithm that treats type family applications as possibly unifying with anything.
9.10. Datatype promotion¶

XDataKinds
Since: 7.4.1 Allow promotion of data types to kind level.
This section describes data type promotion, an extension to the kind
system that complements kind polymorphism. It is enabled by
XDataKinds
, and described in more detail in the paper Giving
Haskell a Promotion, which
appeared at TLDI 2012.
9.10.1. Motivation¶
Standard Haskell has a rich type language. Types classify terms and
serve to avoid many common programming mistakes. The kind language,
however, is relatively simple, distinguishing only regular types (kind
*
) and type constructors (e.g. kind * > * > *
).
In particular when using advanced type
system features, such as type families (Type families) or GADTs
(Generalised Algebraic Data Types (GADTs)), this simple kind system is insufficient, and fails to
prevent simple errors. Consider the example of typelevel natural
numbers, and lengthindexed vectors:
data Ze
data Su n
data Vec :: * > * > * where
Nil :: Vec a Ze
Cons :: a > Vec a n > Vec a (Su n)
The kind of Vec
is * > * > *
. This means that, e.g.,
Vec Int Char
is a wellkinded type, even though this is not what we
intend when defining lengthindexed vectors.
With XDataKinds
, the example above can then be rewritten to:
data Nat = Ze  Su Nat
data Vec :: * > Nat > * where
Nil :: Vec a 'Ze
Cons :: a > Vec a n > Vec a ('Su n)
With the improved kind of Vec
, things like Vec Int Char
are now
illkinded, and GHC will report an error.
9.10.2. Overview¶
With XDataKinds
, GHC automatically promotes every datatype
to be a kind and its (value) constructors to be type constructors. The
following types
data Nat = Zero  Succ Nat
data List a = Nil  Cons a (List a)
data Pair a b = Pair a b
data Sum a b = L a  R b
give rise to the following kinds and type constructors (where promoted
constructors are prefixed by a tick '
):
Nat :: *
'Zero :: Nat
'Succ :: Nat > Nat
List :: * > *
'Nil :: forall k. List k
'Cons :: forall k. k > List k > List k
Pair :: * > * > *
'Pair :: forall k1 k2. k1 > k2 > Pair k1 k2
Sum :: * > * > *
'L :: k1 > Sum k1 k2
'R :: k2 > Sum k1 k2
The following restrictions apply to promotion:
 We promote
data
types andnewtypes
; type synonyms and type/data families are not promoted (Type families).  We only promote types whose kinds are of the form
* > ... > * > *
. In particular, we do not promote higherkinded datatypes such asdata Fix f = In (f (Fix f))
, or datatypes whose kinds involve promoted types such asVec :: * > Nat > *
.  We do not promote data constructors that are kind polymorphic, involve constraints, mention type or data families, or involve types that are not promotable.
The flag XTypeInType
(which implies XDataKinds
)
relaxes some of these restrictions, allowing:
Promotion of type synonyms and type families, but not data families. GHC’s type theory just isn’t up to the task of promoting data families, which requires full dependent types.
All datatypes, even those with rich kinds, get promoted. For example:
data Proxy a = Proxy data App f a = MkApp (f a)  App :: forall k. (k > *) > k > * x = Proxy :: Proxy ('MkApp ('Just 'True))
9.10.3. Distinguishing between types and constructors¶
In the examples above, all promoted constructors are prefixed with a single
quote mark '
. This mark tells GHC to look in the data constructor namespace
for a name, not the type (constructor) namespace. Consider
data P = MkP  1
data Prom = P  2
We can thus distinguish the type P
(which has a constructor MkP
)
from the promoted data constructor 'P
(of kind Prom
).
As a convenience, GHC allows you to omit the quote mark when the name is
unambiguous. However, our experience has shown that the quote mark helps
to make code more readable and less errorprone. GHC thus supports
Wuntickedpromotedconstructors
that will warn you if you
use a promoted data constructor without a preceding quote mark.
Just as in the case of Template Haskell (Syntax), GHC gets confused if you put a quote mark before a data constructor whose second character is a quote mark. In this case, just put a space between the promotion quote and the data constructor:
data T = A'
type S = 'A'  ERROR: looks like a character
type R = ' A'  OK: promoted `A'`
9.10.4. Promoted list and tuple types¶
With XDataKinds
, Haskell’s list and tuple types are natively
promoted to kinds, and enjoy the same convenient syntax at the type
level, albeit prefixed with a quote:
data HList :: [*] > * where
HNil :: HList '[]
HCons :: a > HList t > HList (a ': t)
data Tuple :: (*,*) > * where
Tuple :: a > b > Tuple '(a,b)
foo0 :: HList '[]
foo0 = HNil
foo1 :: HList '[Int]
foo1 = HCons (3::Int) HNil
foo2 :: HList [Int, Bool]
foo2 = ...
For typelevel lists of two or more elements, such as the signature of
foo2
above, the quote may be omitted because the meaning is unambiguous. But
for lists of one or zero elements (as in foo0
and foo1
), the quote is
required, because the types []
and [Int]
have existing meanings in
Haskell.
Note
The declaration for HCons
also requires XTypeOperators
because of infix type operator (:')
9.10.5. Promoting existential data constructors¶
Note that we do promote existential data constructors that are otherwise suitable. For example, consider the following:
data Ex :: * where
MkEx :: forall a. a > Ex
Both the type Ex
and the data constructor MkEx
get promoted,
with the polymorphic kind 'MkEx :: forall k. k > Ex
. Somewhat
surprisingly, you can write a type family to extract the member of a
typelevel existential:
type family UnEx (ex :: Ex) :: k
type instance UnEx (MkEx x) = x
At first blush, UnEx
seems poorlykinded. The return kind k
is
not mentioned in the arguments, and thus it would seem that an instance
would have to return a member of k
for any k
. However, this is
not the case. The type family UnEx
is a kindindexed type family.
The return kind k
is an implicit parameter to UnEx
. The
elaborated definitions are as follows (where implicit parameters are
denoted by braces):
type family UnEx {k :: *} (ex :: Ex) :: k
type instance UnEx {k} (MkEx @k x) = x
Thus, the instance triggers only when the implicit parameter to UnEx
matches the implicit parameter to MkEx
. Because k
is actually a
parameter to UnEx
, the kind is not escaping the existential, and the
above code is valid.
See also Trac #7347.
9.11. Kind polymorphism and TypeinType¶

XTypeInType
Implies: XPolyKinds
,XDataKinds
,XKindSignatures
Since: 8.0.1 Allow kinds to be as intricate as types, allowing explicit quantification over kind variables, higherrank kinds, and the use of type synonyms and families in kinds, among other features.

XPolyKinds
Implies: XKindSignatures
Since: 7.4.1 Allow kind polymorphic types.
This section describes GHC’s kind system, as it appears in version 8.0 and beyond. The kind system as described here is always in effect, with or without extensions, although it is a conservative extension beyond standard Haskell. The extensions above simply enable syntax and tweak the inference algorithm to allow users to take advantage of the extra expressiveness of GHC’s kind system.
9.11.1. The difference between XTypeInType
and XPolyKinds
¶
It is natural to consider XTypeInType
as an extension of
XPolyKinds
. The latter simply enables fewer features of GHC’s
rich kind system than does the former. The need for two separate extensions
stems from their history: XPolyKinds
was introduced for GHC 7.4,
when it was experimental and temperamental. The wrinkles were smoothed out for
GHC 7.6. XTypeInType
was introduced for GHC 8.0, and is currently
experimental and temperamental, with the wrinkles to be smoothed out in due
course. The intent of having the two extensions is that users can rely on
XPolyKinds
to work properly while being duly sceptical of
XTypeInType
. In particular, we recommend enabling
dcorelint
whenever using XTypeInType
; that flag
turns on a set of internal checks within GHC that will discover bugs in the
implementation of XTypeInType
. Please report bugs at our bug
tracker.
Although we have tried to allow the new behavior only when
XTypeInType
is enabled, some particularly thorny cases may have
slipped through. It is thus possible that some construct is available in GHC
8.0 with XPolyKinds
that was not possible in GHC 7.x. If you spot
such a case, you are welcome to submit that as a bug as well. We flag
newlyavailable capabilities below.
9.11.2. Overview of kind polymorphism¶
Consider inferring the kind for
data App f a = MkApp (f a)
In Haskell 98, the inferred kind for App
is (* > *) > * > *
.
But this is overly specific, because another suitable Haskell 98 kind for
App
is ((* > *) > *) > (* > *) > *
, where the kind assigned
to a
is * > *
. Indeed, without kind signatures
(XKindSignatures
), it is necessary to use a dummy constructor
to get a Haskell compiler to infer the second kind. With kind polymorphism
(XPolyKinds
), GHC infers the kind forall k. (k > *) > k > *
for App
, which is its most general kind.
Thus, the chief benefit of kind polymorphism is that we can now infer these
most general kinds and use App
at a variety of kinds:
App Maybe Int  `k` is instantiated to *
data T a = MkT (a Int)  `a` is inferred to have kind (* > *)
App T Maybe  `k` is instantiated to (* > *)
9.11.3. Overview of TypeinType¶
GHC 8 extends the idea of kind polymorphism by declaring that types and kinds
are indeed one and the same. Nothing within GHC distinguishes between types
and kinds. Another way of thinking about this is that the type Bool
and
the “promoted kind” Bool
are actually identical. (Note that term
True
and the type 'True
are still distinct, because the former can
be used in expressions and the latter in types.) This lack of distinction
between types and kinds is a hallmark of dependently typed languages.
Full dependently typed languages also remove the difference between expressions
and types, but doing that in GHC is a story for another day.
One simplification allowed by combining types and kinds is that the type
of *
is just *
. It is true that the * :: *
axiom can lead to
nontermination, but this is not a problem in GHC, as we already have other
means of nonterminating programs in both types and expressions. This
decision (among many, many others) does mean that despite the expressiveness
of GHC’s type system, a “proof” you write in Haskell is not an irrefutable
mathematical proof. GHC promises only partial correctness, that if your
programs compile and run to completion, their results indeed have the types
assigned. It makes no claim about programs that do not finish in a finite
amount of time.
To learn more about this decision and the design of GHC under the hood please see the paper introducing this kind system to GHC/Haskell.
9.11.4. Principles of kind inference¶
Generally speaking, when XPolyKinds
is on, GHC tries to infer the
most general kind for a declaration.
In this case the definition has a righthand side to inform kind
inference. But that is not always the case. Consider
type family F a
Type family declarations have no righthand side, but GHC must still
infer a kind for F
. Since there are no constraints, it could infer
F :: forall k1 k2. k1 > k2
, but that seems too polymorphic. So
GHC defaults those entirelyunconstrained kind variables to *
and we
get F :: * > *
. You can still declare F
to be kindpolymorphic
using kind signatures:
type family F1 a  F1 :: * > *
type family F2 (a :: k)  F2 :: forall k. k > *
type family F3 a :: k  F3 :: forall k. * > k
type family F4 (a :: k1) :: k2  F4 :: forall k1 k2. k1 > k2
The general principle is this:
 When there is a righthand side, GHC infers the most polymorphic kind consistent with the righthand side. Examples: ordinary data type and GADT declarations, class declarations. In the case of a class declaration the role of “right hand side” is played by the class method signatures.
 When there is no right hand side, GHC defaults argument and result kinds to ``*``, except when directed otherwise by a kind signature. Examples: data and open type family declarations.
This rule has occasionallysurprising consequences (see Trac #10132.
class C a where  Class declarations are generalised
 so C :: forall k. k > Constraint
data D1 a  No right hand side for these two family
type F1 a  declarations, but the class forces (a :: k)
 so D1, F1 :: forall k. k > *
data D2 a  No righthand side so D2 :: * > *
type F2 a  No righthand side so F2 :: * > *
The kindpolymorphism from the class declaration makes D1
kindpolymorphic, but not so D2
; and similarly F1
, F1
.
9.11.5. Complete usersupplied kind signatures and polymorphic recursion¶
Just as in type inference, kind inference for recursive types can only use monomorphic recursion. Consider this (contrived) example:
data T m a = MkT (m a) (T Maybe (m a))
 GHC infers kind T :: (* > *) > * > *
The recursive use of T
forced the second argument to have kind
*
. However, just as in type inference, you can achieve polymorphic
recursion by giving a complete usersupplied kind signature (or CUSK)
for T
. A CUSK is present when all argument kinds and the result kind
are known, without any need for inference. For example:
data T (m :: k > *) :: k > * where
MkT :: m a > T Maybe (m a) > T m a
The complete usersupplied kind signature specifies the polymorphic kind
for T
, and this signature is used for all the calls to T
including the recursive ones. In particular, the recursive use of T
is at kind *
.
What exactly is considered to be a “complete usersupplied kind signature” for a type constructor? These are the forms:
For a datatype, every type variable must be annotated with a kind. In a GADTstyle declaration, there may also be a kind signature (with a toplevel
::
in the header), but the presence or absence of this annotation does not affect whether or not the declaration has a complete signature.data T1 :: (k > *) > k > * where ...  Yes; T1 :: forall k. (k>*) > k > * data T2 (a :: k > *) :: k > * where ...  Yes; T2 :: forall k. (k>*) > k > * data T3 (a :: k > *) (b :: k) :: * where ...  Yes; T3 :: forall k. (k>*) > k > * data T4 (a :: k > *) (b :: k) where ...  Yes; T4 :: forall k. (k>*) > k > * data T5 a (b :: k) :: * where ...  No; kind is inferred data T6 a b where ...  No; kind is inferred
For a datatype with a toplevel
::
whenXTypeInType
is in effect: all kind variables introduced after the::
must be explicitly quantified. XTypeInType is on data T1 :: k > *  No CUSK: `k` is not explicitly quantified data T2 :: forall k. k > *  CUSK: `k` is bound explicitly data T3 :: forall (k :: *). k > *  still a CUSK
Note that the first example would indeed have a CUSK without
XTypeInType
.For a class, every type variable must be annotated with a kind.
For a type synonym, every type variable and the result type must all be annotated with kinds:
type S1 (a :: k) = (a :: k)  Yes S1 :: forall k. k > k type S2 (a :: k) = a  No kind is inferred type S3 (a :: k) = Proxy a  No kind is inferred
Note that in
S2
andS3
, the kind of the righthand side is rather apparent, but it is still not considered to have a complete signature – no inference can be done before detecting the signature.An unassociated open type or data family declaration always has a CUSK; unannotated type variables default to kind
*
:data family D1 a  D1 :: * > * data family D2 (a :: k)  D2 :: forall k. k > * data family D3 (a :: k) :: *  D3 :: forall k. k > * type family S1 a :: k > *  S1 :: forall k. * > k > *
An associated type or data family declaration has a CUSK precisely if its enclosing class has a CUSK.
class C a where  no CUSK type AT a b  no CUSK, b is defaulted class D (a :: k) where  yes CUSK type AT2 a b  yes CUSK, b is defaulted
A closed type family has a complete signature when all of its type variables are annotated and a return kind (with a toplevel
::
) is supplied.
With XTypeInType
enabled, it is possible to write a datatype
that syntactically has a CUSK (according to the rules above)
but actually requires some inference. As a very contrived example, consider
data Proxy a  Proxy :: forall k. k > *
data X (a :: Proxy k)
According to the rules above X
has a CUSK. Yet, what is the kind of k
?
It is impossible to know. This code is thus rejected as masquerading as having
a CUSK, but not really. If you wish k
to be polykinded, it is straightforward
to specify this:
data X (a :: Proxy (k1 :: k2))
The above definition is indeed fully fixed, with no masquerade.
9.11.6. Kind inference in closed type families¶
Although all open type families are considered to have a complete usersupplied kind signature, we can relax this condition for closed type families, where we have equations on which to perform kind inference. GHC will infer kinds for the arguments and result types of a closed type family.
GHC supports kindindexed type families, where the family matches both on the kind and type. GHC will not infer this behaviour without a complete usersupplied kind signature, as doing so would sometimes infer nonprincipal types. Indeed, we can see kindindexing as a form of polymorphic recursion, where a type is used at a kind other than its most general in its own definition.
For example:
type family F1 a where
F1 True = False
F1 False = True
F1 x = x
 F1 fails to compile: kindindexing is not inferred
type family F2 (a :: k) where
F2 True = False
F2 False = True
F2 x = x
 F2 fails to compile: no complete signature
type family F3 (a :: k) :: k where
F3 True = False
F3 False = True
F3 x = x
 OK
9.11.7. Kind inference in class instance declarations¶
Consider the following example of a polykinded class and an instance for it:
class C a where
type F a
instance C b where
type F b = b > b
In the class declaration, nothing constrains the kind of the type a
,
so it becomes a polykinded type variable (a :: k)
. Yet, in the
instance declaration, the righthand side of the associated type
instance b > b
says that b
must be of kind *
. GHC could
theoretically propagate this information back into the instance head,
and make that instance declaration apply only to type of kind *
, as
opposed to types of any kind. However, GHC does not do this.
In short: GHC does not propagate kind information from the members of a class instance declaration into the instance declaration head.
This lack of kind inference is simply an engineering problem within GHC,
but getting it to work would make a substantial change to the inference
infrastructure, and it’s not clear the payoff is worth it. If you want
to restrict b
‘s kind in the instance above, just use a kind
signature in the instance head.
9.11.8. Kind inference in type signatures¶
When kindchecking a type, GHC considers only what is written in that type when figuring out how to generalise the type’s kind.
For example,
consider these definitions (with XScopedTypeVariables
):
data Proxy a  Proxy :: forall k. k > *
p :: forall a. Proxy a
p = Proxy :: Proxy (a :: *)
GHC reports an error, saying that the kind of a
should be a kind variable
k
, not *
. This is because, by looking at the type signature
forall a. Proxy a
, GHC assumes a
‘s kind should be generalised, not
restricted to be *
. The function definition is then rejected for being
more specific than its type signature.
9.11.9. Explicit kind quantification¶
Enabled by XTypeInType
, GHC now supports explicit kind quantification,
as in these examples:
data Proxy :: forall k. k > *
f :: (forall k (a :: k). Proxy a > ()) > Int
Note that the second example has a forall
that binds both a kind k
and
a type variable a
of kind k
. In general, there is no limit to how
deeply nested this sort of dependency can work. However, the dependency must
be wellscoped: forall (a :: k) k. ...
is an error.
For backward compatibility, kind variables do not need to be bound explicitly,
even if the type starts with forall
.
Accordingly, the rule for kind quantification in higherrank contexts has
changed slightly. In GHC 7, if a kind variable was mentioned for the first
time in the kind of a variable bound in a nontoplevel forall
, the kind
variable was bound there, too.
That is, in f :: (forall (a :: k). ...) > ...
, the k
was bound
by the same forall
as the a
. In GHC 8, however, all kind variables
mentioned in a type are bound at the outermost level. If you want one bound
in a higherrank forall
, include it explicitly.
9.11.10. Kindindexed GADTs¶
Consider the type
data G (a :: k) where
GInt :: G Int
GMaybe :: G Maybe
This datatype G
is GADTlike in both its kind and its type. Suppose you
have g :: G a
, where a :: k
. Then pattern matching to discover that
g
is in fact `GMaybe
tells you both that k ~ (* > *)
and
a ~ Maybe
. The definition for G
requires that XTypeInType
be in effect, but patternmatching on G
requires no extension beyond
XGADTs
. That this works is actually a straightforward extension
of regular GADTs and a consequence of the fact that kinds and types are the
same.
Note that the datatype G
is used at different kinds in its body, and
therefore that kindindexed GADTs use a form of polymorphic recursion.
It is thus only possible to use this feature if you have provided a
complete usersupplied kind signature
for the datatype (Complete usersupplied kind signatures and polymorphic recursion).
9.11.11. Constraints in kinds¶
As kinds and types are the same, kinds can now (with XTypeInType
)
contain type constraints. Only equality constraints are currently supported,
however. We expect this to extend to other constraints in the future.
Here is an example of a constrained kind:
type family IsTypeLit a where
IsTypeLit Nat = 'True
IsTypeLit Symbol = 'True
IsTypeLit a = 'False
data T :: forall a. (IsTypeLit a ~ 'True) => a > * where
MkNat :: T 42
MkSymbol :: T "Don't panic!"
The declarations above are accepted. However, if we add MkOther :: T Int
,
we get an error that the equality constraint is not satisfied; Int
is
not a type literal. Note that explicitly quantifying with forall a
is
not necessary here.
9.11.12. The kind *
¶
The kind *
classifies ordinary types. Without XTypeInType
,
this identifier is always in scope when writing a kind. However, with
XTypeInType
, a user may wish to use *
in a type or a
type operator *
in a kind. To make this all more manageable, *
becomes an (almost) ordinary name with XTypeInType
enabled.
So as not to cause naming collisions, it is not imported by default;
you must import Data.Kind
to get *
(but only with XTypeInType
enabled).
The only way *
is unordinary is in its parsing. In order to be backward
compatible, *
is parsed as if it were an alphanumeric idenfifier; note
that we do not write Int :: (*)
but just plain Int :: *
. Due to the
bizarreness with which *
is parsedand the fact that it is the only such
operator in GHCthere are some corner cases that are
not handled. We are aware of two:
In a Haskell98style data constructor, you must put parentheses around
*
, like this:data Universe = Ty (*)  Num Int  ...
In an import/export list, you must put parentheses around
*
, like this:import Data.Kind ( type (*) )
Note that the keyword
type
there is just to disambiguate the import from a termlevel(*)
. (Explicit namespaces in import/export)
The Data.Kind
module also exports Type
as a synonym for *
.
Now that type synonyms work in kinds, it is conceivable that we will deprecate
*
when there is a good migration story for everyone to use Type
.
If you like neither of these names, feel free to write your own synonym:
type Set = *  silly Agda programmers...
All the affordances for *
also apply to ★
, the Unicode variant
of *
.
9.11.13. Inferring dependency in datatype declarations¶
If a type variable a
in a datatype, class, or type family declaration
depends on another such variable k
in the same declaration, two properties
must hold:
a
must appear afterk
in the declaration, andk
must appear explicitly in the kind of some type variable in that declaration.
The first bullet simply means that the dependency must be wellscoped. The
second bullet concerns GHC’s ability to infer dependency. Inferring this
dependency is difficult, and GHC currently requires the dependency to be
made explicit, meaning that k
must appear in the kind of a type variable,
making it obvious to GHC that dependency is intended. For example:
data Proxy k (a :: k)  OK: dependency is "obvious"
data Proxy2 k a = P (Proxy k a)  ERROR: dependency is unclear
In the second declaration, GHC cannot immediately tell that k
should
be a dependent variable, and so the declaration is rejected.
It is conceivable that this restriction will be relaxed in the future, but it is (at the time of writing) unclear if the difficulties around this scenario are theoretical (inferring this dependency would mean our type system does not have principal types) or merely practical (inferring this dependency is hard, given GHC’s implementation). So, GHC takes the easy way out and requires a little help from the user.
9.11.14. Kind defaulting without XPolyKinds
¶
Without XPolyKinds
or XTypeInType
enabled, GHC
refuses to generalise over kind variables. It thus defaults kind variables
to *
when possible; when this is not possible, an error is issued.
Here is an example of this in action:
{# LANGUAGE TypeInType #}
data Proxy a = P  inferred kind: Proxy :: k > *
data Compose f g x = MkCompose (f (g x))
 inferred kind: Compose :: (b > *) > (a > b) > a > *
 separate module having imported the first
{# LANGUAGE NoPolyKinds, DataKinds #}
z = Proxy :: Proxy 'MkCompose
In the last line, we use the promoted constructor 'MkCompose
, which has
kind
forall (a :: *) (b :: *) (f :: b > *) (g :: a > b) (x :: a).
f (g x) > Compose f g x
Now we must infer a type for z
. To do so without generalising over kind
variables, we must default the kind variables of 'MkCompose
. We can
easily default a
and b
to *
, but f
and g
would be illkinded
if defaulted. The definition for z
is thus an error.
9.11.15. Prettyprinting in the presence of kind polymorphism¶
With kind polymorphism, there is quite a bit going on behind the scenes that
may be invisible to a Haskell programmer. GHC supports several flags that
control how types are printed in error messages and at the GHCi prompt.
See the discussion of type prettyprinting options
for further details. If you are using kind polymorphism and are confused as to
why GHC is rejecting (or accepting) your program, we encourage you to turn on
these flags, especially fprintexplicitkinds
.
9.12. Levity polymorphism¶
In order to allow full flexibility in how kinds are used, it is necessary
to use the kind system to differentiate between boxed, lifted types
(normal, everyday types like Int
and [Bool]
) and unboxed, primitive
types (Unboxed types and primitive operations) like Int#
. We thus have socalled levity
polymorphism.
Here are the key definitions, all available from GHC.Exts
:
TYPE :: RuntimeRep > *  highly magical, built into GHC
data RuntimeRep = LiftedRep  for things like `Int`
 UnliftedRep  for things like `Array#`
 IntRep  for `Int#`
 TupleRep [RuntimeRep]  unboxed tuples, indexed by the representations of the elements
 SumRep [RuntimeRep]  unboxed sums, indexed by the representations of the disjuncts
 ...
type * = TYPE LiftedRep  * is just an ordinary type synonym
The idea is that we have a new fundamental type constant TYPE
, which
is parameterised by a RuntimeRep
. We thus get Int# :: TYPE 'IntRep
and Bool :: TYPE 'LiftedRep
. Anything with a type of the form
TYPE x
can appear to either side of a function arrow >
. We can
thus say that >
has type
TYPE r1 > TYPE r2 > TYPE 'LiftedRep
. The result is always lifted
because all functions are lifted in GHC.
9.12.1. No levitypolymorphic variables or arguments¶
If GHC didn’t have to compile programs that run in the real world, that would be the end of the story. But representation polymorphism can cause quite a bit of trouble for GHC’s code generator. Consider
bad :: forall (r1 :: RuntimeRep) (r2 :: RuntimeRep)
(a :: TYPE r1) (b :: TYPE r2).
(a > b) > a > b
bad f x = f x
This seems like a generalisation of the standard $
operator. If we
think about compiling this to runnable code, though, problems appear.
In particular, when we call bad
, we must somehow pass x
into
bad
. How wide (that is, how many bits) is x
? Is it a pointer?
What kind of register (floatingpoint or integral) should x
go in?
It’s all impossible to say, because x
‘s type, TYPE r2
is
levity polymorphic. We thus forbid such constructions, via the
following straightforward rule:
No variable may have a levitypolymorphic type.
This eliminates bad
because the variable x
would have a
representationpolymorphic type.
However, not all is lost. We can still do this:
($) :: forall r (a :: *) (b :: TYPE r).
(a > b) > a > b
f $ x = f x
Here, only b
is levity polymorphic. There are no variables
with a levitypolymorphic type. And the code generator has no
trouble with this. Indeed, this is the true type of GHC’s $
operator,
slightly more general than the Haskell 98 version.
Because the code generator must store and move arguments as well as variables, the logic above applies equally well to function arguments, which may not be levitypolymorphic.
9.12.2. Levitypolymorphic bottoms¶
We can use levity polymorphism to good effect with error
and undefined
, whose types are given here:
undefined :: forall (r :: RuntimeRep) (a :: TYPE r).
HasCallStack => a
error :: forall (r :: RuntimeRep) (a :: TYPE r).
HasCallStack => String > a
These functions do not bind a levitypolymorphic variable, and so are accepted. Their polymorphism allows users to use these to conveniently stub out functions that return unboxed types.
9.12.3. Printing levitypolymorphic types¶

Wprintexplicitruntimerep
Print
RuntimeRep
parameters as they appear; otherwise, they are defaulted to'LiftedRep
.
Most GHC users will not need to worry about levity polymorphism
or unboxed types. For these users, seeing the levity polymorphism
in the type of $
is unhelpful. And thus, by default, it is suppressed,
by supposing all type variables of type RuntimeRep
to be 'LiftedRep
when printing, and printing TYPE 'LiftedRep
as *
.
Should you wish to see levity polymorphism in your types, enable
the flag fprintexplicitruntimereps
.
9.13. TypeLevel Literals¶
GHC supports numeric and string literals at the type level, giving
convenient access to a large number of predefined typelevel constants.
Numeric literals are of kind Nat
, while string literals are of kind
Symbol
. This feature is enabled by the XDataKinds
language
extension.
The kinds of the literals and all other lowlevel operations for this
feature are defined in module GHC.TypeLits
. Note that the module
defines some typelevel operators that clash with their valuelevel
counterparts (e.g. (+)
). Import and export declarations referring to
these operators require an explicit namespace annotation (see
Explicit namespaces in import/export).
Here is an example of using typelevel numeric literals to provide a safe interface to a lowlevel function:
import GHC.TypeLits
import Data.Word
import Foreign
newtype ArrPtr (n :: Nat) a = ArrPtr (Ptr a)
clearPage :: ArrPtr 4096 Word8 > IO ()
clearPage (ArrPtr p) = ...
Here is an example of using typelevel string literals to simulate simple record operations:
data Label (l :: Symbol) = Get
class Has a l b  a l > b where
from :: a > Label l > b
data Point = Point Int Int deriving Show
instance Has Point "x" Int where from (Point x _) _ = x
instance Has Point "y" Int where from (Point _ y) _ = y
example = from (Point 1 2) (Get :: Label "x")
9.13.1. Runtime Values for TypeLevel Literals¶
Sometimes it is useful to access the valuelevel literal associated with
a typelevel literal. This is done with the functions natVal
and
symbolVal
. For example:
GHC.TypeLits> natVal (Proxy :: Proxy 2)
2
These functions are overloaded because they need to return a different result, depending on the type at which they are instantiated.
natVal :: KnownNat n => proxy n > Integer
 instance KnownNat 0
 instance KnownNat 1
 instance KnownNat 2
 ...
GHC discharges the constraint as soon as it knows what concrete
typelevel literal is being used in the program. Note that this works
only for literals and not arbitrary type expressions. For example, a
constraint of the form KnownNat (a + b)
will not be simplified to
(KnownNat a, KnownNat b)
; instead, GHC will keep the constraint as
is, until it can simplify a + b
to a constant value.
It is also possible to convert a runtime integer or string value to the
corresponding typelevel literal. Of course, the resulting type literal
will be unknown at compiletime, so it is hidden in an existential type.
The conversion may be performed using someNatVal
for integers and
someSymbolVal
for strings:
someNatVal :: Integer > Maybe SomeNat
SomeNat :: KnownNat n => Proxy n > SomeNat
The operations on strings are similar.
9.13.2. Computing With TypeLevel Naturals¶
GHC 7.8 can evaluate arithmetic expressions involving typelevel natural
numbers. Such expressions may be constructed using the typefamilies
(+), (*), (^)
for addition, multiplication, and exponentiation.
Numbers may be compared using (<=?)
, which returns a promoted
boolean value, or (<=)
, which compares numbers as a constraint. For
example:
GHC.TypeLits> natVal (Proxy :: Proxy (2 + 3))
5
At present, GHC is quite limited in its reasoning about arithmetic: it
will only evaluate the arithmetic type functions and compare the
results— in the same way that it does for any other type function. In
particular, it does not know more general facts about arithmetic, such
as the commutativity and associativity of (+)
, for example.
However, it is possible to perform a bit of “backwards” evaluation. For example, here is how we could get GHC to compute arbitrary logarithms at the type level:
lg :: Proxy base > Proxy (base ^ pow) > Proxy pow
lg _ _ = Proxy
GHC.TypeLits> natVal (lg (Proxy :: Proxy 2) (Proxy :: Proxy 8))
3
9.14. Constraints in types¶
9.14.1. 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 higherrank 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
to
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.
9.14.2. Heterogeneous equality¶
GHC also supports kindheterogeneous 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 fprintequalityrelations
is set.
9.14.3. 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 fprintequalityrelations
is enabled.
9.14.4. 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”.
9.14.5. The Constraint
kind¶

XConstraintKinds
Since: 7.4.1 Allow types of kind
Constraint
to be used in contexts.
Normally, constraints (which appear in types to the left of the =>
arrow) have a very restricted syntax. They can only be:
 Class constraints, e.g.
Show a
Implicit parameter
constraints, e.g.?x::Int
(with theXImplicitParams
flag) Equality constraints, e.g.
a ~ Int
(with theXTypeFamilies
orXGADTs
flag)
With the XConstraintKinds
flag, GHC becomes more liberal in what it
accepts as constraints in your program. To be precise, with this flag
any type of the new kind Constraint
can be used as a constraint.
The following things have kind Constraint
:
Anything which is already valid as a constraint without the flag: saturated applications to type classes, implicit parameter and equality constraints.
Tuples, all of whose component types have kind
Constraint
. So for example the type(Show a, Ord a)
is of kindConstraint
.Anything whose form is not yet known, but the user has declared to have kind
Constraint
(for which they need to import it fromGHC.Exts
). So for exampletype Foo (f :: \* > Constraint) = forall b. f b => b > b
is allowed, as well as examples involving type families:type family Typ a b :: Constraint type instance Typ Int b = Show b type instance Typ Bool b = Num b func :: Typ a b => a > b > b func = ...
Note that because constraints are just handled as types of a particular kind, this extension allows type constraint synonyms:
type Stringy a = (Read a, Show a)
foo :: Stringy a => a > (String, String > a)
foo x = (show x, read)
Presently, only standard constraints, tuples and type synonyms for those two sorts of constraint are permitted in instance contexts and superclasses (without extra flags). The reason is that permitting more general constraints can cause type checking to loop, as it would with these two programs:
type family Clsish u a
type instance Clsish () a = Cls a
class Clsish () a => Cls a where
class OkCls a where
type family OkClsish u a
type instance OkClsish () a = OkCls a
instance OkClsish () a => OkCls a where
You may write programs that use exotic sorts of constraints in instance
contexts and superclasses, but to do so you must use
XUndecidableInstances
to signal that you don’t mind if the type
checker fails to terminate.
9.15. Extensions to type signatures¶
9.15.1. Explicit universal quantification (forall)¶

XExplicitForAll
Since: 6.12 Allow use of the
forall
keyword in places where universal quantification is implicit.
Haskell type signatures are implicitly quantified. When the language
option XExplicitForAll
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).
Notes:
With
XExplicitForAll
,forall
becomes a keyword; you can’t useforall
as a type variable any more!As well in type signatures, you can also use an explicit
forall
in an instance declaration:instance forall a. Eq a => Eq [a] where ...
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.
9.15.2. The context of a type signature¶
The XFlexibleContexts
flag lifts the Haskell 98 restriction that
the typeclass constraints in a type signature must have the form (class
typevariable) or (class (typevariable type1 type2 ... typen)). With
XFlexibleContexts
these type signatures are perfectly okay
g :: Eq [a] => ...
g :: Ord (T a ()) => ...
The flag XFlexibleContexts
also lifts the corresponding restriction
on class declarations (The superclasses of a class declaration) and instance
declarations (Relaxed rules for instance contexts).
9.15.3. Ambiguous types and the ambiguity check¶

XAllowAmbiguousTypes
Since: 7.8.1 Allow type signatures which appear that they would result in an unusable binding.
Each userwritten type signature is subjected to an ambiguity check. The ambiguity check rejects functions that can never be called; for example:
f :: C a => Int
The idea is there can be no legal calls to f
because every call will
give rise to an ambiguous constraint. Indeed, the only purpose of the
ambiguity check is to report functions that cannot possibly be called.
We could soundly omit the ambiguity check on type signatures entirely,
at the expense of delaying ambiguity errors to call sites. Indeed, the
language extension XAllowAmbiguousTypes
switches off the ambiguity
check.
Ambiguity can be subtle. Consider this example which uses functional dependencies:
class D a b  a > b where ..
h :: D Int b => Int
The Int
may well fix b
at the call site, so that signature
should not be rejected. Moreover, the dependencies might be hidden.
Consider
class X a b where ...
class D a b  a > b where ...
instance D a b => X [a] b where...
h :: X a b => a > a
Here h
‘s type looks ambiguous in b
, but here’s a legal call:
...(h [True])...
That gives rise to a (X [Bool] beta)
constraint, and using the
instance means we need (D Bool beta)
and that fixes beta
via
D
‘s fundep!
Behind all these special cases there is a simple guiding principle. Consider
f :: type
f = ...blah...
g :: type
g = f
You would think that the definition of g
would surely typecheck!
After all f
has exactly the same type, and g=f
. But in fact
f
‘s type is instantiated and the instantiated constraints are solved
against the constraints bound by g
‘s signature. So, in the case an
ambiguous type, solving will fail. For example, consider the earlier
definition f :: C a => Int
:
f :: C a => Int
f = ...blah...
g :: C a => Int
g = f
In g
‘s definition, we’ll instantiate to (C alpha)
and try to
deduce (C alpha)
from (C a)
, and fail.
So in fact we use this as our definition of ambiguity: a type ty
is ambiguous if and only if ((undefined :: ty) :: ty)
would fail to
typecheck. We use a very similar test for inferred types, to ensure
that they too are unambiguous.
Switching off the ambiguity check. Even if a function is has an ambiguous type according the “guiding principle”, it is possible that the function is callable. For example:
class D a b where ...
instance D Bool b where ...
strange :: D a b => a > a
strange = ...blah...
foo = strange True
Here strange
‘s type is ambiguous, but the call in foo
is OK
because it gives rise to a constraint (D Bool beta)
, which is
soluble by the (D Bool b)
instance. So the language extension
XAllowAmbiguousTypes
allows you to switch off the ambiguity check.
But even with ambiguity checking switched off, GHC will complain about a
function that can never be called, such as this one:
f :: (Int ~ Bool) => a > a
Note
A historical note. GHC used to impose some more restrictive and less
principled conditions on type signatures. For type
forall tv1..tvn (c1, ...,cn) => type
GHC used to require
 that each universally quantified type variable
tvi
must be “reachable” fromtype
, and that every constraint
ci
mentions at least one of the universally quantified type variablestvi
. These adhoc restrictions are completely subsumed by the new ambiguity check.
9.15.4. Explicitlykinded quantification¶

XKindSignatures
Allow explicit kind signatures on type variables.
Haskell infers the kind of each type variable. Sometimes it is nice to be able to give the kind explicitly as (machinechecked) documentation, just as it is nice to give a type signature for a function. On some occasions, it is essential to do so. For example, in his paper “Restricted Data Types in Haskell” (Haskell Workshop 1999) John Hughes had to define the data type:
data Set cxt a = Set [a]
 Unused (cxt a > ())
The only use for the Unused
constructor was to force the correct
kind for the type variable cxt
.
GHC now instead allows you to specify the kind of a type variable
directly, wherever a type variable is explicitly bound, with the flag
XKindSignatures
.
This flag enables kind signatures in the following places:
data
declarations:data Set (cxt :: * > *) a = Set [a]
type
declarations:type T (f :: * > *) = f Int
class
declarations:class (Eq a) => C (f :: * > *) a where ...
forall
‘s in type signatures:f :: forall (cxt :: * > *). Set cxt Int
The parentheses are required. Some of the spaces are required too, to
separate the lexemes. If you write (f::*>*)
you will get a parse
error, because ::*>*
is a single lexeme in Haskell.
As part of the same extension, you can put kind annotations in types as well. Thus:
f :: (Int :: *) > Int
g :: forall a. a > (a :: *)
The syntax is
atype ::= '(' ctype '::' kind ')
The parentheses are required.
9.16. Lexically scoped type variables¶

XScopedTypeVariables
Implies: XExplicitForAll
Enable lexical scoping of type variables explicitly introduced with
forall
.
GHC supports lexically scoped type variables, without which some type signatures are simply impossible to write. For example:
f :: forall a. [a] > [a]
f xs = ys ++ ys
where
ys :: [a]
ys = reverse xs
The type signature for f
brings the type variable a
into scope,
because of the explicit forall
(Declaration type signatures). The type
variables bound by a forall
scope over the entire definition of the
accompanying value declaration. In this example, the type variable a
scopes over the whole definition of f
, including over the type
signature for ys
. In Haskell 98 it is not possible to declare a type
for ys
; a major benefit of scoped type variables is that it becomes
possible to do so.
9.16.1. Overview¶
The design follows the following principles
 A scoped type variable stands for a type variable, and not for a type. (This is a change from GHC’s earlier design.)
 Furthermore, distinct lexical type variables stand for distinct type variables. This means that every programmerwritten type signature (including one that contains free scoped type variables) denotes a rigid type; that is, the type is fully known to the type checker, and no inference is involved.
 Lexical type variables may be alpharenamed freely, without changing the program.
A lexically scoped type variable can be bound by:
 A declaration type signature (Declaration type signatures)
 An expression type signature (Expression type signatures)
 A pattern type signature (Pattern type signatures)
 Class and instance declarations (Class and instance declarations)
In Haskell, a programmerwritten type signature is implicitly quantified
over its free type variables (Section
4.1.2 of
the Haskell Report). Lexically scoped type variables affect this
implicit quantification rules as follows: any type variable that is in
scope is not universally quantified. For example, if type variable
a
is in scope, then
(e :: a > a) means (e :: a > a)
(e :: b > b) means (e :: forall b. b>b)
(e :: a > b) means (e :: forall b. a>b)
9.16.2. Declaration type signatures¶
A declaration type signature that has explicit quantification (using
forall
) brings into scope the explicitlyquantified type variables,
in the definition of the named function. For example:
f :: forall a. [a] > [a]
f (x:xs) = xs ++ [ x :: a ]
The “forall a
” brings “a
” into scope in the definition of
“f
”.
This only happens if:
The quantification in
f
‘s type signature is explicit. For example:g :: [a] > [a] g (x:xs) = xs ++ [ x :: a ]
This program will be rejected, because “
a
” does not scope over the definition of “g
”, so “x::a
” means “x::forall a. a
” by Haskell’s usual implicit quantification rules.The signature gives a type for a function binding or a bare variable binding, not a pattern binding. For example:
f1 :: forall a. [a] > [a] f1 (x:xs) = xs ++ [ x :: a ]  OK f2 :: forall a. [a] > [a] f2 = \(x:xs) > xs ++ [ x :: a ]  OK f3 :: forall a. [a] > [a] Just f3 = Just (\(x:xs) > xs ++ [ x :: a ])  Not OK!
The binding for
f3
is a pattern binding, and so its type signature does not bringa
into scope. Howeverf1
is a function binding, andf2
binds a bare variable; in both cases the type signature bringsa
into scope.
9.16.3. Expression type signatures¶
An expression type signature that has explicit quantification (using
forall
) brings into scope the explicitlyquantified type variables,
in the annotated expression. For example:
f = runST ( (op >>= \(x :: STRef s Int) > g x) :: forall s. ST s Bool )
Here, the type signature forall s. ST s Bool
brings the type
variable s
into scope, in the annotated expression
(op >>= \(x :: STRef s Int) > g x)
.
9.16.4. Pattern type signatures¶
A type signature may occur in any pattern; this is a pattern type signature. For example:
 f and g assume that 'a' is already in scope
f = \(x::Int, y::a) > x
g (x::a) = x
h ((x,y) :: (Int,Bool)) = (y,x)
In the case where all the type variables in the pattern type signature are already in scope (i.e. bound by the enclosing context), matters are simple: the signature simply constrains the type of the pattern in the obvious way.
Unlike expression and declaration type signatures, pattern type signatures are not implicitly generalised. The pattern in a pattern binding may only mention type variables that are already in scope. For example:
f :: forall a. [a] > (Int, [a])
f xs = (n, zs)
where
(ys::[a], n) = (reverse xs, length xs)  OK
zs::[a] = xs ++ ys  OK
Just (v::b) = ...  Not OK; b is not in scope
Here, the pattern signatures for ys
and zs
are fine, but the one
for v
is not because b
is not in scope.
However, in all patterns other than pattern bindings, a pattern type signature may mention a type variable that is not in scope; in this case, the signature brings that type variable into scope. This is particularly important for existential data constructors. For example:
data T = forall a. MkT [a]
k :: T > T
k (MkT [t::a]) =
MkT t3
where
t3::[a] = [t,t,t]
Here, the pattern type signature (t::a)
mentions a lexical type
variable that is not already in scope. Indeed, it cannot already be in
scope, because it is bound by the pattern match. GHC’s rule is that in
this situation (and only then), a pattern type signature can mention a
type variable that is not already in scope; the effect is to bring it
into scope, standing for the existentiallybound type variable.
When a pattern type signature binds a type variable in this way, GHC insists that the type variable is bound to a rigid, or fullyknown, type variable. This means that any userwritten type signature always stands for a completely known type.
If all this seems a little odd, we think so too. But we must have some way to bring such type variables into scope, else we could not name existentiallybound type variables in subsequent type signatures.
This is (now) the only situation in which a pattern type signature is
allowed to mention a lexical variable that is not already in scope. For
example, both f
and g
would be illegal if a
was not already
in scope.
9.16.5. Class and instance declarations¶
The type variables in the head of a class
or instance
declaration scope over the methods defined in the where
part. You do
not even need an explicit forall
(although you are allowed an explicit
forall
in an instance
declaration; see Explicit universal quantification (forall)).
For example:
class C a where
op :: [a] > a
op xs = let ys::[a]
ys = reverse xs
in
head ys
instance C b => C [b] where
op xs = reverse (head (xs :: [[b]]))
9.17. Bindings and generalisation¶
9.17.1. Switching off the dreaded Monomorphism Restriction¶

XNoMonomorphismRestriction
Default: on Prevents the compiler from applying the monomorphism restriction to bindings lacking explicit type signatures.
Haskell’s monomorphism restriction (see Section
4.5.5 of
the Haskell Report) can be completely switched off by
XNoMonomorphismRestriction
. Since GHC 7.8.1, the monomorphism
restriction is switched off by default in GHCi’s interactive options
(see Setting options for interactive evaluation only).
9.17.2. Letgeneralisation¶

XMonoLocalBinds
Since: 6.12 Infer less polymorphic types for local bindings by default.
An MLstyle language usually generalises the type of any let
bound or
where
bound variable, so that it is as polymorphic as possible. With the
flag XMonoLocalBinds
GHC implements a slightly more conservative
policy, using the following rules:
 A variable is closed if and only if
 the variable is letbound
 one of the following holds:
 the variable has an explicit type signature that has no free type variables, or
 its binding group is fully generalised (see next bullet)
 A binding group is fully generalised if and only if
 each of its free variables is either imported or closed, and
 the binding is not affected by the monomorphism restriction (Haskell Report, Section 4.5.5)
For example, consider
f x = x + 1
g x = let h y = f y * 2
k z = z+x
in h x + k x
Here f
is generalised because it has no free variables; and its
binding group is unaffected by the monomorphism restriction; and hence
f
is closed. The same reasoning applies to g
, except that it has
one closed free variable, namely f
. Similarly h
is closed, even
though it is not bound at top level, because its only free variable
f
is closed. But k
is not closed, because it mentions x
which is not closed (because it is not letbound).
Notice that a toplevel binding that is affected by the monomorphism restriction is not closed, and hence may in turn prevent generalisation of bindings that mention it.
The rationale for this more conservative strategy is given in the papers “Let should not be generalised” and “Modular type inference with local assumptions”, and a related blog post.
The flag XMonoLocalBinds
is implied by XTypeFamilies
and XGADTs
. You can switch it off again with
XNoMonoLocalBinds
but type inference becomes
less predicatable if you do so. (Read the papers!)
9.18. Visible type application¶

XTypeApplications
Since: 8.0.1 Allow the use of type application syntax.
The XTypeApplications
extension allows you to use
visible type application in expressions. Here is an
example: show (read @Int "5")
. The @Int
is the visible type application; it specifies the value of the type variable
in read
‘s type.
A visible type application is preceded with an @
sign. (To disambiguate the syntax, the @
must be
preceded with a nonidentifier letter, usually a space. For example,
read@Int 5
would not parse.) It can be used whenever
the full polymorphic type of the function is known. If the function
is an identifier (the common case), its type is considered known only when
the identifier has been given a type signature. If the identifier does
not have a type signature, visible type application cannot be used.
Here are the details:
If an identifier’s type signature does not include an explicit
forall
, the type variable arguments appear in the lefttoright order in which the variables appear in the type. So,foo :: Monad m => a b > m (a c)
will have its type variables ordered asm, a, b, c
.If any of the variables depend on other variables (that is, if some of the variables are kind variables), the variables are reordered so that kind variables come before type variables, preserving the lefttoright order as much as possible. That is, GHC performs a stable topological sort on the variables.
For example: if we have
bar :: Proxy (a :: (j, k)) > b
, then the variables are orderedj
,k
,a
,b
.Visible type application is available to instantiate only userspecified type variables. This means that in
data Proxy a = Proxy
, the unmentioned kind variable used ina
‘s kind is not available for visible type application.Class methods’ type arguments include the class type variables, followed by any variables an individual method is polymorphic in. So,
class Monad m where return :: a > m a
means thatreturn
‘s type arguments arem, a
.With the
XRankNTypes
extension (Lexically scoped type variables), it is possible to declare type arguments somewhere other than the beginning of a type. For example, we can havepair :: forall a. a > forall b. b > (a, b)
and then saypair @Bool True @Char
which would have typeChar > (Bool, Char)
.Partial type signatures (Partial Type Signatures) work nicely with visible type application. If you want to specify only the second type argument to
wurble
, then you can saywurble @_ @Int
. The first argument is a wildcard, just like in a partial type signature. However, if used in a visible type application, it is not necessary to specifyXPartialTypeSignatures
and your code will not generate a warning informing you of the omitted type.When printing types with
fprintexplicitforalls
enabled, type variables not available for visible type application are printed in braces. Thus, if you writemyLength = length
without a type signature,myLength
‘s inferred type will beforall {f} {a}. Foldable f => f a > Int
.Data constructors declared with GADT syntax follow different rules for the time being; it is expected that these will be brought in line with other declarations in the future. The rules for GADT data constructors are as follows:
 All kind and type variables are considered specified and available for visible type application.
 Universal variables always come first, in precisely the order they appear in the type delcaration. Universal variables that are constrained by a GADT return type are not included in the data constructor.
 Existential variables come next. Their order is determined by a user written forall; or, if there is none, by taking the lefttoright order in the data constructor’s type and doing a stable topological sort.
9.19. Implicit parameters¶

XImplicitParams
Allow definition of functions expecting implicit parameters.
Implicit parameters are implemented as described in [Lewis2000] and enabled
with the option XImplicitParams
. (Most of the following, still rather
incomplete, documentation is due to Jeff Lewis.)
[Lewis2000]  “Implicit parameters: dynamic scoping with static types”, J Lewis, MB Shields, E Meijer, J Launchbury, 27th ACM Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages (POPL‘00), Boston, Jan 2000. 
A variable is called dynamically bound when it is bound by the calling context of a function and statically bound when bound by the callee’s context. In Haskell, all variables are statically bound. Dynamic binding of variables is a notion that goes back to Lisp, but was later discarded in more modern incarnations, such as Scheme. Dynamic binding can be very confusing in an untyped language, and unfortunately, typed languages, in particular HindleyMilner typed languages like Haskell, only support static scoping of variables.
However, by a simple extension to the type class system of Haskell, we
can support dynamic binding. Basically, we express the use of a
dynamically bound variable as a constraint on the type. These
constraints lead to types of the form (?x::t') => t
, which says
“this function uses a dynamicallybound variable ?x
of type t'
”.
For example, the following expresses the type of a sort function,
implicitly parameterised by a comparison function named cmp
.
sort :: (?cmp :: a > a > Bool) => [a] > [a]
The dynamic binding constraints are just a new form of predicate in the type class system.
An implicit parameter occurs in an expression using the special form
?x
, where x
is any valid identifier (e.g. ord ?x
is a valid
expression). Use of this construct also introduces a new dynamicbinding
constraint in the type of the expression. For example, the following
definition shows how we can define an implicitly parameterised sort
function in terms of an explicitly parameterised sortBy
function:
sortBy :: (a > a > Bool) > [a] > [a]
sort :: (?cmp :: a > a > Bool) => [a] > [a]
sort = sortBy ?cmp
9.19.1. Implicitparameter type constraints¶
Dynamic binding constraints behave just like other type class
constraints in that they are automatically propagated. Thus, when a
function is used, its implicit parameters are inherited by the function
that called it. For example, our sort
function might be used to pick
out the least value in a list:
least :: (?cmp :: a > a > Bool) => [a] > a
least xs = head (sort xs)
Without lifting a finger, the ?cmp
parameter is propagated to become
a parameter of least
as well. With explicit parameters, the default
is that parameters must always be explicit propagated. With implicit
parameters, the default is to always propagate them.
An implicitparameter type constraint differs from other type class
constraints in the following way: All uses of a particular implicit
parameter must have the same type. This means that the type of
(?x, ?x)
is (?x::a) => (a,a)
, and not
(?x::a, ?x::b) => (a, b)
, as would be the case for type class
constraints.
You can’t have an implicit parameter in the context of a class or instance declaration. For example, both these declarations are illegal:
class (?x::Int) => C a where ...
instance (?x::a) => Foo [a] where ...
Reason: exactly which implicit parameter you pick up depends on exactly where you invoke a function. But the “invocation” of instance declarations is done behind the scenes by the compiler, so it’s hard to figure out exactly where it is done. Easiest thing is to outlaw the offending types.
Implicitparameter constraints do not cause ambiguity. For example, consider:
f :: (?x :: [a]) => Int > Int
f n = n + length ?x
g :: (Read a, Show a) => String > String
g s = show (read s)
Here, g
has an ambiguous type, and is rejected, but f
is fine.
The binding for ?x
at f
‘s call site is quite unambiguous, and
fixes the type a
.
9.19.2. Implicitparameter bindings¶
An implicit parameter is bound using the standard let
or where
binding forms. For example, we define the min
function by binding
cmp
.
min :: Ord a => [a] > a
min = let ?cmp = (<=) in least
A group of implicitparameter bindings may occur anywhere a normal group
of Haskell bindings can occur, except at top level. That is, they can
occur in a let
(including in a list comprehension, or donotation,
or pattern guards), or a where
clause. Note the following points:
An implicitparameter binding group must be a collection of simple bindings to implicitstyle variables (no functionstyle bindings, and no type signatures); these bindings are neither polymorphic or recursive.
You may not mix implicitparameter bindings with ordinary bindings in a single
let
expression; use two nestedlet
s instead. (In the case ofwhere
you are stuck, since you can’t nestwhere
clauses.)You may put multiple implicitparameter bindings in a single binding group; but they are not treated as a mutually recursive group (as ordinary
let
bindings are). Instead they are treated as a nonrecursive group, simultaneously binding all the implicit parameter. The bindings are not nested, and may be reordered without changing the meaning of the program. For example, consider:f t = let { ?x = t; ?y = ?x+(1::Int) } in ?x + ?y
The use of
?x
in the binding for?y
does not “see” the binding for?x
, so the type off
isf :: (?x::Int) => Int > Int
9.19.3. Implicit parameters and polymorphic recursion¶
Consider these two definitions:
len1 :: [a] > Int
len1 xs = let ?acc = 0 in len_acc1 xs
len_acc1 [] = ?acc
len_acc1 (x:xs) = let ?acc = ?acc + (1::Int) in len_acc1 xs

len2 :: [a] > Int
len2 xs = let ?acc = 0 in len_acc2 xs
len_acc2 :: (?acc :: Int) => [a] > Int
len_acc2 [] = ?acc
len_acc2 (x:xs) = let ?acc = ?acc + (1::Int) in len_acc2 xs
The only difference between the two groups is that in the second group
len_acc
is given a type signature. In the former case, len_acc1
is monomorphic in its own righthand side, so the implicit parameter
?acc
is not passed to the recursive call. In the latter case,
because len_acc2
has a type signature, the recursive call is made to
the polymorphic version, which takes ?acc
as an implicit
parameter. So we get the following results in GHCi:
Prog> len1 "hello"
0
Prog> len2 "hello"
5
Adding a type signature dramatically changes the result! This is a rather counterintuitive phenomenon, worth watching out for.
9.19.4. Implicit parameters and monomorphism¶
GHC applies the dreaded Monomorphism Restriction (section 4.5.5 of the Haskell Report) to implicit parameters. For example, consider:
f :: Int > Int
f v = let ?x = 0 in
let y = ?x + v in
let ?x = 5 in
y
Since the binding for y
falls under the Monomorphism Restriction it
is not generalised, so the type of y
is simply Int
, not
(?x::Int) => Int
. Hence, (f 9)
returns result 9
. If you add
a type signature for y
, then y
will get type
(?x::Int) => Int
, so the occurrence of y
in the body of the
let
will see the inner binding of ?x
, so (f 9)
will return
14
.
9.20. Arbitraryrank polymorphism¶

XRankNTypes
Implies: XExplicitForAll
Allow types of arbitrary rank.

XRank2Types
A deprecated alias of
XRankNTypes
.
GHC’s type system supports arbitraryrank explicit universal quantification in types. For example, all the following types are legal:
f1 :: forall a b. a > b > a
g1 :: forall a b. (Ord a, Eq b) => a > b > a
f2 :: (forall a. a>a) > Int > Int
g2 :: (forall a. Eq a => [a] > a > Bool) > Int > Int
f3 :: ((forall a. a>a) > Int) > Bool > Bool
f4 :: Int > (forall a. a > a)
Here, f1
and g1
are rank1 types, and can be written in standard
Haskell (e.g. f1 :: a>b>a
). The forall
makes explicit the
universal quantification that is implicitly added by Haskell.
The functions f2
and g2
have rank2 types; the forall
is on
the left of a function arrow. As g2
shows, the polymorphic type on
the left of the function arrow can be overloaded.
The function f3
has a rank3 type; it has rank2 types on the left
of a function arrow.
The language option XRankNTypes
(which implies
XExplicitForAll
) enables higherrank
types. That is, you can nest forall
s arbitrarily deep in function
arrows. For example, a foralltype (also called a “type scheme”),
including a typeclass context, is legal:
 On the left or right (see
f4
, for example) of a function arrow  As the argument of a constructor, or type of a field, in a data type
declaration. For example, any of the
f1, f2, f3, g1, g2
above would be valid field type signatures.  As the type of an implicit parameter
 In a pattern type signature (see Lexically scoped type variables)
The XRankNTypes
option is also required for any type with a
forall
or context to the right of an arrow (e.g.
f :: Int > forall a. a>a
, or g :: Int > Ord a => a > a
).
Such types are technically rank 1, but are clearly not Haskell98, and
an extra flag did not seem worth the bother.
In particular, in data
and newtype
declarations the constructor
arguments may be polymorphic types of any rank; see examples in
Examples. Note that the declared types are nevertheless always
monomorphic. This is important because by default GHC will not
instantiate type variables to a polymorphic type
(Impredicative polymorphism).
The obsolete language options XPolymorphicComponents
and
XRank2Types
are synonyms for XRankNTypes
. They used to
specify finer distinctions that GHC no longer makes. (They should really elicit
a deprecation warning, but they don’t, purely to avoid the need to library
authors to change their old flags specifications.)
9.20.1. Examples¶
These are examples of data
and newtype
declarations whose data
constructors have polymorphic argument types:
data T a = T1 (forall b. b > b > b) a
data MonadT m = MkMonad { return :: forall a. a > m a,
bind :: forall a b. m a > (a > m b) > m b
}
newtype Swizzle = MkSwizzle (forall a. Ord a => [a] > [a])
The constructors have rank2 types:
T1 :: forall a. (forall b. b > b > b) > a > T a
MkMonad :: forall m. (forall a. a > m a)
> (forall a b. m a > (a > m b) > m b)
> MonadT m
MkSwizzle :: (forall a. Ord a => [a] > [a]) > Swizzle
In earlier versions of GHC, it was possible to omit the forall
in
the type of the constructor if there was an explicit context. For
example:
newtype Swizzle' = MkSwizzle' (Ord a => [a] > [a])
Since GHC 8.0 declarations such as MkSwizzle'
will cause an outofscope
error.
As for type signatures, implicit quantification happens for nonoverloaded types too. So if you write this:
f :: (a > a) > a
it’s just as if you had written this:
f :: forall a. (a > a) > a
That is, since the type variable a
isn’t in scope, it’s implicitly
universally quantified.
You construct values of types T1, MonadT, Swizzle
by applying the
constructor to suitable values, just as usual. For example,
a1 :: T Int
a1 = T1 (\xy>x) 3
a2, a3 :: Swizzle
a2 = MkSwizzle sort
a3 = MkSwizzle reverse
a4 :: MonadT Maybe
a4 = let r x = Just x
b m k = case m of
Just y > k y
Nothing > Nothing
in
MkMonad r b
mkTs :: (forall b. b > b > b) > a > [T a]
mkTs f x y = [T1 f x, T1 f y]
The type of the argument can, as usual, be more general than the type
required, as (MkSwizzle reverse)
shows. (reverse
does not need
the Ord
constraint.)
When you use pattern matching, the bound variables may now have polymorphic types. For example:
f :: T a > a > (a, Char)
f (T1 w k) x = (w k x, w 'c' 'd')
g :: (Ord a, Ord b) => Swizzle > [a] > (a > b) > [b]
g (MkSwizzle s) xs f = s (map f (s xs))
h :: MonadT m > [m a] > m [a]
h m [] = return m []
h m (x:xs) = bind m x $ \y >
bind m (h m xs) $ \ys >
return m (y:ys)
In the function h
we use the record selectors return
and
bind
to extract the polymorphic bind and return functions from the
MonadT
data structure, rather than using pattern matching.
9.20.2. Type inference¶
In general, type inference for arbitraryrank types is undecidable. GHC uses an algorithm proposed by Odersky and Laufer (“Putting type annotations to work”, POPL‘96) to get a decidable algorithm by requiring some help from the programmer. We do not yet have a formal specification of “some help” but the rule is this:
For a lambdabound or casebound variable, x, either the programmer provides an explicit polymorphic type for x, or GHC’s type inference will assume that x’s type has no foralls in it.
What does it mean to “provide” an explicit type for x? You can do that by giving a type signature for x directly, using a pattern type signature (Lexically scoped type variables), thus:
\ f :: (forall a. a>a) > (f True, f 'c')
Alternatively, you can give a type signature to the enclosing context, which GHC can “push down” to find the type for the variable:
(\ f > (f True, f 'c')) :: (forall a. a>a) > (Bool,Char)
Here the type signature on the expression can be pushed inwards to give a type signature for f. Similarly, and more commonly, one can give a type signature for the function itself:
h :: (forall a. a>a) > (Bool,Char)
h f = (f True, f 'c')
You don’t need to give a type signature if the lambda bound variable is a constructor argument. Here is an example we saw earlier:
f :: T a > a > (a, Char)
f (T1 w k) x = (w k x, w 'c' 'd')
Here we do not need to give a type signature to w
, because it is an
argument of constructor T1
and that tells GHC all it needs to know.
9.20.3. Implicit quantification¶
GHC performs implicit quantification as follows. At the outermost level
(only) of userwritten types, if and only if there is no explicit
forall
, GHC finds all the type variables mentioned in the type that
are not already in scope, and universally quantifies them. For example,
the following pairs are equivalent:
f :: a > a
f :: forall a. a > a
g (x::a) = let
h :: a > b > b
h x y = y
in ...
g (x::a) = let
h :: forall b. a > b > b
h x y = y
in ...
Notice that GHC always adds implicit quantfiers at the outermost level of a userwritten type; it does not find the innermost possible quantification point. For example:
f :: (a > a) > Int
 MEANS
f :: forall a. (a > a) > Int
 NOT
f :: (forall a. a > a) > Int
g :: (Ord a => a > a) > Int
 MEANS
g :: forall a. (Ord a => a > a) > Int
 NOT
g :: (forall a. Ord a => a > a) > Int
If you want the latter type, you can write
your forall
s explicitly. Indeed, doing so is strongly advised for
rank2 types.
Sometimes there is no “outermost level”, in which case no implicit quantification happens:
data PackMap a b s t = PackMap (Monad f => (a > f b) > s > f t)
This is rejected because there is no “outermost level” for the types on the RHS
(it would obviously be terrible to add extra parameters to PackMap
),
so no implicit quantification happens, and the declaration is rejected
(with “f
is out of scope”). Solution: use an explicit forall
:
data PackMap a b s t = PackMap (forall f. Monad f => (a > f b) > s > f t)
9.21. Impredicative polymorphism¶

XImpredicativeTypes
Implies: RankNTypes
Allow impredicative polymorphic types.
In general, GHC will only instantiate a polymorphic function at a monomorphic type (one with no foralls). For example,
runST :: (forall s. ST s a) > a
id :: forall b. b > b
foo = id runST  Rejected
The definition of foo
is rejected because one would have to
instantiate id
‘s type with b := (forall s. ST s a) > a
, and
that is not allowed. Instantiating polymorphic type variables with
polymorphic types is called impredicative polymorphism.
GHC has extremely flaky support for impredicative polymorphism,
enabled with XImpredicativeTypes
. If it worked, this would mean
that you could call a polymorphic function at a polymorphic type, and
parameterise data structures over polymorphic types. For example:
f :: Maybe (forall a. [a] > [a]) > Maybe ([Int], [Char])
f (Just g) = Just (g [3], g "hello")
f Nothing = Nothing
Notice here that the Maybe
type is parameterised by the
polymorphic type (forall a. [a] > [a])
. However the extension
should be considered highly experimental, and certainly unsupported.
You are welcome to try it, but please don’t rely on it working
consistently, or working the same in subsequent releases. See
this wiki page for more details.
If you want impredicative polymorphism, the main workaround is to use a
newtype wrapper. The id runST
example can be written using theis
workaround like this:
runST :: (forall s. ST s a) > a
id :: forall b. b > b
nwetype Wrap a = Wrap { unWrap :: (forall s. ST s a) > a }
foo :: (forall s. ST s a) > a
foo = unWrap (id (Wrap runST))
 Here id is called at monomorphic type (Wrap a)
9.22. Typed Holes¶
Typed holes are a feature of GHC that allows special placeholders
written with a leading underscore (e.g., “_
”, “_foo
”,
“_bar
”), to be used as expressions. During compilation these holes
will generate an error message that describes which type is expected at
the hole’s location, information about the origin of any free type
variables, and a list of local bindings that might help fill the hole
with actual code. Typed holes are always enabled in GHC.
The goal of typed holes is to help with writing Haskell code rather than to change the type system. Typed holes can be used to obtain extra information from the type checker, which might otherwise be hard to get. Normally, using GHCi, users can inspect the (inferred) type signatures of all toplevel bindings. However, this method is less convenient with terms that are not defined on toplevel or inside complex expressions. Holes allow the user to check the type of the term they are about to write.
For example, compiling the following module with GHC:
f :: a > a
f x = _
will fail with the following error:
hole.hs:2:7:
Found hole `_' with type: a
Where: `a' is a rigid type variable bound by
the type signature for f :: a > a at hole.hs:1:6
Relevant bindings include
f :: a > a (bound at hole.hs:2:1)
x :: a (bound at hole.hs:2:3)
In the expression: _
In an equation for `f': f x = _
Here are some more details:
A “
Found hole
” error usually terminates compilation, like any other type error. After all, you have omitted some code from your program. Nevertheless, you can run and test a piece of code containing holes, by using thefdefertypedholes
flag. This flag defers errors produced by typed holes until runtime, and converts them into compiletime warnings. These warnings can in turn be suppressed entirely byfnowarntypedholes
.The same behaviour for “
Variable out of scope
” errors, it terminates compilation by default. You can defer such errors by using thefdeferoutofscopevariables
flag. This flag defers errors produced by out of scope variables until runtime, and converts them into compiletime warnings. These warnings can in turn be suppressed entirely byfnowarndeferredoutofscopevariables
.The result is that a hole or a variable will behave like
undefined
, but with the added benefits that it shows a warning at compile time, and will show the same message if it gets evaluated at runtime. This behaviour follows that of thefdefertypeerrors
option, which impliesfdefertypedholes
andfdeferoutofscopevariables
. See Deferring type errors to runtime.All unbound identifiers are treated as typed holes, whether or not they start with an underscore. The only difference is in the error message:
cons z = z : True : _x : y
yields the errors
Foo.hs:5:15: error: Found hole: _x :: Bool Relevant bindings include p :: Bool (bound at Foo.hs:3:6) cons :: Bool > [Bool] (bound at Foo.hs:3:1) Foo.hs:5:20: error: Variable not in scope: y :: [Bool]
More information is given for explicit holes (i.e. ones that start with an underscore), than for outofscope variables, because the latter are often unintended typos, so the extra information is distracting. If you want the detailed information, use a leading underscore to make explicit your intent to use a hole.
Unbound identifiers with the same name are never unified, even within the same function, but shown individually. For example:
cons = _x : _x
results in the following errors:
unbound.hs:1:8: Found hole '_x' with type: a Where: `a' is a rigid type variable bound by the inferred type of cons :: [a] at unbound.hs:1:1 Relevant bindings include cons :: [a] (bound at unbound.hs:1:1) In the first argument of `(:)', namely `_x' In the expression: _x : _x In an equation for `cons': cons = _x : _x unbound.hs:1:13: Found hole '_x' with type: [a] Arising from: an undeclared identifier `_x' at unbound.hs:1:1314 Where: `a' is a rigid type variable bound by the inferred type of cons :: [a] at unbound.hs:1:1 Relevant bindings include cons :: [a] (bound at unbound.hs:1:1) In the second argument of `(:)', namely `_x' In the expression: _x : _x In an equation for `cons': cons = _x : _x
Notice the two different types reported for the two different occurrences of
_x
.No language extension is required to use typed holes. The lexeme “
_
” was previously illegal in Haskell, but now has a more informative error message. The lexeme “_x
” is a perfectly legal variable, and its behaviour is unchanged when it is in scope. For examplef _x = _x + 1
does not elict any errors. Only a variable that is not in scope (whether or not it starts with an underscore) is treated as an error (which it always was), albeit now with a more informative error message.
Unbound data constructors used in expressions behave exactly as above. However, unbound data constructors used in patterns cannot be deferred, and instead bring compilation to a halt. (In implementation terms, they are reported by the renamer rather than the type checker.)
There’s a flag for controlling the amount of context information shown for typed holes:

fshowholeconstraints
When reporting typed holes, also print constraints that are in scope. Example:
f :: Eq a => a > Bool f x = _
results in the following message:
show_constraints.hs:4:7: error: • Found hole: _ :: Bool • In the expression: _ In an equation for ‘f’: f x = _ • Relevant bindings include x :: a (bound at show_constraints.hs:4:3) f :: a > Bool (bound at show_constraints.hs:4:1) Constraints include Eq a (from the type signature for: f :: Eq a => a > Bool at show_constraints.hs:3:122)
9.23. Partial Type Signatures¶

XPartialTypeSignatures<