Summary

Support the #[must_use] attribute on arbitrary functions, to make the compiler lint when a call to such a function is ignored. Mark PartialEq::{eq, ne} #[must_use] as well as PartialOrd::{lt, gt, le, ge}.

Motivation

The #[must_use] lint is extremely useful for ensuring that values that are likely to be important are handled, even if by just explicitly ignoring them with, e.g., let _ = ...;. This expresses the programmers intention clearly, so that there is less confusion about whether, for example, ignoring the possible error from a write call is intentional or just an accidental oversight.

Rust has got a lot of mileage out connecting the #[must_use] lint to specific types: types like Result, MutexGuard (any guard, in general) and the lazy iterator adapters have narrow enough use cases that the programmer usually wants to do something with them. These types are marked #[must_use] and the compiler will print an error if a semicolon ever throws away a value of that type:


# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
fn returns_result() -> Result<(), ()> {
    Ok(())
}

fn ignore_it() {
    returns_result();
}
#}
test.rs:6:5: 6:11 warning: unused result which must be used, #[warn(unused_must_use)] on by default
test.rs:6     returns_result();
              ^~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One of the most important use-cases for this would be annotating PartialEq::{eq, ne} with #[must_use].

There's a bug in Android where instead of modem_reset_flag = 0; the file affected has modem_reset_flag == 0;. Rust does not do better in this case. If you wrote modem_reset_flag == false; the compiler would be perfectly happy and wouldn't warn you. By marking PartialEq #[must_use] the compiler would complain about things like:

    modem_reset_flag == false; //warning
    modem_reset_flag = false; //ok

See further discussion in #1812.

Detailed design

If a semicolon discards the result of a function or method tagged with #[must_use], the compiler will emit a lint message (under same lint as #[must_use] on types). An optional message #[must_use = "..."] will be printed, to provide the user with more guidance.


# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
#[must_use]
fn foo() -> u8 { 0 }


struct Bar;

impl Bar {
     #[must_use = "maybe you meant something else"]
     fn baz(&self) -> Option<String> { None }
}

fn qux() {
    foo(); // warning: unused result that must be used
    Bar.baz(); // warning: unused result that must be used: maybe you meant something else
}
#}

The primary motivation is to mark PartialEq functions as #[must_use]:

#[must_use = "the result of testing for equality should not be discarded"]
fn eq(&self, other: &Rhs) -> bool;

The same thing for ne, and also lt, gt, ge, le in PartialOrd. There is no reason to discard the results of those operations. This means the impls of these functions are not changed, it still issues a warning even for a custom impl.

Drawbacks

This adds a little more complexity to the #[must_use] system, and may be misused by library authors (but then, many features may be misused).

The rule stated doesn't cover every instance where a #[must_use] function is ignored, e.g. (foo()); and { ...; foo() }; will not be picked up, even though it is passing the result through a piece of no-op syntax. This could be tweaked. Notably, the type-based rule doesn't have this problem, since that sort of "passing-through" causes the outer piece of syntax to be of the #[must_use] type, and so is considered for the lint itself.

Marking functions #[must_use] is a breaking change in certain cases, e.g. if someone is ignoring their result and has the relevant lint (or warnings in general) set to be an error. This is a general problem of improving/expanding lints.

Alternatives

  • Adjust the rule to propagate #[must_used]ness through parentheses and blocks, so that (foo());, { foo() }; and even if cond { foo() } else { 0 }; are linted.

  • Should we let particular impls of a function have this attribute? Current design allows you to attach it inside the declaration of the trait.

Unresolved questions

  • Should this be feature gated?