Rust 0.11-pre-nightly

The Rust Reference Manual

1 Introduction

This document is the reference manual for the Rust programming language. It provides three kinds of material:

This document does not serve as a tutorial introduction to the language. Background familiarity with the language is assumed. A separate tutorial document is available to help acquire such background familiarity.

This document also does not serve as a reference to the standard or extra libraries included in the language distribution. Those libraries are documented separately by extracting documentation attributes from their source code.

Rust is a work in progress. The language continues to evolve as the design shifts and is fleshed out in working code. Certain parts work, certain parts do not, certain parts will be removed or changed.

This manual is a snapshot written in the present tense. All features described exist in working code unless otherwise noted, but some are quite primitive or remain to be further modified by planned work. Some may be temporary. It is a draft, and we ask that you not take anything you read here as final.

If you have suggestions to make, please try to focus them on reductions to the language: possible features that can be combined or omitted. We aim to keep the size and complexity of the language under control.

Note: The grammar for Rust given in this document is rough and very incomplete; only a modest number of sections have accompanying grammar rules. Formalizing the grammar accepted by the Rust parser is ongoing work, but future versions of this document will contain a complete grammar. Moreover, we hope that this grammar will be extracted and verified as LL(1) by an automated grammar-analysis tool, and further tested against the Rust sources. Preliminary versions of this automation exist, but are not yet complete.

2 Notation

Rust's grammar is defined over Unicode codepoints, each conventionally denoted U+XXXX, for 4 or more hexadecimal digits X. Most of Rust's grammar is confined to the ASCII range of Unicode, and is described in this document by a dialect of Extended Backus-Naur Form (EBNF), specifically a dialect of EBNF supported by common automated LL(k) parsing tools such as llgen, rather than the dialect given in ISO 14977. The dialect can be defined self-referentially as follows:

grammar : rule + ;
rule    : nonterminal ':' productionrule ';' ;
productionrule : production [ '|' production ] * ;
production : term * ;
term : element repeats ;
element : LITERAL | IDENTIFIER | '[' productionrule ']' ;
repeats : [ '*' | '+' ] NUMBER ? | NUMBER ? | '?' ;


This EBNF dialect should hopefully be familiar to many readers.

A few productions in Rust's grammar permit Unicode codepoints outside the ASCII range. We define these productions in terms of character properties specified in the Unicode standard, rather than in terms of ASCII-range codepoints. The section Special Unicode Productions lists these productions.

Some rules in the grammar — notably unary operators, binary operators, and keywords — are given in a simplified form: as a listing of a table of unquoted, printable whitespace-separated strings. These cases form a subset of the rules regarding the token rule, and are assumed to be the result of a lexical-analysis phase feeding the parser, driven by a DFA, operating over the disjunction of all such string table entries.

When such a string enclosed in double-quotes (") occurs inside the grammar, it is an implicit reference to a single member of such a string table production. See tokens for more information.

3 Lexical structure

Rust input is interpreted as a sequence of Unicode codepoints encoded in UTF-8, normalized to Unicode normalization form NFKC. Most Rust grammar rules are defined in terms of printable ASCII-range codepoints, but a small number are defined in terms of Unicode properties or explicit codepoint lists. ^[Substitute definitions for the special Unicode productions are provided to the grammar verifier, restricted to ASCII range, when verifying the grammar in this document.]

The following productions in the Rust grammar are defined in terms of Unicode properties: ident, non_null, non_star, non_eol, non_slash_or_star, non_single_quote and non_double_quote.

The ident production is any nonempty Unicode string of the following form:

that does not occur in the set of keywords.

Note: XID_start and XID_continue as character properties cover the character ranges used to form the more familiar C and Java language-family identifiers.

Some productions are defined by exclusion of particular Unicode characters:

comment : block_comment | line_comment ;
block_comment : "/*" block_comment_body * '*' + '/' ;
block_comment_body : [block_comment | character] * ;
line_comment : "//" non_eol * ;

Comments in Rust code follow the general C++ style of line and block-comment forms, with no nesting of block-comment delimiters.

Line comments beginning with exactly three slashes (///), and block comments beginning with a exactly one repeated asterisk in the block-open sequence (/**), are interpreted as a special syntax for doc attributes. That is, they are equivalent to writing #[doc="..."] around the body of the comment (this includes the comment characters themselves, ie /// Foo turns into #[doc="/// Foo"]).

Non-doc comments are interpreted as a form of whitespace.

whitespace_char : '\x20' | '\x09' | '\x0a' | '\x0d' ;
whitespace : [ whitespace_char | comment ] + ;

The whitespace_char production is any nonempty Unicode string consisting of any of the following Unicode characters: U+0020 (space, ' '), U+0009 (tab, '\t'), U+000A (LF, '\n'), U+000D (CR, '\r').

Rust is a "free-form" language, meaning that all forms of whitespace serve only to separate tokens in the grammar, and have no semantic significance.

A Rust program has identical meaning if each whitespace element is replaced with any other legal whitespace element, such as a single space character.

simple_token : keyword | unop | binop ;
token : simple_token | ident | literal | symbol | whitespace token ;

Tokens are primitive productions in the grammar defined by regular (non-recursive) languages. "Simple" tokens are given in string table production form, and occur in the rest of the grammar as double-quoted strings. Other tokens have exact rules given.

The keywords are the following strings:

else enum extern
false fn for
if impl in
let loop
match mod mut
priv proc pub
ref return
self static struct super
true trait type
unsafe use

Each of these keywords has special meaning in its grammar, and all of them are excluded from the ident rule.

A literal is an expression consisting of a single token, rather than a sequence of tokens, that immediately and directly denotes the value it evaluates to, rather than referring to it by name or some other evaluation rule. A literal is a form of constant expression, so is evaluated (primarily) at compile time.

literal : string_lit | char_lit | num_lit ;
char_lit : '\x27' char_body '\x27' ;
string_lit : '"' string_body * '"' | 'r' raw_string ;

char_body : non_single_quote
          | '\x5c' [ '\x27' | common_escape ] ;

string_body : non_double_quote
            | '\x5c' [ '\x22' | common_escape ] ;
raw_string : '"' raw_string_body '"' | '#' raw_string '#' ;

common_escape : '\x5c'
              | 'n' | 'r' | 't' | '0'
              | 'x' hex_digit 2
              | 'u' hex_digit 4
              | 'U' hex_digit 8 ;

hex_digit : 'a' | 'b' | 'c' | 'd' | 'e' | 'f'
          | 'A' | 'B' | 'C' | 'D' | 'E' | 'F'
          | dec_digit ;
oct_digit : '0' | '1' | '2' | '3' | '4' | '5' | '6' | '7' ;
dec_digit : '0' | nonzero_dec ;
nonzero_dec: '1' | '2' | '3' | '4'
           | '5' | '6' | '7' | '8' | '9' ;

A character literal is a single Unicode character enclosed within two U+0027 (single-quote) characters, with the exception of U+0027 itself, which must be escaped by a preceding U+005C character (\).

A string literal is a sequence of any Unicode characters enclosed within two U+0022 (double-quote) characters, with the exception of U+0022 itself, which must be escaped by a preceding U+005C character (\), or a raw string literal.

Some additional escapes are available in either character or non-raw string literals. An escape starts with a U+005C (\) and continues with one of the following forms:

Raw string literals do not process any escapes. They start with the character U+0072 (r), followed zero or more of the character U+0023 (#) and a U+0022 (double-quote) character. The raw string body is not defined in the EBNF grammar above: it can contain any sequence of Unicode characters and is terminated only by another U+0022 (double-quote) character, followed by the same number of U+0023 (#) characters that preceded the opening U+0022 (double-quote) character.

All Unicode characters contained in the raw string body represent themselves, the characters U+0022 (double-quote) (except when followed by at least as many U+0023 (#) characters as were used to start the raw string literal) or U+005C (\) do not have any special meaning.

Examples for string literals:

"foo"; r"foo";                     // foo
"\"foo\""; r#""foo""#;             // "foo"

"foo #\"# bar";
r##"foo #"# bar"##;                // foo #"# bar

"\x52"; "R"; r"R";                 // R
"\\x52"; r"\x52";                  // \x52
num_lit : nonzero_dec [ dec_digit | '_' ] * num_suffix ?
        | '0' [       [ dec_digit | '_' ] * num_suffix ?
              | 'b'   [ '1' | '0' | '_' ] + int_suffix ?
              | 'o'   [ oct_digit | '_' ] + int_suffix ?
              | 'x'   [ hex_digit | '_' ] + int_suffix ? ] ;

num_suffix : int_suffix | float_suffix ;

int_suffix : 'u' int_suffix_size ?
           | 'i' int_suffix_size ? ;
int_suffix_size : [ '8' | '1' '6' | '3' '2' | '6' '4' ] ;

float_suffix : [ exponent | '.' dec_lit exponent ? ] ? float_suffix_ty ? ;
float_suffix_ty : 'f' [ '3' '2' | '6' '4' ] ;
exponent : ['E' | 'e'] ['-' | '+' ] ? dec_lit ;
dec_lit : [ dec_digit | '_' ] + ;

A number literal is either an integer literal or a floating-point literal. The grammar for recognizing the two kinds of literals is mixed, as they are differentiated by suffixes.

An integer literal has one of four forms:

An integer literal may be followed (immediately, without any spaces) by an integer suffix, which changes the type of the literal. There are two kinds of integer literal suffix:

The type of an unsuffixed integer literal is determined by type inference. If a integer type can be uniquely determined from the surrounding program context, the unsuffixed integer literal has that type. If the program context underconstrains the type, the unsuffixed integer literal's type is int; if the program context overconstrains the type, it is considered a static type error.

Examples of integer literals of various forms:

123; 0xff00;                       // type determined by program context
                                   // defaults to int in absence of type
                                   // information

123u;                              // type uint
123_u;                             // type uint
0xff_u8;                           // type u8
0o70_i16;                          // type i16
0b1111_1111_1001_0000_i32;         // type i32

A floating-point literal has one of two forms:

By default, a floating-point literal has a generic type, but will fall back to f64. A floating-point literal may be followed (immediately, without any spaces) by a floating-point suffix, which changes the type of the literal. There are two floating-point suffixes: f32, and f64 (the 32-bit and 64-bit floating point types).

Examples of floating-point literals of various forms:

123.0;                             // type f64
0.1;                               // type f64
0.1f32;                            // type f32
12E+99_f64;                        // type f64

The unit value, the only value of the type that has the same name, is written as (). The two values of the boolean type are written true and false.

symbol : "::" "->"
       | '#' | '[' | ']' | '(' | ')' | '{' | '}'
       | ',' | ';' ;

Symbols are a general class of printable token that play structural roles in a variety of grammar productions. They are catalogued here for completeness as the set of remaining miscellaneous printable tokens that do not otherwise appear as unary operators, binary operators, or keywords.

expr_path : [ "::" ] ident [ "::" expr_path_tail ] + ;
expr_path_tail : '<' type_expr [ ',' type_expr ] + '>'
               | expr_path ;

type_path : ident [ type_path_tail ] + ;
type_path_tail : '<' type_expr [ ',' type_expr ] + '>'
               | "::" type_path ;

A path is a sequence of one or more path components logically separated by a namespace qualifier (::). If a path consists of only one component, it may refer to either an item or a slot in a local control scope. If a path has multiple components, it refers to an item.

Every item has a canonical path within its crate, but the path naming an item is only meaningful within a given crate. There is no global namespace across crates; an item's canonical path merely identifies it within the crate.

Two examples of simple paths consisting of only identifier components:


Path components are usually identifiers, but the trailing component of a path may be an angle-bracket-enclosed list of type arguments. In expression context, the type argument list is given after a final (::) namespace qualifier in order to disambiguate it from a relational expression involving the less-than symbol (<). In type expression context, the final namespace qualifier is omitted.

Two examples of paths with type arguments:

type T = HashMap<int,~str>;  // Type arguments used in a type expression
let x = id::<int>(10);         // Type arguments used in a call expression

Paths can be denoted with various leading qualifiers to change the meaning of how it is resolved:

4 Syntax extensions

A number of minor features of Rust are not central enough to have their own syntax, and yet are not implementable as functions. Instead, they are given names, and invoked through a consistent syntax: name!(...). Examples include:

All of the above extensions are expressions with values.

expr_macro_rules : "macro_rules" '!' ident '(' macro_rule * ')' ;
macro_rule : '(' matcher * ')' "=>" '(' transcriber * ')' ';' ;
matcher : '(' matcher * ')' | '[' matcher * ']'
        | '{' matcher * '}' | '$' ident ':' ident
        | '$' '(' matcher * ')' sep_token? [ '*' | '+' ]
        | non_special_token ;
transcriber : '(' transcriber * ')' | '[' transcriber * ']'
            | '{' transcriber * '}' | '$' ident
            | '$' '(' transcriber * ')' sep_token? [ '*' | '+' ]
            | non_special_token ;

User-defined syntax extensions are called "macros", and the macro_rules syntax extension defines them. Currently, user-defined macros can expand to expressions, statements, or items.

(A sep_token is any token other than * and +. A non_special_token is any token other than a delimiter or $.)

The macro expander looks up macro invocations by name, and tries each macro rule in turn. It transcribes the first successful match. Matching and transcription are closely related to each other, and we will describe them together.

The macro expander matches and transcribes every token that does not begin with a $ literally, including delimiters. For parsing reasons, delimiters must be balanced, but they are otherwise not special.

In the matcher, $ name : designator matches the nonterminal in the Rust syntax named by designator. Valid designators are item, block, stmt, pat, expr, ty (type), ident, path, matchers (lhs of the => in macro rules), tt (rhs of the => in macro rules). In the transcriber, the designator is already known, and so only the name of a matched nonterminal comes after the dollar sign.

In both the matcher and transcriber, the Kleene star-like operator indicates repetition. The Kleene star operator consists of $ and parens, optionally followed by a separator token, followed by * or +. * means zero or more repetitions, + means at least one repetition. The parens are not matched or transcribed. On the matcher side, a name is bound to all of the names it matches, in a structure that mimics the structure of the repetition encountered on a successful match. The job of the transcriber is to sort that structure out.

The rules for transcription of these repetitions are called "Macro By Example". Essentially, one "layer" of repetition is discharged at a time, and all of them must be discharged by the time a name is transcribed. Therefore, ( $( $i:ident ),* ) => ( $i ) is an invalid macro, but ( $( $i:ident ),* ) => ( $( $i:ident ),* ) is acceptable (if trivial).

When Macro By Example encounters a repetition, it examines all of the $ name s that occur in its body. At the "current layer", they all must repeat the same number of times, so ( $( $i:ident ),* ; $( $j:ident ),* ) => ( $( ($i,$j) ),* ) is valid if given the argument (a,b,c ; d,e,f), but not (a,b,c ; d,e). The repetition walks through the choices at that layer in lockstep, so the former input transcribes to ( (a,d), (b,e), (c,f) ).

Nested repetitions are allowed.

The parser used by the macro system is reasonably powerful, but the parsing of Rust syntax is restricted in two ways:

  1. The parser will always parse as much as possible. If it attempts to match $i:expr [ , ] against 8 [ , ], it will attempt to parse i as an array index operation and fail. Adding a separator can solve this problem.
  2. The parser must have eliminated all ambiguity by the time it reaches a $ name : designator. This requirement most often affects name-designator pairs when they occur at the beginning of, or immediately after, a $(...)*; requiring a distinctive token in front can solve the problem.

5 Crates and source files

Rust is a compiled language. Its semantics obey a phase distinction between compile-time and run-time. Those semantic rules that have a static interpretation govern the success or failure of compilation. We refer to these rules as "static semantics". Semantic rules called "dynamic semantics" govern the behavior of programs at run-time. A program that fails to compile due to violation of a compile-time rule has no defined dynamic semantics; the compiler should halt with an error report, and produce no executable artifact.

The compilation model centres on artifacts called crates. Each compilation processes a single crate in source form, and if successful, produces a single crate in binary form: either an executable or a library.^[A crate is somewhat analogous to an assembly in the ECMA-335 CLI model, a library in the SML/NJ Compilation Manager, a unit in the Owens and Flatt module system, or a configuration in Mesa.]

A crate is a unit of compilation and linking, as well as versioning, distribution and runtime loading. A crate contains a tree of nested module scopes. The top level of this tree is a module that is anonymous (from the point of view of paths within the module) and any item within a crate has a canonical module path denoting its location within the crate's module tree.

The Rust compiler is always invoked with a single source file as input, and always produces a single output crate. The processing of that source file may result in other source files being loaded as modules. Source files have the extension .rs.

A Rust source file describes a module, the name and location of which — in the module tree of the current crate — are defined from outside the source file: either by an explicit mod_item in a referencing source file, or by the name of the crate itself.

Each source file contains a sequence of zero or more item definitions, and may optionally begin with any number of attributes that apply to the containing module. Attributes on the anonymous crate module define important metadata that influences the behavior of the compiler.

// Crate ID
#![crate_id = "projx#2.5"]

// Additional metadata attributes
#![desc = "Project X"]
#![license = "BSD"]
#![comment = "This is a comment on Project X."]

// Specify the output type
#![crate_type = "lib"]

// Turn on a warning

A crate that contains a main function can be compiled to an executable. If a main function is present, its return type must be unit and it must take no arguments.

6 Items and attributes

Crates contain items, each of which may have some number of attributes attached to it.

item : mod_item | fn_item | type_item | struct_item | enum_item
     | static_item | trait_item | impl_item | extern_block ;

An item is a component of a crate; some module items can be defined in crate files, but most are defined in source files. Items are organized within a crate by a nested set of modules. Every crate has a single "outermost" anonymous module; all further items within the crate have paths within the module tree of the crate.

Items are entirely determined at compile-time, generally remain fixed during execution, and may reside in read-only memory.

There are several kinds of item:

Some items form an implicit scope for the declaration of sub-items. In other words, within a function or module, declarations of items can (in many cases) be mixed with the statements, control blocks, and similar artifacts that otherwise compose the item body. The meaning of these scoped items is the same as if the item was declared outside the scope — it is still a static item — except that the item's path name within the module namespace is qualified by the name of the enclosing item, or is private to the enclosing item (in the case of functions). The grammar specifies the exact locations in which sub-item declarations may appear.

All items except modules may be parameterized by type. Type parameters are given as a comma-separated list of identifiers enclosed in angle brackets (<...>), after the name of the item and before its definition. The type parameters of an item are considered "part of the name", not part of the type of the item. A referencing path must (in principle) provide type arguments as a list of comma-separated types enclosed within angle brackets, in order to refer to the type-parameterized item. In practice, the type-inference system can usually infer such argument types from context. There are no general type-parametric types, only type-parametric items. That is, Rust has no notion of type abstraction: there are no first-class "forall" types.

mod_item : "mod" ident ( ';' | '{' mod '}' );
mod : [ view_item | item ] * ;

A module is a container for zero or more view items and zero or more items. The view items manage the visibility of the items defined within the module, as well as the visibility of names from outside the module when referenced from inside the module.

A module item is a module, surrounded in braces, named, and prefixed with the keyword mod. A module item introduces a new, named module into the tree of modules making up a crate. Modules can nest arbitrarily.

An example of a module:

mod math {
    type Complex = (f64, f64);
    fn sin(f: f64) -> f64 {
        /* ... */
    fn cos(f: f64) -> f64 {
        /* ... */
    fn tan(f: f64) -> f64 {
        /* ... */

Modules and types share the same namespace. Declaring a named type that has the same name as a module in scope is forbidden: that is, a type definition, trait, struct, enumeration, or type parameter can't shadow the name of a module in scope, or vice versa.

A module without a body is loaded from an external file, by default with the same name as the module, plus the .rs extension. When a nested submodule is loaded from an external file, it is loaded from a subdirectory path that mirrors the module hierarchy.

// Load the `vec` module from ``
mod vec;

mod task {
    // Load the `local_data` module from `task/`
    mod local_data;

The directories and files used for loading external file modules can be influenced with the path attribute.

#[path = "task_files"]
mod task {
    // Load the `local_data` module from `task_files/`
    #[path = ""]
    mod local_data;
view_item : extern_crate_decl | use_decl ;

A view item manages the namespace of a module. View items do not define new items, but rather, simply change other items' visibility. There are several kinds of view item:

extern_crate_decl : "extern" "crate" ident [ '(' link_attrs ')' ] ? [ '=' string_lit ] ? ;
link_attrs : link_attr [ ',' link_attrs ] + ;
link_attr : ident '=' literal ;

An _extern crate declaration_ specifies a dependency on an external crate. The external crate is then bound into the declaring scope as the ident provided in the extern_crate_decl.

The external crate is resolved to a specific soname at compile time, and a runtime linkage requirement to that soname is passed to the linker for loading at runtime. The soname is resolved at compile time by scanning the compiler's library path and matching the optional crateid provided as a string literal against the crateid attributes that were declared on the external crate when it was compiled. If no crateid is provided, a default name attribute is assumed, equal to the ident given in the extern_crate_decl.

Four examples of extern crate declarations:

extern crate pcre;

extern crate std; // equivalent to: extern crate std = "std";

extern crate ruststd = "std"; // linking to 'std' under another name

extern crate foo = "some/where/rust-foo#foo:1.0"; // a full crate ID for external tools
use_decl : "pub" ? "use" ident [ '=' path
                          | "::" path_glob ] ;

path_glob : ident [ "::" path_glob ] ?
          | '*'
          | '{' ident [ ',' ident ] * '}' ;

A use declaration creates one or more local name bindings synonymous with some other path. Usually a use declaration is used to shorten the path required to refer to a module item. These declarations may appear at the top of modules and blocks.

Note: Unlike in many languages, use declarations in Rust do not declare linkage dependency with external crates. Rather, extern crate declarations declare linkage dependencies.

Use declarations support a number of convenient shortcuts:

An example of use declarations:

use std::iter::range_step;
use std::option::{Some, None};

fn main() {
    // Equivalent to 'std::iter::range_step(0, 10, 2);'
    range_step(0, 10, 2);

    // Equivalent to 'foo(~[std::option::Some(1.0), std::option::None]);'
    foo(~[Some(1.0), None]);

Like items, use declarations are private to the containing module, by default. Also like items, a use declaration can be public, if qualified by the pub keyword. Such a use declaration serves to re-export a name. A public use declaration can therefore redirect some public name to a different target definition: even a definition with a private canonical path, inside a different module. If a sequence of such redirections form a cycle or cannot be resolved unambiguously, they represent a compile-time error.

An example of re-exporting:

mod quux {
    pub use quux::foo::*;

    pub mod foo {
        pub fn bar() { }
        pub fn baz() { }

In this example, the module quux re-exports all of the public names defined in foo.

Also note that the paths contained in use items are relative to the crate root. So, in the previous example, the use refers to quux::foo::*, and not simply to foo::*. This also means that top-level module declarations should be at the crate root if direct usage of the declared modules within use items is desired. It is also possible to use self and super at the beginning of a use item to refer to the current and direct parent modules respectively. All rules regarding accessing declared modules in use declarations applies to both module declarations and extern crate declarations.

An example of what will and will not work for use items:

use foo::native::start;  // good: foo is at the root of the crate
use foo::baz::foobaz;    // good: foo is at the root of the crate

mod foo {
    extern crate native;

    use foo::native::start; // good: foo is at crate root
//  use native::start;      // bad:  native is not at the crate root
    use self::baz::foobaz;  // good: self refers to module 'foo'
    use foo::bar::foobar;   // good: foo is at crate root

    pub mod bar {
        pub fn foobar() { }

    pub mod baz {
        use super::bar::foobar; // good: super refers to module 'foo'
        pub fn foobaz() { }

fn main() {}

A function item defines a sequence of statements and an optional final expression, along with a name and a set of parameters. Functions are declared with the keyword fn. Functions declare a set of input slots as parameters, through which the caller passes arguments into the function, and an output slot through which the function passes results back to the caller.

A function may also be copied into a first class value, in which case the value has the corresponding function type, and can be used otherwise exactly as a function item (with a minor additional cost of calling the function indirectly).

Every control path in a function logically ends with a return expression or a diverging expression. If the outermost block of a function has a value-producing expression in its final-expression position, that expression is interpreted as an implicit return expression applied to the final-expression.

An example of a function:

fn add(x: int, y: int) -> int {
    return x + y;

As with let bindings, function arguments are irrefutable patterns, so any pattern that is valid in a let binding is also valid as an argument.

fn first((value, _): (int, int)) -> int { value }

A generic function allows one or more parameterized types to appear in its signature. Each type parameter must be explicitly declared, in an angle-bracket-enclosed, comma-separated list following the function name.

fn iter<T>(seq: &[T], f: |T|) {
    for elt in seq.iter() { f(elt); }
fn map<T, U>(seq: &[T], f: |T| -> U) -> ~[U] {
    let mut acc = ~[];
    for elt in seq.iter() { acc.push(f(elt)); }

Inside the function signature and body, the name of the type parameter can be used as a type name.

When a generic function is referenced, its type is instantiated based on the context of the reference. For example, calling the iter function defined above on [1, 2] will instantiate type parameter T with int, and require the closure parameter to have type fn(int).

The type parameters can also be explicitly supplied in a trailing path component after the function name. This might be necessary if there is not sufficient context to determine the type parameters. For example, mem::size_of::<u32>() == 4.

Since a parameter type is opaque to the generic function, the set of operations that can be performed on it is limited. Values of parameter type can only be moved, not copied.

fn id<T>(x: T) -> T { x }

Similarly, trait bounds can be specified for type parameters to allow methods with that trait to be called on values of that type.

Unsafe operations are those that potentially violate the memory-safety guarantees of Rust's static semantics.

The following language level features cannot be used in the safe subset of Rust:

Unsafe functions are functions that are not safe in all contexts and/or for all possible inputs. Such a function must be prefixed with the keyword unsafe.

A block of code can also be prefixed with the unsafe keyword, to permit calling unsafe functions or dereferencing raw pointers within a safe function.

When a programmer has sufficient conviction that a sequence of potentially unsafe operations is actually safe, they can encapsulate that sequence (taken as a whole) within an unsafe block. The compiler will consider uses of such code safe, in the surrounding context.

Unsafe blocks are used to wrap foreign libraries, make direct use of hardware or implement features not directly present in the language. For example, Rust provides the language features necessary to implement memory-safe concurrency in the language but the implementation of tasks and message passing is in the standard library.

Rust's type system is a conservative approximation of the dynamic safety requirements, so in some cases there is a performance cost to using safe code. For example, a doubly-linked list is not a tree structure and can only be represented with managed or reference-counted pointers in safe code. By using unsafe blocks to represent the reverse links as raw pointers, it can be implemented with only owned pointers.

This is a list of behavior which is forbidden in all Rust code. Type checking provides the guarantee that these issues are never caused by safe code. An unsafe block or function is responsible for never invoking this behaviour or exposing an API making it possible for it to occur in safe code.

This is a list of behaviour not considered unsafe in Rust terms, but that may be undesired.

A special kind of function can be declared with a ! character where the output slot type would normally be. For example:

fn my_err(s: &str) -> ! {
    println!("{}", s);

We call such functions "diverging" because they never return a value to the caller. Every control path in a diverging function must end with a fail!() or a call to another diverging function on every control path. The ! annotation does not denote a type. Rather, the result type of a diverging function is a special type called $\bot$ ("bottom") that unifies with any type. Rust has no syntax for $\bot$.

It might be necessary to declare a diverging function because as mentioned previously, the typechecker checks that every control path in a function ends with a return or diverging expression. So, if my_err were declared without the ! annotation, the following code would not typecheck:

fn f(i: int) -> int {
   if i == 42 {
     return 42;
   else {
     my_err("Bad number!");

This will not compile without the ! annotation on my_err, since the else branch of the conditional in f does not return an int, as required by the signature of f. Adding the ! annotation to my_err informs the typechecker that, should control ever enter my_err, no further type judgments about f need to hold, since control will never resume in any context that relies on those judgments. Thus the return type on f only needs to reflect the if branch of the conditional.

Extern functions are part of Rust's foreign function interface, providing the opposite functionality to external blocks. Whereas external blocks allow Rust code to call foreign code, extern functions with bodies defined in Rust code can be called by foreign code. They are defined in the same way as any other Rust function, except that they have the extern modifier.

// Declares an extern fn, the ABI defaults to "C"
extern fn new_vec() -> ~[int] { ~[] }

// Declares an extern fn with "stdcall" ABI
extern "stdcall" fn new_vec_stdcall() -> ~[int] { ~[] }

Unlike normal functions, extern fns have an extern "ABI" fn(). This is the same type as the functions declared in an extern block.

let fptr: extern "C" fn() -> ~[int] = new_vec;

Extern functions may be called directly from Rust code as Rust uses large, contiguous stack segments like C.

A type definition defines a new name for an existing type. Type definitions are declared with the keyword type. Every value has a single, specific type; the type-specified aspects of a value include:

For example, the type (u8, u8) defines the set of immutable values that are composite pairs, each containing two unsigned 8-bit integers accessed by pattern-matching and laid out in memory with the x component preceding the y component.

A structure is a nominal structure type defined with the keyword struct.

An example of a struct item and its use:

struct Point {x: int, y: int}
let p = Point {x: 10, y: 11};
let px: int = p.x;

A tuple structure is a nominal tuple type, also defined with the keyword struct. For example:

struct Point(int, int);
let p = Point(10, 11);
let px: int = match p { Point(x, _) => x };

A unit-like struct is a structure without any fields, defined by leaving off the list of fields entirely. Such types will have a single value, just like the unit value () of the unit type. For example:

struct Cookie;
let c = [Cookie, Cookie, Cookie, Cookie];

By using the struct_inherit feature gate, structures may use single inheritance. A Structure may only inherit from a single other structure, called the super-struct. The inheriting structure (sub-struct) acts as if all fields in the super-struct were present in the sub-struct. Fields declared in a sub-struct must not have the same name as any field in any (transitive) super-struct. All fields (both declared and inherited) must be specified in any initializers. Inheritance between structures does not give subtyping or coercion. The super-struct and sub-struct must be defined in the same crate. The super-struct must be declared using the virtual keyword. For example:

virtual struct Sup { x: int }
struct Sub : Sup { y: int }
let s = Sub {x: 10, y: 11};
let sx = s.x;

An enumeration is a simultaneous definition of a nominal enumerated type as well as a set of constructors, that can be used to create or pattern-match values of the corresponding enumerated type.

Enumerations are declared with the keyword enum.

An example of an enum item and its use:

enum Animal {

let mut a: Animal = Dog;
a = Cat;

Enumeration constructors can have either named or unnamed fields:

enum Animal {
    Dog (~str, f64),
    Cat { name: ~str, weight: f64 }

let mut a: Animal = Dog("Cocoa".to_owned(), 37.2);
a = Cat{ name: "Spotty".to_owned(), weight: 2.7 };

In this example, Cat is a struct-like enum variant, whereas Dog is simply called an enum variant.

static_item : "static" ident ':' type '=' expr ';' ;

A static item is a named constant value stored in the global data section of a crate. Immutable static items are stored in the read-only data section. The constant value bound to a static item is, like all constant values, evaluated at compile time. Static items have the static lifetime, which outlives all other lifetimes in a Rust program. Static items are declared with the static keyword. A static item must have a constant expression giving its definition.

Static items must be explicitly typed. The type may be bool, char, a number, or a type derived from those primitive types. The derived types are references with the static lifetime, fixed-size arrays, tuples, and structs.

static BIT1: uint = 1 << 0;
static BIT2: uint = 1 << 1;

static BITS: [uint, ..2] = [BIT1, BIT2];
static STRING: &'static str = "bitstring";

struct BitsNStrings<'a> {
    mybits: [uint, ..2],
    mystring: &'a str

static bits_n_strings: BitsNStrings<'static> = BitsNStrings {
    mybits: BITS,
    mystring: STRING

If a static item is declared with the mut keyword, then it is allowed to be modified by the program. One of Rust's goals is to make concurrency bugs hard to run into, and this is obviously a very large source of race conditions or other bugs. For this reason, an unsafe block is required when either reading or writing a mutable static variable. Care should be taken to ensure that modifications to a mutable static are safe with respect to other tasks running in the same process.

Mutable statics are still very useful, however. They can be used with C libraries and can also be bound from C libraries (in an extern block).

static mut LEVELS: uint = 0;

// This violates the idea of no shared state, and this doesn't internally
// protect against races, so this function is `unsafe`
unsafe fn bump_levels_unsafe1() -> uint {
    let ret = LEVELS;
    LEVELS += 1;
    return ret;

// Assuming that we have an atomic_add function which returns the old value,
// this function is "safe" but the meaning of the return value may not be what
// callers expect, so it's still marked as `unsafe`
unsafe fn bump_levels_unsafe2() -> uint {
    return atomic_add(&mut LEVELS, 1);

A trait describes a set of method types.

Traits can include default implementations of methods, written in terms of some unknown self type; the self type may either be completely unspecified, or constrained by some other trait.

Traits are implemented for specific types through separate implementations.

trait Shape {
    fn draw(&self, Surface);
    fn bounding_box(&self) -> BoundingBox;

This defines a trait with two methods. All values that have implementations of this trait in scope can have their draw and bounding_box methods called, using value.bounding_box() syntax.

Type parameters can be specified for a trait to make it generic. These appear after the trait name, using the same syntax used in generic functions.

trait Seq<T> {
   fn len(&self) -> uint;
   fn elt_at(&self, n: uint) -> T;
   fn iter(&self, |T|);

Generic functions may use traits as bounds on their type parameters. This will have two effects: only types that have the trait may instantiate the parameter, and within the generic function, the methods of the trait can be called on values that have the parameter's type. For example:

fn draw_twice<T: Shape>(surface: Surface, sh: T) {

Traits also define an object type with the same name as the trait. Values of this type are created by casting pointer values (pointing to a type for which an implementation of the given trait is in scope) to pointers to the trait name, used as a type.

let myshape: ~Shape = ~mycircle as ~Shape;

The resulting value is a managed box containing the value that was cast, along with information that identifies the methods of the implementation that was used. Values with a trait type can have methods called on them, for any method in the trait, and can be used to instantiate type parameters that are bounded by the trait.

Trait methods may be static, which means that they lack a self argument. This means that they can only be called with function call syntax (f(x)) and not method call syntax (obj.f()). The way to refer to the name of a static method is to qualify it with the trait name, treating the trait name like a module. For example:

trait Num {
    fn from_int(n: int) -> Self;
impl Num for f64 {
    fn from_int(n: int) -> f64 { n as f64 }
let x: f64 = Num::from_int(42);

Traits may inherit from other traits. For example, in

trait Shape { fn area() -> f64; }
trait Circle : Shape { fn radius() -> f64; }

the syntax Circle : Shape means that types that implement Circle must also have an implementation for Shape. Multiple supertraits are separated by spaces, trait Circle : Shape Eq { }. In an implementation of Circle for a given type T, methods can refer to Shape methods, since the typechecker checks that any type with an implementation of Circle also has an implementation of Shape.

In type-parameterized functions, methods of the supertrait may be called on values of subtrait-bound type parameters. Referring to the previous example of trait Circle : Shape:

fn radius_times_area<T: Circle>(c: T) -> f64 {
    // `c` is both a Circle and a Shape
    c.radius() * c.area()

Likewise, supertrait methods may also be called on trait objects.

let mycircle: Circle = ~mycircle as ~Circle;
let nonsense = mycircle.radius() * mycircle.area();

An implementation is an item that implements a trait for a specific type.

Implementations are defined with the keyword impl.

struct Circle {
    radius: f64,
    center: Point,

impl Shape for Circle {
    fn draw(&self, s: Surface) { do_draw_circle(s, *self); }
    fn bounding_box(&self) -> BoundingBox {
        let r = self.radius;
        BoundingBox{x: - r, y: - r,
         width: 2.0 * r, height: 2.0 * r}

It is possible to define an implementation without referring to a trait. The methods in such an implementation can only be used as direct calls on the values of the type that the implementation targets. In such an implementation, the trait type and for after impl are omitted. Such implementations are limited to nominal types (enums, structs), and the implementation must appear in the same module or a sub-module as the self type.

When a trait is specified in an impl, all methods declared as part of the trait must be implemented, with matching types and type parameter counts.

An implementation can take type parameters, which can be different from the type parameters taken by the trait it implements. Implementation parameters are written after the impl keyword.

impl<T> Seq<T> for ~[T] {
   /* ... */
impl Seq<bool> for u32 {
   /* Treat the integer as a sequence of bits */
extern_block_item : "extern" '{' extern_block '}' ;
extern_block : [ foreign_fn ] * ;

External blocks form the basis for Rust's foreign function interface. Declarations in an external block describe symbols in external, non-Rust libraries.

Functions within external blocks are declared in the same way as other Rust functions, with the exception that they may not have a body and are instead terminated by a semicolon.

extern crate libc;
use libc::{c_char, FILE};

extern {
    fn fopen(filename: *c_char, mode: *c_char) -> *FILE;

Functions within external blocks may be called by Rust code, just like functions defined in Rust. The Rust compiler automatically translates between the Rust ABI and the foreign ABI.

A number of attributes control the behavior of external blocks.

By default external blocks assume that the library they are calling uses the standard C "cdecl" ABI. Other ABIs may be specified using an abi string, as shown here:

// Interface to the Windows API
extern "stdcall" { }

The link attribute allows the name of the library to be specified. When specified the compiler will attempt to link against the native library of the specified name.

#[link(name = "crypto")]
extern { }

The type of a function declared in an extern block is extern "abi" fn(A1, ..., An) -> R, where A1...An are the declared types of its arguments and R is the declared return type.

These two terms are often used interchangeably, and what they are attempting to convey is the answer to the question "Can this item be used at this location?"

Rust's name resolution operates on a global hierarchy of namespaces. Each level in the hierarchy can be thought of as some item. The items are one of those mentioned above, but also include external crates. Declaring or defining a new module can be thought of as inserting a new tree into the hierarchy at the location of the definition.

To control whether interfaces can be used across modules, Rust checks each use of an item to see whether it should be allowed or not. This is where privacy warnings are generated, or otherwise "you used a private item of another module and weren't allowed to."

By default, everything in rust is private, with one exception. Enum variants in a pub enum are also public by default. You are allowed to alter this default visibility with the priv keyword. When an item is declared as pub, it can be thought of as being accessible to the outside world. For example:

// Declare a private struct
struct Foo;

// Declare a public struct with a private field
pub struct Bar {
    field: int

// Declare a public enum with two public variants
pub enum State {

With the notion of an item being either public or private, Rust allows item accesses in two cases:

  1. If an item is public, then it can be used externally through any of its public ancestors.
  2. If an item is private, it may be accessed by the current module and its descendants.

These two cases are surprisingly powerful for creating module hierarchies exposing public APIs while hiding internal implementation details. To help explain, here's a few use cases and what they would entail.

In the second case, it mentions that a private item "can be accessed" by the current module and its descendants, but the exact meaning of accessing an item depends on what the item is. Accessing a module, for example, would mean looking inside of it (to import more items). On the other hand, accessing a function would mean that it is invoked. Additionally, path expressions and import statements are considered to access an item in the sense that the import/expression is only valid if the destination is in the current visibility scope.

Here's an example of a program which exemplifies the three cases outlined above.

// This module is private, meaning that no external crate can access this
// module. Because it is private at the root of this current crate, however, any
// module in the crate may access any publicly visible item in this module.
mod crate_helper_module {

    // This function can be used by anything in the current crate
    pub fn crate_helper() {}

    // This function *cannot* be used by anything else in the crate. It is not
    // publicly visible outside of the `crate_helper_module`, so only this
    // current module and its descendants may access it.
    fn implementation_detail() {}

// This function is "public to the root" meaning that it's available to external
// crates linking against this one.
pub fn public_api() {}

// Similarly to 'public_api', this module is public so external crates may look
// inside of it.
pub mod submodule {
    use crate_helper_module;

    pub fn my_method() {
        // Any item in the local crate may invoke the helper module's public
        // interface through a combination of the two rules above.

    // This function is hidden to any module which is not a descendant of
    // `submodule`
    fn my_implementation() {}

    mod test {

        fn test_my_implementation() {
            // Because this module is a descendant of `submodule`, it's allowed
            // to access private items inside of `submodule` without a privacy
            // violation.

For a rust program to pass the privacy checking pass, all paths must be valid accesses given the two rules above. This includes all use statements, expressions, types, etc.

Rust allows publicly re-exporting items through a pub use directive. Because this is a public directive, this allows the item to be used in the current module through the rules above. It essentially allows public access into the re-exported item. For example, this program is valid:

pub use api = self::implementation;

mod implementation {
    pub fn f() {}

This means that any external crate referencing implementation::f would receive a privacy violation, while the path api::f would be allowed.

When re-exporting a private item, it can be thought of as allowing the "privacy chain" being short-circuited through the reexport instead of passing through the namespace hierarchy as it normally would.

Currently glob imports are considered an "experimental" language feature. For sanity purpose along with helping the implementation, glob imports will only import public items from their destination, not private items.

Note: This is subject to change, glob exports may be removed entirely or they could possibly import private items for a privacy error to later be issued if the item is used.

attribute : '#' '!' ? '[' attr_list ']' ;
attr_list : attr [ ',' attr_list ]* ;
attr : ident [ '=' literal
             | '(' attr_list ')' ] ? ;

Static entities in Rust — crates, modules and items — may have attributes applied to them. Attributes in Rust are modeled on Attributes in ECMA-335, with the syntax coming from ECMA-334 (C#). An attribute is a general, free-form metadatum that is interpreted according to name, convention, and language and compiler version. Attributes may appear as any of:

Attributes with a bang ("!") after the hash ("#") apply to the item that the attribute is declared within. Attributes that do not have a bang after the hash apply to the item that follows the attribute.

An example of attributes:

// General metadata applied to the enclosing module or crate.
#![license = "BSD"]

// A function marked as a unit test
fn test_foo() {
  /* ... */

// A conditionally-compiled module
mod bar {
  /* ... */

// A lint attribute used to suppress a warning/error
type int8_t = i8;

Note: At some point in the future, the compiler will distinguish between language-reserved and user-available attributes. Until then, there is effectively no difference between an attribute handled by a loadable syntax extension and the compiler.

On an extern block, the following attributes are interpreted:

On declarations inside an extern block, the following attributes are interpreted:

Sometimes one wants to have different compiler outputs from the same code, depending on build target, such as targeted operating system, or to enable release builds.

There are two kinds of configuration options, one that is either defined or not (#[cfg(foo)]), and the other that contains a string that can be checked against (#[cfg(bar = "baz")] (currently only compiler-defined configuration options can have the latter form).

// The function is only included in the build when compiling for OSX
#[cfg(target_os = "macos")]
fn macos_only() {
  // ...

// This function is only included when either foo or bar is defined
fn needs_foo_or_bar() {
  // ...

// This function is only included when compiling for a unixish OS with a 32-bit
// architecture
#[cfg(unix, target_word_size = "32")]
fn on_32bit_unix() {
  // ...

This illustrates some conditional compilation can be achieved using the #[cfg(...)] attribute. Note that #[cfg(foo, bar)] is a condition that needs both foo and bar to be defined while #[cfg(foo)] #[cfg(bar)] only needs one of foo and bar to be defined (this resembles in the disjunctive normal form). Additionally, one can reverse a condition by enclosing it in a not(...), like e. g. #[cfg(not(target_os = "win32"))].

The following configurations must be defined by the implementation:

A lint check names a potentially undesirable coding pattern, such as unreachable code or omitted documentation, for the static entity to which the attribute applies.

For any lint check C:

The lint checks supported by the compiler can be found via rustc -W help, along with their default settings.

mod m1 {
    // Missing documentation is ignored here
    pub fn undocumented_one() -> int { 1 }

    // Missing documentation signals a warning here
    pub fn undocumented_too() -> int { 2 }

    // Missing documentation signals an error here
    pub fn undocumented_end() -> int { 3 }

This example shows how one can use allow and warn to toggle a particular check on and off.

mod m2{
    mod nested {
        // Missing documentation is ignored here
        pub fn undocumented_one() -> int { 1 }

        // Missing documentation signals a warning here,
        // despite the allow above.
        pub fn undocumented_two() -> int { 2 }

    // Missing documentation signals a warning here
    pub fn undocumented_too() -> int { 3 }

This example shows how one can use forbid to disallow uses of allow for that lint check.

mod m3 {
    // Attempting to toggle warning signals an error here
    /// Returns 2.
    pub fn undocumented_too() -> int { 2 }

Some primitive Rust operations are defined in Rust code, rather than being implemented directly in C or assembly language. The definitions of these operations have to be easy for the compiler to find. The lang attribute makes it possible to declare these operations. For example, the str module in the Rust standard library defines the string equality function:

pub fn eq_slice(a: &str, b: &str) -> bool {
    // details elided

The name str_eq has a special meaning to the Rust compiler, and the presence of this definition means that it will use this definition when generating calls to the string equality function.

A complete list of the built-in language items follows:

These language items are traits:

These are functions:

These types help drive the compiler's analysis

Note: This list is likely to become out of date. We should auto-generate it from librustc/middle/

The inline attribute is used to suggest to the compiler to perform an inline expansion and place a copy of the function in the caller rather than generating code to call the function where it is defined.

The compiler automatically inlines functions based on internal heuristics. Incorrectly inlining functions can actually making the program slower, so it should be used with care.

#[inline] and #[inline(always)] always causes the function to be serialized into crate metadata to allow cross-crate inlining.

There are three different types of inline attributes:

The deriving attribute allows certain traits to be automatically implemented for data structures. For example, the following will create an impl for the Eq and Clone traits for Foo, the type parameter T will be given the Eq or Clone constraints for the appropriate impl:

#[deriving(Eq, Clone)]
struct Foo<T> {
    a: int,
    b: T

The generated impl for Eq is equivalent to

impl<T: Eq> Eq for Foo<T> {
    fn eq(&self, other: &Foo<T>) -> bool {
        self.a == other.a && self.b == other.b

    fn ne(&self, other: &Foo<T>) -> bool {
        self.a != other.a || self.b != other.b

Supported traits for deriving are:

One can indicate the stability of an API using the following attributes:

These levels are directly inspired by Node.js' "stability index".

There are lints for disallowing items marked with certain levels: deprecated, experimental and unstable; the first two will warn by default. Items with not marked with a stability are considered to be unstable for the purposes of the lint. One can give an optional string that will be displayed when the lint flags the use of an item.


#[deprecated="replaced by `best`"]
fn bad() {
    // delete everything

fn better() {
    // delete fewer things

fn best() {
    // delete nothing

fn main() {
    bad(); // "warning: use of deprecated item: replaced by `best`"

    better(); // "warning: use of unmarked item"

    best(); // no warning

Note: Currently these are only checked when applied to individual functions, structs, methods and enum variants, not to entire modules, traits, impls or enums themselves.

Certain aspects of Rust may be implemented in the compiler, but they're not necessarily ready for every-day use. These features are often of "prototype quality" or "almost production ready", but may not be stable enough to be considered a full-fledged language feature.

For this reason, Rust recognizes a special crate-level attribute of the form:

#![feature(feature1, feature2, feature3)]

This directive informs the compiler that the feature list: feature1, feature2, and feature3 should all be enabled. This is only recognized at a crate-level, not at a module-level. Without this directive, all features are considered off, and using the features will result in a compiler error.

The currently implemented features of the reference compiler are:

If a feature is promoted to a language feature, then all existing programs will start to receive compilation warnings about #[feature] directives which enabled the new feature (because the directive is no longer necessary). However, if a feature is decided to be removed from the language, errors will be issued (if there isn't a parser error first). The directive in this case is no longer necessary, and it's likely that existing code will break if the feature isn't removed.

If a unknown feature is found in a directive, it results in a compiler error. An unknown feature is one which has never been recognized by the compiler.

7 Statements and expressions

Rust is primarily an expression language. This means that most forms of value-producing or effect-causing evaluation are directed by the uniform syntax category of expressions. Each kind of expression can typically nest within each other kind of expression, and rules for evaluation of expressions involve specifying both the value produced by the expression and the order in which its sub-expressions are themselves evaluated.

In contrast, statements in Rust serve mostly to contain and explicitly sequence expression evaluation.

A statement is a component of a block, which is in turn a component of an outer expression or function.

Rust has two kinds of statement: declaration statements and expression statements.

A declaration statement is one that introduces one or more names into the enclosing statement block. The declared names may denote new slots or new items.

An item declaration statement has a syntactic form identical to an item declaration within a module. Declaring an item — a function, enumeration, structure, type, static, trait, implementation or module — locally within a statement block is simply a way of restricting its scope to a narrow region containing all of its uses; it is otherwise identical in meaning to declaring the item outside the statement block.

Note: there is no implicit capture of the function's dynamic environment when declaring a function-local item.

let_decl : "let" pat [':' type ] ? [ init ] ? ';' ;
init : [ '=' ] expr ;

A slot declaration introduces a new set of slots, given by a pattern. The pattern may be followed by a type annotation, and/or an initializer expression. When no type annotation is given, the compiler will infer the type, or signal an error if insufficient type information is available for definite inference. Any slots introduced by a slot declaration are visible from the point of declaration until the end of the enclosing block scope.

An expression statement is one that evaluates an expression and ignores its result. The type of an expression statement e; is always (), regardless of the type of e. As a rule, an expression statement's purpose is to trigger the effects of evaluating its expression.

An expression may have two roles: it always produces a value, and it may have effects (otherwise known as "side effects"). An expression evaluates to a value, and has effects during evaluation. Many expressions contain sub-expressions (operands). The meaning of each kind of expression dictates several things: * Whether or not to evaluate the sub-expressions when evaluating the expression * The order in which to evaluate the sub-expressions * How to combine the sub-expressions' values to obtain the value of the expression.

In this way, the structure of expressions dictates the structure of execution. Blocks are just another kind of expression, so blocks, statements, expressions, and blocks again can recursively nest inside each other to an arbitrary depth.

Expressions are divided into two main categories: lvalues and rvalues. Likewise within each expression, sub-expressions may occur in lvalue context or rvalue context. The evaluation of an expression depends both on its own category and the context it occurs within.

An lvalue is an expression that represents a memory location. These expressions are paths (which refer to local variables, function and method arguments, or static variables), dereferences (*expr), indexing expressions (expr[expr]), and field references (expr.f). All other expressions are rvalues.

The left operand of an assignment or compound-assignment expression is an lvalue context, as is the single operand of a unary borrow. All other expression contexts are rvalue contexts.

When an lvalue is evaluated in an lvalue context, it denotes a memory location; when evaluated in an rvalue context, it denotes the value held in that memory location.

When an rvalue is used in lvalue context, a temporary un-named lvalue is created and used instead. A temporary's lifetime equals the largest lifetime of any reference that points to it.

When a local variable is used as an rvalue the variable will either be moved or copied, depending on its type. For types that contain owning pointers or values that implement the special trait Drop, the variable is moved. All other types are copied.

A literal expression consists of one of the literal forms described earlier. It directly describes a number, character, string, boolean value, or the unit value.

();        // unit type
"hello";   // string type
'5';       // character type
5;         // integer type

A path used as an expression context denotes either a local variable or an item. Path expressions are lvalues.

Tuples are written by enclosing one or more comma-separated expressions in parentheses. They are used to create tuple-typed values.

(0.0, 4.5);
("a", 4u, true);
struct_expr : expr_path '{' ident ':' expr
                      [ ',' ident ':' expr ] *
                      [ ".." expr ] '}' |
              expr_path '(' expr
                      [ ',' expr ] * ')' |
              expr_path ;

There are several forms of structure expressions. A structure expression consists of the path of a structure item, followed by a brace-enclosed list of one or more comma-separated name-value pairs, providing the field values of a new instance of the structure. A field name can be any identifier, and is separated from its value expression by a colon. The location denoted by a structure field is mutable if and only if the enclosing structure is mutable.

A tuple structure expression consists of the path of a structure item, followed by a parenthesized list of one or more comma-separated expressions (in other words, the path of a structure item followed by a tuple expression). The structure item must be a tuple structure item.

A unit-like structure expression consists only of the path of a structure item.

The following are examples of structure expressions:

Point {x: 10.0, y: 20.0};
TuplePoint(10.0, 20.0);
let u = game::User {name: "Joe", age: 35, score: 100_000};

A structure expression forms a new value of the named structure type. Note that for a given unit-like structure type, this will always be the same value.

A structure expression can terminate with the syntax .. followed by an expression to denote a functional update. The expression following .. (the base) must have the same structure type as the new structure type being formed. The entire expression denotes the result of allocating a new structure (with the same type as the base expression) with the given values for the fields that were explicitly specified and the values in the base record for all other fields.

let base = Point3d {x: 1, y: 2, z: 3};
Point3d {y: 0, z: 10, .. base};
block_expr : '{' [ view_item ] *
                 [ stmt ';' | item ] *
                 [ expr ] '}' ;

A block expression is similar to a module in terms of the declarations that are possible. Each block conceptually introduces a new namespace scope. View items can bring new names into scopes and declared items are in scope for only the block itself.

A block will execute each statement sequentially, and then execute the expression (if given). If the final expression is omitted, the type and return value of the block are (), but if it is provided, the type and return value of the block are that of the expression itself.

method_call_expr : expr '.' ident paren_expr_list ;

A method call consists of an expression followed by a single dot, an identifier, and a parenthesized expression-list. Method calls are resolved to methods on specific traits, either statically dispatching to a method if the exact self-type of the left-hand-side is known, or dynamically dispatching if the left-hand-side expression is an indirect object type.

field_expr : expr '.' ident ;

A field expression consists of an expression followed by a single dot and an identifier, when not immediately followed by a parenthesized expression-list (the latter is a method call expression). A field expression denotes a field of a structure.

(Struct {a: 10, b: 20}).a;

A field access on a record is an lvalue referring to the value of that field. When the field is mutable, it can be assigned to.

When the type of the expression to the left of the dot is a pointer to a record or structure, it is automatically dereferenced to make the field access possible.

vec_expr : '[' "mut" ? vec_elems? ']' ;

vec_elems : [expr [',' expr]*] | [expr ',' ".." expr] ;

A vector expression is written by enclosing zero or more comma-separated expressions of uniform type in square brackets.

In the [expr ',' ".." expr] form, the expression after the ".." must be a constant expression that can be evaluated at compile time, such as a literal or a static item.

[1, 2, 3, 4];
["a", "b", "c", "d"];
[0, ..128];             // vector with 128 zeros
[0u8, 0u8, 0u8, 0u8];
idx_expr : expr '[' expr ']' ;

Vector-typed expressions can be indexed by writing a square-bracket-enclosed expression (the index) after them. When the vector is mutable, the resulting lvalue can be assigned to.

Indices are zero-based, and may be of any integral type. Vector access is bounds-checked at run-time. When the check fails, it will put the task in a failing state.

([1, 2, 3, 4])[0];
(["a", "b"])[10]; // fails

Rust defines six symbolic unary operators. They are all written as prefix operators, before the expression they apply to.

binop_expr : expr binop expr ;

Binary operators expressions are given in terms of operator precedence.

Binary arithmetic expressions are syntactic sugar for calls to built-in traits, defined in the std::ops module of the std library. This means that arithmetic operators can be overridden for user-defined types. The default meaning of the operators on standard types is given here.

Like the arithmetic operators, bitwise operators are syntactic sugar for calls to methods of built-in traits. This means that bitwise operators can be overridden for user-defined types. The default meaning of the operators on standard types is given here.

The operators || and && may be applied to operands of boolean type. The || operator denotes logical 'or', and the && operator denotes logical 'and'. They differ from | and & in that the right-hand operand is only evaluated when the left-hand operand does not already determine the result of the expression. That is, || only evaluates its right-hand operand when the left-hand operand evaluates to false, and && only when it evaluates to true.

Comparison operators are, like the arithmetic operators, and bitwise operators, syntactic sugar for calls to built-in traits. This means that comparison operators can be overridden for user-defined types. The default meaning of the operators on standard types is given here.

A type cast expression is denoted with the binary operator as.

Executing an as expression casts the value on the left-hand side to the type on the right-hand side.

A numeric value can be cast to any numeric type. A raw pointer value can be cast to or from any integral type or raw pointer type. Any other cast is unsupported and will fail to compile.

An example of an as expression:

fn avg(v: &[f64]) -> f64 {
  let sum: f64 = sum(v);
  let sz: f64 = len(v) as f64;
  return sum / sz;

An assignment expression consists of an lvalue expression followed by an equals sign (=) and an rvalue expression.

Evaluating an assignment expression either copies or moves its right-hand operand to its left-hand operand.

x = y;

The +, -, *, /, %, &, |, ^, <<, and >> operators may be composed with the = operator. The expression lval OP= val is equivalent to lval = lval OP val. For example, x = x + 1 may be written as x += 1.

Any such expression always has the unit type.

The precedence of Rust binary operators is ordered as follows, going from strong to weak:

* / %
+ -
<< >>
< > <= >=
== !=

Operators at the same precedence level are evaluated left-to-right. Unary operators have the same precedence level and it is stronger than any of the binary operators'.

An expression enclosed in parentheses evaluates to the result of the enclosed expression. Parentheses can be used to explicitly specify evaluation order within an expression.

paren_expr : '(' expr ')' ;

An example of a parenthesized expression:

let x = (2 + 3) * 4;
expr_list : [ expr [ ',' expr ]* ] ? ;
paren_expr_list : '(' expr_list ')' ;
call_expr : expr paren_expr_list ;

A call expression invokes a function, providing zero or more input slots and an optional reference slot to serve as the function's output, bound to the lval on the right hand side of the call. If the function eventually returns, then the expression completes.

Some examples of call expressions:

let x: int = add(1, 2);
let pi: Option<f32> = FromStr::from_str("3.14");
ident_list : [ ident [ ',' ident ]* ] ? ;
lambda_expr : '|' ident_list '|' expr ;

A lambda expression (sometimes called an "anonymous function expression") defines a function and denotes it as a value, in a single expression. A lambda expression is a pipe-symbol-delimited (|) list of identifiers followed by an expression.

A lambda expression denotes a function that maps a list of parameters (ident_list) onto the expression that follows the ident_list. The identifiers in the ident_list are the parameters to the function. These parameters' types need not be specified, as the compiler infers them from context.

Lambda expressions are most useful when passing functions as arguments to other functions, as an abbreviation for defining and capturing a separate function.

Significantly, lambda expressions capture their environment, which regular function definitions do not. The exact type of capture depends on the function type inferred for the lambda expression. In the simplest and least-expensive form (analogous to a || { } expression), the lambda expression captures its environment by reference, effectively borrowing pointers to all outer variables mentioned inside the function. Alternately, the compiler may infer that a lambda expression should copy or move values (depending on their type.) from the environment into the lambda expression's captured environment.

In this example, we define a function ten_times that takes a higher-order function argument, and call it with a lambda expression as an argument.

fn ten_times(f: |int|) {
    let mut i = 0;
    while i < 10 {
        i += 1;

ten_times(|j| println!("hello, {}", j));
while_expr : "while" expr '{' block '}' ;

A while loop begins by evaluating the boolean loop conditional expression. If the loop conditional expression evaluates to true, the loop body block executes and control returns to the loop conditional expression. If the loop conditional expression evaluates to false, the while expression completes.

An example:

let mut i = 0;

while i < 10 {
    i = i + 1;

The keyword loop in Rust appears both in loop expressions and in continue expressions. A loop expression denotes an infinite loop; see Continue expressions for continue expressions.

loop_expr : [ lifetime ':' ] "loop" '{' block '}';

A loop expression may optionally have a label. If a label is present, then labeled break and loop expressions nested within this loop may exit out of this loop or return control to its head. See Break expressions.

break_expr : "break" [ lifetime ];

A break expression has an optional label. If the label is absent, then executing a break expression immediately terminates the innermost loop enclosing it. It is only permitted in the body of a loop. If the label is present, then break foo terminates the loop with label foo, which need not be the innermost label enclosing the break expression, but must enclose it.

continue_expr : "loop" [ lifetime ];

A continue expression, written loop, also has an optional label. If the label is absent, then executing a loop expression immediately terminates the current iteration of the innermost loop enclosing it, returning control to the loop head. In the case of a while loop, the head is the conditional expression controlling the loop. In the case of a for loop, the head is the call-expression controlling the loop. If the label is present, then loop foo returns control to the head of the loop with label foo, which need not be the innermost label enclosing the break expression, but must enclose it.

A loop expression is only permitted in the body of a loop.

for_expr : "for" pat "in" expr '{' block '}' ;

A for expression is a syntactic construct for looping over elements provided by an implementation of std::iter::Iterator.

An example of a for loop over the contents of a vector:

let v: &[Foo] = &[a, b, c];

for e in v.iter() {

An example of a for loop over a series of integers:

for i in range(0u, 256) {
if_expr : "if" expr '{' block '}'
          else_tail ? ;

else_tail : "else" [ if_expr
                   | '{' block '}' ] ;

An if expression is a conditional branch in program control. The form of an if expression is a condition expression, followed by a consequent block, any number of else if conditions and blocks, and an optional trailing else block. The condition expressions must have type bool. If a condition expression evaluates to true, the consequent block is executed and any subsequent else if or else block is skipped. If a condition expression evaluates to false, the consequent block is skipped and any subsequent else if condition is evaluated. If all if and else if conditions evaluate to false then any else block is executed.

match_expr : "match" expr '{' match_arm [ '|' match_arm ] * '}' ;

match_arm : match_pat "=>" [ expr "," | '{' block '}' ] ;

match_pat : pat [ ".." pat ] ? [ "if" expr ] ;

A match expression branches on a pattern. The exact form of matching that occurs depends on the pattern. Patterns consist of some combination of literals, destructured vectors or enum constructors, structures, records and tuples, variable binding specifications, wildcards (..), and placeholders (_). A match expression has a head expression, which is the value to compare to the patterns. The type of the patterns must equal the type of the head expression.

In a pattern whose head expression has an enum type, a placeholder (_) stands for a single data field, whereas a wildcard .. stands for all the fields of a particular variant. For example:

enum List<X> { Nil, Cons(X, ~List<X>) }

let x: List<int> = Cons(10, ~Cons(11, ~Nil));

match x {
    Cons(_, ~Nil) => fail!("singleton list"),
    Cons(..)      => return,
    Nil           => fail!("empty list")

The first pattern matches lists constructed by applying Cons to any head value, and a tail value of ~Nil. The second pattern matches any list constructed with Cons, ignoring the values of its arguments. The difference between _ and .. is that the pattern C(_) is only type-correct if C has exactly one argument, while the pattern C(..) is type-correct for any enum variant C, regardless of how many arguments C has.

Used inside a vector pattern, .. stands for any number of elements. This wildcard can be used at most once for a given vector, which implies that it cannot be used to specifically match elements that are at an unknown distance from both ends of a vector, like [.., 42, ..]. If followed by a variable name, it will bind the corresponding slice to the variable. Example:

fn is_symmetric(list: &[uint]) -> bool {
    match list {
        [] | [_]                   => true,
        [x, ..inside, y] if x == y => is_symmetric(inside),
        _                          => false

fn main() {
    let sym     = &[0, 1, 4, 2, 4, 1, 0];
    let not_sym = &[0, 1, 7, 2, 4, 1, 0];

A match behaves differently depending on whether or not the head expression is an lvalue or an rvalue. If the head expression is an rvalue, it is first evaluated into a temporary location, and the resulting value is sequentially compared to the patterns in the arms until a match is found. The first arm with a matching pattern is chosen as the branch target of the match, any variables bound by the pattern are assigned to local variables in the arm's block, and control enters the block.

When the head expression is an lvalue, the match does not allocate a temporary location (however, a by-value binding may copy or move from the lvalue). When possible, it is preferable to match on lvalues, as the lifetime of these matches inherits the lifetime of the lvalue, rather than being restricted to the inside of the match.

An example of a match expression:

enum List<X> { Nil, Cons(X, ~List<X>) }

let x: List<int> = Cons(10, ~Cons(11, ~Nil));

match x {
    Cons(a, ~Cons(b, _)) => {
    Cons(10, _) => {
    Nil => {
    _ => {

Patterns that bind variables default to binding to a copy or move of the matched value (depending on the matched value's type). This can be changed to bind to a reference by using the ref keyword, or to a mutable reference using ref mut.

Subpatterns can also be bound to variables by the use of the syntax variable @ pattern. For example:

enum List { Nil, Cons(uint, ~List) }

fn is_sorted(list: &List) -> bool {
    match *list {
        Nil | Cons(_, ~Nil) => true,
        Cons(x, ref r @ ~Cons(y, _)) => (x <= y) && is_sorted(*r)

fn main() {
    let a = Cons(6, ~Cons(7, ~Cons(42, ~Nil)));

Patterns can also dereference pointers by using the &, ~ or @ symbols, as appropriate. For example, these two matches on x: &int are equivalent:

let y = match *x { 0 => "zero", _ => "some" };
let z = match x { &0 => "zero", _ => "some" };

assert_eq!(y, z);

A pattern that's just an identifier, like Nil in the previous example, could either refer to an enum variant that's in scope, or bind a new variable. The compiler resolves this ambiguity by forbidding variable bindings that occur in match patterns from shadowing names of variants that are in scope. For example, wherever List is in scope, a match pattern would not be able to bind Nil as a new name. The compiler interprets a variable pattern x as a binding only if there is no variant named x in scope. A convention you can use to avoid conflicts is simply to name variants with upper-case letters, and local variables with lower-case letters.

Multiple match patterns may be joined with the | operator. A range of values may be specified with ... For example:

let message = match x {
  0 | 1  => "not many",
  2 .. 9 => "a few",
  _      => "lots"

Range patterns only work on scalar types (like integers and characters; not like vectors and structs, which have sub-components). A range pattern may not be a sub-range of another range pattern inside the same match.

Finally, match patterns can accept pattern guards to further refine the criteria for matching a case. Pattern guards appear after the pattern and consist of a bool-typed expression following the if keyword. A pattern guard may refer to the variables bound within the pattern they follow.

let message = match maybe_digit {
  Some(x) if x < 10 => process_digit(x),
  Some(x) => process_other(x),
  None => fail!()
return_expr : "return" expr ? ;

Return expressions are denoted with the keyword return. Evaluating a return expression moves its argument into the output slot of the current function, destroys the current function activation frame, and transfers control to the caller frame.

An example of a return expression:

fn max(a: int, b: int) -> int {
   if a > b {
      return a;
   return b;

8 Type system

Every slot, item and value in a Rust program has a type. The type of a value defines the interpretation of the memory holding it.

Built-in types and type-constructors are tightly integrated into the language, in nontrivial ways that are not possible to emulate in user-defined types. User-defined types have limited capabilities.

The primitive types are the following:

The machine types are the following:

The Rust type uint^[A Rust uint is analogous to a C99 uintptr_t.] is an unsigned integer type with target-machine-dependent size. Its size, in bits, is equal to the number of bits required to hold any memory address on the target machine.

The Rust type int^[A Rust int is analogous to a C99 intptr_t.] is a two's complement signed integer type with target-machine-dependent size. Its size, in bits, is equal to the size of the rust type uint on the same target machine.

The types char and str hold textual data.

A value of type char is a Unicode scalar value (ie. a code point that is not a surrogate), represented as a 32-bit unsigned word in the 0x0000 to 0xD7FF or 0xE000 to 0x10FFFF range. A [char] vector is effectively an UCS-4 / UTF-32 string.

A value of type str is a Unicode string, represented as a vector of 8-bit unsigned bytes holding a sequence of UTF-8 codepoints. Since str is of unknown size, it is not a first class type, but can only be instantiated through a pointer type, such as &str or ~str.

The tuple type-constructor forms a new heterogeneous product of values similar to the record type-constructor. The differences are as follows:

Tuple types and values are denoted by listing the types or values of their elements, respectively, in a parenthesized, comma-separated list.

The members of a tuple are laid out in memory contiguously, like a record, in order specified by the tuple type.

An example of a tuple type and its use:

type Pair<'a> = (int,&'a str);
let p: Pair<'static> = (10,"hello");
let (a, b) = p;
assert!(b != "world");

The vector type constructor represents a homogeneous array of values of a given type. A vector has a fixed size. (Operations like vec.push operate solely on owned vectors.) A vector type can be annotated with a definite size, such as [int, ..10]. Such a definite-sized vector type is a first-class type, since its size is known statically. A vector without such a size is said to be of indefinite size, and is therefore not a first-class type. An indefinite-size vector can only be instantiated through a pointer type, such as &[T] or ~[T]. The kind of a vector type depends on the kind of its element type, as with other simple structural types.

Expressions producing vectors of definite size cannot be evaluated in a context expecting a vector of indefinite size; one must copy the definite-sized vector contents into a distinct vector of indefinite size.

An example of a vector type and its use:

let v: &[int] = &[7, 5, 3];
let i: int = v[2];
assert!(i == 3);

All in-bounds elements of a vector are always initialized, and access to a vector is always bounds-checked.

A struct type is a heterogeneous product of other types, called the fields of the type. ^[struct types are analogous struct types in C, the record types of the ML family, or the structure types of the Lisp family.]

New instances of a struct can be constructed with a struct expression.

The memory order of fields in a struct is given by the item defining it. Fields may be given in any order in a corresponding struct expression; the resulting struct value will always be laid out in memory in the order specified by the corresponding item.

The fields of a struct may be qualified by visibility modifiers, to restrict access to implementation-private data in a structure.

A tuple struct type is just like a structure type, except that the fields are anonymous.

A unit-like struct type is like a structure type, except that it has no fields. The one value constructed by the associated structure expression is the only value that inhabits such a type.

An enumerated type is a nominal, heterogeneous disjoint union type, denoted by the name of an enum item. ^[The enum type is analogous to a data constructor declaration in ML, or a pick ADT in Limbo.]

An enum item declares both the type and a number of variant constructors, each of which is independently named and takes an optional tuple of arguments.

New instances of an enum can be constructed by calling one of the variant constructors, in a call expression.

Any enum value consumes as much memory as the largest variant constructor for its corresponding enum type.

Enum types cannot be denoted structurally as types, but must be denoted by named reference to an enum item.

Nominal types — enumerations and structures — may be recursive. That is, each enum constructor or struct field may refer, directly or indirectly, to the enclosing enum or struct type itself. Such recursion has restrictions:

An example of a recursive type and its use:

enum List<T> {
  Cons(T, ~List<T>)

let a: List<int> = Cons(7, ~Cons(13, ~Nil));

All pointers in Rust are explicit first-class values. They can be copied, stored into data structures, and returned from functions. There are four varieties of pointer in Rust:

The function type constructor fn forms new function types. A function type consists of a possibly-empty set of function-type modifiers (such as unsafe or extern), a sequence of input types and an output type.

An example of a fn type:

fn add(x: int, y: int) -> int {
  return x + y;

let mut x = add(5,7);

type Binop<'a> = |int,int|: 'a -> int;
let bo: Binop = add;
x = bo(5,7);
closure_type := [ 'unsafe' ] [ '<' lifetime-list '>' ] '|' arg-list '|'
                [ ':' bound-list ] [ '->' type ]
procedure_type := 'proc' [ '<' lifetime-list '>' ] '(' arg-list ')'
                  [ ':' bound-list ] [ '->' type ]
lifetime-list := lifetime | lifetime ',' lifetime-list
arg-list := ident ':' type | ident ':' type ',' arg-list
bound-list := bound | bound '+' bound-list
bound := path | lifetime

The type of a closure mapping an input of type A to an output of type B is |A| -> B. A closure with no arguments or return values has type ||. Similarly, a procedure mapping A to B is proc(A) -> B and a no-argument and no-return value closure has type proc().

An example of creating and calling a closure:

let captured_var = 10;

let closure_no_args = || println!("captured_var={}", captured_var);

let closure_args = |arg: int| -> int {
  println!("captured_var={}, arg={}", captured_var, arg);
  arg // Note lack of semicolon after 'arg'

fn call_closure(c1: ||, c2: |int| -> int) {

call_closure(closure_no_args, closure_args);

Unlike closures, procedures may only be invoked once, but own their environment, and are allowed to move out of their environment. Procedures are allocated on the heap (unlike closures). An example of creating and calling a procedure:

let string = "Hello".to_owned();

// Creates a new procedure, passing it to the `spawn` function.
spawn(proc() {
  println!("{} world!", string);

// the variable `string` has been moved into the previous procedure, so it is
// no longer usable.

// Create an invoke a procedure. Note that the procedure is *moved* when
// invoked, so it cannot be invoked again.
let f = proc(n: int) { n + 22 };
println!("answer: {}", f(20));

Every trait item (see traits) defines a type with the same name as the trait. This type is called the object type of the trait. Object types permit "late binding" of methods, dispatched using virtual method tables ("vtables"). Whereas most calls to trait methods are "early bound" (statically resolved) to specific implementations at compile time, a call to a method on an object type is only resolved to a vtable entry at compile time. The actual implementation for each vtable entry can vary on an object-by-object basis.

Given a pointer-typed expression E of type &T or ~T, where T implements trait R, casting E to the corresponding pointer type &R or ~R results in a value of the object type R. This result is represented as a pair of pointers: the vtable pointer for the T implementation of R, and the pointer value of E.

An example of an object type:

trait Printable {
  fn to_string(&self) -> ~str;

impl Printable for int {
  fn to_string(&self) -> ~str { self.to_str() }

fn print(a: ~Printable) {
   println!("{}", a.to_string());

fn main() {
   print(~10 as ~Printable);

In this example, the trait Printable occurs as an object type in both the type signature of print, and the cast expression in main.

Within the body of an item that has type parameter declarations, the names of its type parameters are types:

fn map<A: Clone, B: Clone>(f: |A| -> B, xs: &[A]) -> ~[B] {
    if xs.len() == 0 {
       return ~[];
    let first: B = f(xs[0].clone());
    let rest: ~[B] = map(f, xs.slice(1, xs.len()));
    return ~[first] + rest;

Here, first has type B, referring to map's B type parameter; and rest has type ~[B], a vector type with element type B.

The special type self has a meaning within methods inside an impl item. It refers to the type of the implicit self argument. For example, in:

trait Printable {
  fn make_string(&self) -> ~str;

impl Printable for ~str {
    fn make_string(&self) -> ~str {

self refers to the value of type ~str that is the receiver for a call to the method make_string.

Types in Rust are categorized into kinds, based on various properties of the components of the type. The kinds are:

Kinds can be supplied as bounds on type parameters, like traits, in which case the parameter is constrained to types satisfying that kind.

By default, type parameters do not carry any assumed kind-bounds at all. When instantiating a type parameter, the kind bounds on the parameter are checked to be the same or narrower than the kind of the type that it is instantiated with.

Sending operations are not part of the Rust language, but are implemented in the library. Generic functions that send values bound the kind of these values to sendable.

9 Memory and concurrency models

Rust has a memory model centered around concurrently-executing tasks. Thus its memory model and its concurrency model are best discussed simultaneously, as parts of each only make sense when considered from the perspective of the other.

When reading about the memory model, keep in mind that it is partitioned in order to support tasks; and when reading about tasks, keep in mind that their isolation and communication mechanisms are only possible due to the ownership and lifetime semantics of the memory model.

A Rust program's memory consists of a static set of items, a set of tasks each with its own stack, and a heap. Immutable portions of the heap may be shared between tasks, mutable portions may not.

Allocations in the stack consist of slots, and allocations in the heap consist of boxes.

The items of a program are those functions, modules and types that have their value calculated at compile-time and stored uniquely in the memory image of the rust process. Items are neither dynamically allocated nor freed.

A task's stack consists of activation frames automatically allocated on entry to each function as the task executes. A stack allocation is reclaimed when control leaves the frame containing it.

The heap is a general term that describes two separate sets of boxes: managed boxes — which may be subject to garbage collection — and owned boxes. The lifetime of an allocation in the heap depends on the lifetime of the box values pointing to it. Since box values may themselves be passed in and out of frames, or stored in the heap, heap allocations may outlive the frame they are allocated within.

A task owns all memory it can safely reach through local variables, as well as managed, owned boxes and references.

When a task sends a value that has the Send trait to another task, it loses ownership of the value sent and can no longer refer to it. This is statically guaranteed by the combined use of "move semantics", and the compiler-checked meaning of the Send trait: it is only instantiated for (transitively) sendable kinds of data constructor and pointers, never including managed boxes or references.

When a stack frame is exited, its local allocations are all released, and its references to boxes (both managed and owned) are dropped.

A managed box may (in the case of a recursive, mutable managed type) be cyclic; in this case the release of memory inside the managed structure may be deferred until task-local garbage collection can reclaim it. Code can ensure no such delayed deallocation occurs by restricting itself to owned boxes and similar unmanaged kinds of data.

When a task finishes, its stack is necessarily empty and it therefore has no references to any boxes; the remainder of its heap is immediately freed.

A task's stack contains slots.

A slot is a component of a stack frame, either a function parameter, a temporary, or a local variable.

A local variable (or stack-local allocation) holds a value directly, allocated within the stack's memory. The value is a part of the stack frame.

Local variables are immutable unless declared otherwise like: let mut x = ....

Function parameters are immutable unless declared with mut. The mut keyword applies only to the following parameter (so |mut x, y| and fn f(mut x: ~int, y: ~int) declare one mutable variable x and one immutable variable y).

Methods that take either self or ~self can optionally place them in a mutable slot by prefixing them with mut (similar to regular arguments):

trait Changer {
    fn change(mut self) -> Self;
    fn modify(mut ~self) -> ~Self;

Local variables are not initialized when allocated; the entire frame worth of local variables are allocated at once, on frame-entry, in an uninitialized state. Subsequent statements within a function may or may not initialize the local variables. Local variables can be used only after they have been initialized; this is enforced by the compiler.

An owned box is a reference to a heap allocation holding another value, which is constructed by the prefix tilde sigil ~.

An example of an owned box type and value:

let x: ~int = ~10;

Owned box values exist in 1:1 correspondence with their heap allocation copying an owned box value makes a shallow copy of the pointer Rust will consider a shallow copy of an owned box to move ownership of the value. After a value has been moved, the source location cannot be used unless it is reinitialized.

let x: ~int = ~10;
let y = x;
// attempting to use `x` will result in an error here

An executing Rust program consists of a tree of tasks. A Rust task consists of an entry function, a stack, a set of outgoing communication channels and incoming communication ports, and ownership of some portion of the heap of a single operating-system process. (We expect that many programs will not use channels and ports directly, but will instead use higher-level abstractions provided in standard libraries, such as pipes.)

Multiple Rust tasks may coexist in a single operating-system process. The runtime scheduler maps tasks to a certain number of operating-system threads. By default, the scheduler chooses the number of threads based on the number of concurrent physical CPUs detected at startup. It's also possible to override this choice at runtime. When the number of tasks exceeds the number of threads — which is likely — the scheduler multiplexes the tasks onto threads.^[ This is an M:N scheduler, which is known to give suboptimal results for CPU-bound concurrency problems. In such cases, running with the same number of threads and tasks can yield better results. Rust has M:N scheduling in order to support very large numbers of tasks in contexts where threads are too resource-intensive to use in large number. The cost of threads varies substantially per operating system, and is sometimes quite low, so this flexibility is not always worth exploiting.]

Rust tasks are isolated and generally unable to interfere with one another's memory directly, except through unsafe code. All contact between tasks is mediated by safe forms of ownership transfer, and data races on memory are prohibited by the type system.

Inter-task communication and co-ordination facilities are provided in the standard library. These include:

When such facilities carry values, the values are restricted to the Send type-kind. Restricting communication interfaces to this kind ensures that no references or managed pointers move between tasks. Thus access to an entire data structure can be mediated through its owning "root" value; no further locking or copying is required to avoid data races within the substructure of such a value.

The lifecycle of a task consists of a finite set of states and events that cause transitions between the states. The lifecycle states of a task are:

A task begins its lifecycle — once it has been spawned — in the running state. In this state it executes the statements of its entry function, and any functions called by the entry function.

A task may transition from the running state to the blocked state any time it makes a blocking communication call. When the call can be completed — when a message arrives at a sender, or a buffer opens to receive a message — then the blocked task will unblock and transition back to running.

A task may transition to the failing state at any time, due being killed by some external event or internally, from the evaluation of a fail!() macro. Once failing, a task unwinds its stack and transitions to the dead state. Unwinding the stack of a task is done by the task itself, on its own control stack. If a value with a destructor is freed during unwinding, the code for the destructor is run, also on the task's control stack. Running the destructor code causes a temporary transition to a running state, and allows the destructor code to cause any subsequent state transitions. The original task of unwinding and failing thereby may suspend temporarily, and may involve (recursive) unwinding of the stack of a failed destructor. Nonetheless, the outermost unwinding activity will continue until the stack is unwound and the task transitions to the dead state. There is no way to "recover" from task failure. Once a task has temporarily suspended its unwinding in the failing state, failure occurring from within this destructor results in hard failure. A hard failure currently results in the process aborting.

A task in the dead state cannot transition to other states; it exists only to have its termination status inspected by other tasks, and/or to await reclamation when the last reference to it drops.

The currently scheduled task is given a finite time slice in which to execute, after which it is descheduled at a loop-edge or similar preemption point, and another task within is scheduled, pseudo-randomly.

An executing task can yield control at any time, by making a library call to std::task::yield, which deschedules it immediately. Entering any other non-executing state (blocked, dead) similarly deschedules the task.

10 Runtime services, linkage and debugging

The Rust runtime is a relatively compact collection of C++ and Rust code that provides fundamental services and datatypes to all Rust tasks at run-time. It is smaller and simpler than many modern language runtimes. It is tightly integrated into the language's execution model of memory, tasks, communication and logging.

Note: The runtime library will merge with the std library in future versions of Rust.

The runtime memory-management system is based on a service-provider interface, through which the runtime requests blocks of memory from its environment and releases them back to its environment when they are no longer needed. The default implementation of the service-provider interface consists of the C runtime functions malloc and free.

The runtime memory-management system, in turn, supplies Rust tasks with facilities for allocating releasing stacks, as well as allocating and freeing heap data.

The runtime provides C and Rust code to assist with various built-in types, such as vectors, strings, and the low level communication system (ports, channels, tasks).

Support for other built-in types such as simple types, tuples, records, and enums is open-coded by the Rust compiler.

The runtime provides code to manage inter-task communication. This includes the system of task-lifecycle state transitions depending on the contents of queues, as well as code to copy values between queues and their recipients and to serialize values for transmission over operating-system inter-process communication facilities.

The Rust compiler supports various methods to link crates together both statically and dynamically. This section will explore the various methods to link Rust crates together, and more information about native libraries can be found in the ffi tutorial.

In one session of compilation, the compiler can generate multiple artifacts through the usage of either command line flags or the crate_type attribute. If one or more command line flag is specified, all crate_type attributes will be ignored in favor of only building the artifacts specified by command line.

Note that these outputs are stackable in the sense that if multiple are specified, then the compiler will produce each form of output at once without having to recompile. However, this only applies for outputs specified by the same method. If only crate_type attributes are specified, then they will all be built, but if one or more --crate-type command line flag is specified, then only those outputs will be built.

With all these different kinds of outputs, if crate A depends on crate B, then the compiler could find B in various different forms throughout the system. The only forms looked for by the compiler, however, are the rlib format and the dynamic library format. With these two options for a dependent library, the compiler must at some point make a choice between these two formats. With this in mind, the compiler follows these rules when determining what format of dependencies will be used:

  1. If a dynamic library is being produced, then it is required for all upstream Rust dependencies to also be dynamic. This is a limitation of the current implementation of the linkage model. The reason behind this limitation is to prevent multiple copies of the same upstream library from showing up, and in the future it is planned to support a mixture of dynamic and static linking.

    When producing a dynamic library, the compiler will generate an error if an upstream dependency could not be found, and also if an upstream dependency could only be found in an rlib format. Remember that staticlib formats are always ignored by rustc for crate-linking purposes.

  2. If a static library is being produced, all upstream dependencies are required to be available in rlib formats. This requirement stems from the same reasons that a dynamic library must have all dynamic dependencies.

    Note that it is impossible to link in native dynamic dependencies to a static library, and in this case warnings will be printed about all unlinked native dynamic dependencies.

  3. If an rlib file is being produced, then there are no restrictions on what format the upstream dependencies are available in. It is simply required that all upstream dependencies be available for reading metadata from.

    The reason for this is that rlib files do not contain any of their upstream dependencies. It wouldn't be very efficient for all rlib files to contain a copy of libstd.rlib!

  4. If an executable is being produced, then things get a little interesting. As with the above limitations in dynamic and static libraries, it is required for all upstream dependencies to be in the same format. The next question is whether to prefer a dynamic or a static format. The compiler currently favors static linking over dynamic linking, but this can be inverted with the -C prefer-dynamic flag to the compiler.

    What this means is that first the compiler will attempt to find all upstream dependencies as rlib files, and if successful, it will create a statically linked executable. If an upstream dependency is missing as an rlib file, then the compiler will force all dependencies to be dynamic and will generate errors if dynamic versions could not be found.

In general, --crate-type=bin or --crate-type=lib should be sufficient for all compilation needs, and the other options are just available if more fine-grained control is desired over the output format of a Rust crate.

The runtime contains a system for directing logging expressions to a logging console and/or internal logging buffers. Logging can be enabled per module.

Logging output is enabled by setting the RUST_LOG environment variable. RUST_LOG accepts a logging specification made up of a comma-separated list of paths, with optional log levels. For each module containing log expressions, if RUST_LOG contains the path to that module or a parent of that module, then logs of the appropriate level will be output to the console.

The path to a module consists of the crate name, any parent modules, then the module itself, all separated by double colons (::). The optional log level can be appended to the module path with an equals sign (=) followed by the log level, from 1 to 4, inclusive. Level 1 is the error level, 2 is warning, 3 info, and 4 debug. You can also use the symbolic constants error, warn, info, and debug. Any logs less than or equal to the specified level will be output. If not specified then log level 4 is assumed. Debug messages can be omitted by passing --cfg ndebug to rustc.

As an example, to see all the logs generated by the compiler, you would set RUST_LOG to rustc, which is the crate name (as specified in its crate_id attribute). To narrow down the logs to just crate resolution, you would set it to rustc::metadata::creader. To see just error logging use rustc=0.

Note that when compiling source files that don't specify a crate name the crate is given a default name that matches the source file, with the extension removed. In that case, to turn on logging for a program compiled from, e.g., RUST_LOG should be set to helloworld.

Rust provides several macros to log information. Here's a simple Rust program that demonstrates all four of them:

#[phase(syntax, link)] extern crate log;

fn main() {
    error!("This is an error log")
    warn!("This is a warn log")
    info!("this is an info log")
    debug!("This is a debug log")

These four log levels correspond to levels 1-4, as controlled by RUST_LOG:

$ RUST_LOG=rust=3 ./rust
This is an error log
This is a warn log
this is an info log

11 Appendix: Rationales and design tradeoffs


12 Appendix: Influences and further references

The essential problem that must be solved in making a fault-tolerant software system is therefore that of fault-isolation. Different programmers will write different modules, some modules will be correct, others will have errors. We do not want the errors in one module to adversely affect the behaviour of a module which does not have any errors.

— Joe Armstrong

In our approach, all data is private to some process, and processes can only communicate through communications channels. Security, as used in this paper, is the property which guarantees that processes in a system cannot affect each other except by explicit communication.

When security is absent, nothing which can be proven about a single module in isolation can be guaranteed to hold when that module is embedded in a system [...]

— Robert Strom and Shaula Yemini

Concurrent and applicative programming complement each other. The ability to send messages on channels provides I/O without side effects, while the avoidance of shared data helps keep concurrent processes from colliding.

— Rob Pike

Rust is not a particularly original language. It may however appear unusual by contemporary standards, as its design elements are drawn from a number of "historical" languages that have, with a few exceptions, fallen out of favour. Five prominent lineages contribute the most, though their influences have come and gone during the course of Rust's development:

Additional specific influences can be seen from the following languages: