Add compiler-generated Clone implementations for tuples and arrays with Clone elements of all lengths.


Currently, the Clone trait for arrays and tuples is implemented using a macro in libcore, for tuples of size 11 or less and for Copy arrays of size 32 or less. This breaks the uniformity of the language and annoys users.

Also, the compiler already implements Copy for all arrays and tuples with all elements Copy, which forces the compiler to provide an implementation for Copy’s supertrait Clone. There is no reason the compiler couldn’t provide Clone impls for all arrays and tuples.

Guide-level explanation

Arrays and tuples of Clone arrays are Clone themselves. Cloning them clones all of their elements.

Reference-level explanation

Make clone a lang-item, add the following trait rules to the compiler:

n number
T type
T: Clone
[T; n]: Clone

T1,...,Tn types
T1: Clone, ..., Tn: Clone
(T1, ..., Tn): Clone

And add the obvious implementations of Clone::clone and Clone::clone_from as MIR shim implementations, in the same manner as drop_in_place. The implementations could also do a shallow copy if the type ends up being Copy.

Remove the macro implementations in libcore. We still have macro implementations for other “derived” traits, such as PartialEq, Hash, etc.

Note that independently of this RFC, we’re adding builtin Clone impls for all “scalar” types, most importantly fn pointer and fn item types (where manual impls are impossible in the foreseeable future because of higher-ranked types, e.g. for<'a> fn(SomeLocalStruct<'a>)), which are already Copy:

T fn pointer type
T: Clone

T fn item type
T: Clone

And just for completeness (these are perfectly done by an impl in Rust 1.19):

T int type | T uint type | T float type
T: Clone

T type
*const T: Clone
*mut T: Clone

T type
'a lifetime
&'a T: Clone

bool: Clone
char: Clone
!: Clone

This was considered a bug-fix (these types are all Copy, so it’s easy to witness that they are Clone).


The MIR shims add complexity to the compiler. Along with the derive(Clone) implementation in libsyntax, we have 2 separate sets of implementations of Clone.

Having Copy and Clone impls for all arrays and tuples, but not PartialEq etc. impls, could be confusing to users.

Rationale and Alternatives

Even with all proposed expansions to Rust’s type-system, for consistency, the compiler needs to have at least some built-in Clone implementations: the type for<'a> fn(Foo<'a>) is Copy for all user-defined types Foo, but there is no way to implement Clone, which is a supertrait of Copy, for it (an impl<T> Clone for fn(T) won’t match against the higher-ranked type).

The MIR shims for Clone of arrays and tuples are actually pretty simple and don’t add much complexity after we have drop_in_place and shims for Copy types.

The array situation

In Rust 1.19, arrays are Clone only if they are Copy. This code does not compile:

fn main() {
    let x = [Box::new(0)].clone(); //~ ERROR
    println!("{:?}", x[0]);

The reason (I think) is that there is no good way to write a variable-length array expression in macros. This wouldn’t be fixed by the first iteration of const generics. Actually, this can be done using a for-loop (ArrayVec is used here instead of a manual panic guard for simplicity, but it can be easily implemented given const generics).

impl<const n: usize; T: Clone> Clone for [T; n] {
    fn clone(&self) -> Self {
        unsafe {
            let result : ArrayVec<Self> = ArrayVec::new();
            for elem in (self as &[T]) {

OTOH, this means that making non-Copy arrays Clone is less of a bugfix and more of a new feature. It’s however a nice feature - [Box<u32>; 1] not being Clone is an annoying and seemingly-pointless edge case.

Implement Clone only for Copy types

As of Rust 1.19, the compiler does not have the Clone implementations, which causes ICEs such as rust-lang/rust#25733 because Clone is a supertrait of Copy.

One alternative, which would solve ICEs while being conservative, would be to have compiler implementations for Clone only for Copy tuples of size 12+ and arrays, and maintain the libcore macros for Clone of tuples (in Rust 1.19, arrays are only Clone if they are Copy).

This would make the shims trivial (a Clone implementation for a Copy type is just a memcpy), and would not implement any features that are not needed.

When we get variadic generics, we could make all tuples with Clone elements Clone. When we get const generics, we could make all arrays with Clone elements Clone.

Use a MIR implementation of Clone for all derived impls

The implementation on the other end of the conservative-radical end would be to use the MIR shims for all #[derive(Clone)] implementations. This would increase uniformity by getting rid of the separate libsyntax derived implementation. However:

  1. We’ll still need the #[derive_Clone] hook in libsyntax, which would presumably result in an attribute that trait selection can see. That’s not a significant concern.

  2. The more annoying issue is that, as a workaround to trait matching being inductive, derived implementations are imperfect - see rust-lang/rust#26925. This means that we either have to solve that issue for Clone (which is dedicatedly non-trivial) or have some sort of type-checking for the generated MIR shims, both annoying options.

  3. A MIR shim implementation would also have to deal with edge cases such as #[repr(packed)], which normal type-checking would handle for ordinary derive. I think drop glue already encounters all of these edge cases so we have to deal with them anyway.

Copy and Clone for closures

We could also add implementations of Copy and Clone to closures. That is RFC #2132 and should be discussed there.

Unresolved questions

See Alternatives.