Rust types

Rust types are represented by the Ty and TyKind types. You use Ty to represent "some Rust type". But to actually inspect what sort of type you have, you invoke the kind method, which returns a TyKind. As described earlier, the actual in-memory representation of types is controlled by the Interner trait.

The TyKind variants and how they map to Rust syntax

This section covers the variants we use to categorize types. We have endeavored to create a breakdown that simplifies the Rust "surface syntax" of types to their "essence". In particular, the goal is to group together types that are largely treated identically by the system and to separate types when there are important semantic differences in how they are handled.

Chalk variantExample Rust types
Placeholderhow we represent T when type checking fn foo<T>() { .. }
Dyndyn Trait
Alias<T as Iterator>::Item, or the Foo in type Foo = impl Trait and type Foo = u32
BoundVariablean uninstantiated generic parameter like the T in struct Foo<T>
Adtstruct Foo<T>

Justification for each variant

Each variant of TyKind generally wraps a single struct, which represents a type known to be of that particular variant. This section goes through the variants in a bit more detail, and in particular describes why each variant exists.

Application types

Most of "normal rust types" like Vec<u32> or (f32, Vec<isize>) are represented with TyKind variants containing some type-specific info ("type name") and a substitution that is "applied" to that type. In this case, type names are Vec and "tuple of arity 2", and substitutions are [u32] and [f32, Vec<isize>].

They are equal to other types (modulo aliases, see below) iff they have the same "type name" and the generic arguments are recursively equal


The Placeholder variant contains a PlaceholderIndex type. It represents a generic type that is being treated abstractly or -- more generally -- the result of a "type function" that cannot be evaluated. For example, when typing the body of a generic function like fn foo<T: Iterator>, the type T would be represented with a placeholder. Similarly, in that same function, the associated type T::Item might be represented with a placeholder.

Like application types, placeholder types are only known to be equal.

When proving negative goals, e.g., not { Implemented(T: Trait) }, placeholders are treated quite differently from application types, since they do not (in fact) represent a known type. When solving negative goals, placeholders are replaced with inference variables -- the idea is that this goal is only true if there is no type T that implements Trait. Therefore, if we can find no answers for exists<T> { Implemented(T: Trait) }, then we know that the negation is true. (Note that this means that e.g. forall<X> { X = i32 } is false but so is forall<X> { not { X = i32 } }.)

Inference variables

The InferenceVar variant wraps an InferenceVar type. This represents a type whose value is being inferred. The value of an inference variables may be "known" or "not known", but that state is stored externally, in the inference context (see the section on inference below).

When equating, inference variables are treated specially in that they become bound (or, if they have already been bound, they are replaced with their value).

Inference variables are also integral to canonicalization and other types.

Dyn types

The Dyn variant wraps a DynTy and represents a dyn Trait type. In chalk, these are represented as an existential type where we store the predicates that are known to be true. So a type like dyn Write would be represented as, effectively, an exists<T> { T: Write } type.

When equating, two dyn P and dyn Q types are equal if P = Q -- i.e., they have the same bounds. Note that -- for this purpose -- ordering of bounds is significant. That means that if you create a dyn Foo + Send and a dyn Send + Foo, chalk would consider them distinct types. The assumption is that bounds are ordered in some canonical fashion somewhere else. This may want to change.

There are "automatic" rules for proving that dyn P: P and so forth, but that is outside the scope of the chalk-ir crate.

Function pointer types

The Function variant wraps a FnPointer struct and represents a fn() type (in other words, a function pointer). In some ways, fn types are like application types, but with one crucial difference: they also contain a forall binder that for lifetimes whose value is determined when the function is called. Consider e.g. a type like fn(&u32) or -- more explicitly -- for<'a> fn(&'a u32).

Two Function types A, B are equal A = B if A <: B and B <: A

Two Function types A, B are subtypes A <: B if

  • After instantiating the lifetime parameters on B universally...
    • You can instantiate the lifetime parameters on A existentially...
      • And then you find that P_B <: P_A for every parameter type P on A and B and R_A <: R_B for the return type R of A and B.

We currently handle type inference with a bit of a hack (same as rustc); when relating a Fn type F to an unbounded type variable V, we instantiate V with F. But in practice because of the above subtyping rules there are actually a range of values that V could have and still be equal with F. This may or may not be something to consider revisiting.

Alias types

The Alias variant wraps an AliasTy and is used to represent some form of type alias. They are used to represent a number of related Rust concepts, include actual type aliases, associated types, and opaque types -- you can read about them in the aliases chapter.

Bound variables

The BoundVar variant represents some variable that is bound in an outer term. For example, given a term like forall<X> { Implemented(X: Trait) }, the X is bound. Bound variables in chalk (like rustc) use De Bruijn indices (See below).

Bound variables are never directly equated, as any bound variables would have been instantiated with either inference variables or placeholders.

They do appear in canonical forms and other terms that contain binders.

Error types

The Error variant represents a type that resulted from some erroneous expression. Error types generally propagate eagerly in an attempt to suppress nonsense errors that are derived by interactions with buggy code.

Error should be its own variant because most bits of code will want to handle it somewhat specially -- e.g., maybe it can "unify" with any other type without any effect, and so forth.

Mapping to rustc types

The rustc TyKind enum is almost equivalent to chalk's. This section describes how the rustc types can be mapped to chalk types. The intention is that, at least when transitioning, rustc would implement the Interner trait and would map from the TyKind enum to chalk's TyKind on the fly, when data() is invoked.

rustc typechalk variant (and some notes)
UnnormalizedProjection(see below)
ParamXXX Placeholder?