Closures should capture their upvars by value unless the ref keyword is used.


For unboxed closures, we will need to syntactically distinguish between captures by value and captures by reference.

Detailed design

This is a small part of #114, split off to separate it from the rest of the discussion going on in that RFC.

Closures should capture their upvars (closed-over variables) by value unless the ref keyword precedes the opening | of the argument list. Thus |x| x + 2 will capture x by value (and thus, if x is not Copy, it will move x into the closure), but ref |x| x + 2 will capture x by reference.

In an unboxed-closures world, the immutability/mutability of the borrow (as the case may be) is inferred from the type of the closure: Fn captures by immutable reference, while FnMut captures by mutable reference. In a boxed-closures world, the borrows are always mutable.


It may be that ref is unwanted complexity; it only changes the semantics of 10%-20% of closures, after all. This does not add any core functionality to the language, as a reference can always be made explicitly and then captured. However, there are a lot of closures, and the workaround to capture a reference by value is painful.


As above, the impact of not doing this is that reference semantics would have to be achieved. However, the diff against current Rust was thousands of lines of pretty ugly code.

Another alternative would be to annotate each individual upvar with its capture semantics, like capture clauses in C++11. This proposal does not preclude adding that functionality should it be deemed useful in the future. Note that C++11 provides a syntax for capturing all upvars by reference, exactly as this proposal does.

Unresolved questions