Method lookup can be rather complex due to the interaction of a number of factors, such as self types, autoderef, trait lookup, etc. This file provides an overview of the process. More detailed notes are in the code itself, naturally.
One way to think of method lookup is that we convert an expression of the form:
into a more explicit UFCS form:
Trait::method(ADJ(receiver), ...) // for a trait call ReceiverType::method(ADJ(receiver), ...) // for an inherent method call
ADJ is some kind of adjustment, which is typically a series of
autoderefs and then possibly an autoref (e.g.,
we sometimes do other adjustments and coercions along the way, in
particular unsizing (e.g., converting from
[T; n] to
Method lookup is divided into two major phases:
- Probing (
probe.rs). The probe phase is when we decide what method to call and how to adjust the receiver.
- Confirmation (
confirm.rs). The confirmation phase "applies" this selection, updating the side-tables, unifying type variables, and otherwise doing side-effectful things.
One reason for this division is to be more amenable to caching. The
probe phase produces a "pick" (
probe::Pick), which is designed to be
cacheable across method-call sites. Therefore, it does not include
inference variables or other information.
The Probe phase
The first thing that the probe phase does is to create a series of
steps. This is done by progressively dereferencing the receiver type
until it cannot be deref'd anymore, as well as applying an optional
"unsize" step. So if the receiver has type
Rc<Box<[T; 3]>>, this
Rc<Box<[T; 3]>> Box<[T; 3]> [T; 3] [T]
We then search along those steps to create a list of candidates. A
Candidate is a method item that might plausibly be the method being
invoked. For each candidate, we'll derive a "transformed self type"
that takes into account explicit self.
Candidates are grouped into two kinds, inherent and extension.
Inherent candidates are those that are derived from the
type of the receiver itself. So, if you have a receiver of some
Foo (e.g., a struct), any methods defined within an
impl Foo are inherent methods. Nothing needs to be
imported to use an inherent method, they are associated with the type
itself (note that inherent impls can only be defined in the same
module as the type itself).
FIXME: Inherent candidates are not always derived from impls. If you
have a trait object, such as a value of type
Box<ToString>, then the
trait methods (
to_string(), in this case) are inherently associated
with it. Another case is type parameters, in which case the methods of
their bounds are inherent. However, this part of the rules is subject
to change: when DST's "impl Trait for Trait" is complete, trait object
dispatch could be subsumed into trait matching, and the type parameter
behavior should be reconsidered in light of where clauses.
TODO: Is this FIXME still accurate?
Extension candidates are derived from imported traits. If I have
ToString imported, and I call
to_string() on a value of
T, then we will go off to find out whether there is an impl of
T. These kinds of method calls are called "extension
methods". They can be defined in any module, not only the one that
T. Furthermore, you must import the trait to call such a
So, let's continue our example. Imagine that we were calling a method
foo with the receiver
Rc<Box<[T; 3]>> and there is a trait
that defines it with
&self for the type
Rc<U> as well as a method
on the type
Box that defines
Foo but with
&mut self. Then we
might have two candidates:
&Rc<Box<[T; 3]>> from the impl of `Foo` for `Rc<U>` where `U=Box<T; 3]> &mut Box<[T; 3]>> from the inherent impl on `Box<U>` where `U=[T; 3]`
Finally, to actually pick the method, we will search down the steps, trying to match the receiver type against the candidate types. At each step, we also consider an auto-ref and auto-mut-ref to see whether that makes any of the candidates match. We pick the first step where we find a match.
In the case of our example, the first step is
which does not itself match any candidate. But when we autoref it, we
get the type
&Rc<Box<[T; 3]>> which does match. We would then
recursively consider all where-clauses that appear on the impl: if
those match (or we cannot rule out that they do), then this is the
method we would pick. Otherwise, we would continue down the series of