Dotty Documentation


Given Parameters

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Functional programming tends to express most dependencies as simple function parameterization. This is clean and powerful, but it sometimes leads to functions that take many parameters and call trees where the same value is passed over and over again in long call chains to many functions. Given clauses can help here since they enable the compiler to synthesize repetitive arguments instead of the programmer having to write them explicitly.

For example, with the given instances defined previously, a maximum function that works for any arguments for which an ordering exists can be defined as follows:

def max[T](x: T, y: T) given (ord: Ord[T]): T =
  if (, y) < 1) y else x

Here, ord is an implicit parameter introduced with a given clause. The max method can be applied as follows:

max(2, 3) given IntOrd

The given IntOrd part passes IntOrd as an argument for the ord parameter. But the point of implicit parameters is that this argument can also be left out (and it usually is). So the following applications are equally valid:

max(2, 3)
max(List(1, 2, 3), Nil)

Anonymous Given Clauses

In many situations, the name of an implicit parameter need not be mentioned explicitly at all, since it is used only in synthesized arguments for other implicit parameters. In that case one can avoid defining a parameter name and just provide its type. Example:

def maximum[T](xs: List[T]) given Ord[T]: T =

maximum takes an implicit parameter of type Ord only to pass it on as an inferred argument to max. The name of the parameter is left out.

Generally, implicit parameters may be defined either as a parameter list (p_1: T_1, ..., p_n: T_n) or as a sequence of types, separated by commas.

Inferring Complex Arguments

Here are two other methods that have an implicit parameter of type Ord[T]:

def descending[T] given (asc: Ord[T]): Ord[T] = new Ord[T] {
  def compare(x: T, y: T) =, x)

def minimum[T](xs: List[T]) given Ord[T] =
  maximum(xs) given descending

The minimum method's right hand side passes descending as an explicit argument to maximum(xs). With this setup, the following calls are all well-formed, and they all normalize to the last one:

maximum(xs) given descending
maximum(xs) given (descending given ListOrd)
maximum(xs) given (descending given (ListOrd given IntOrd))

Multiple Given Clauses

There can be several given clauses in a definition. Example:

def f given (u: Universe) given (x: u.Context) = ...

However, all given clauses in a definition must come after any normal parameter clauses. Multiple given clauses are matched left-to-right in applications. Example:

given global as Universe { type Context = ... }
given ctx as global.Context { ... }

Then the following calls are all valid (and normalize to the last one)

(f given global)
(f given global) given ctx

But f given ctx would give a type error.

Summoning Instances

A method the in Predef returns the given instance of a specific type. For example, the given instance for Ord[List[Int]] is produced by

the[Ord[List[Int]]]  // reduces to ListOrd given IntOrd

The the method is simply defined as the (non-widening) identity function over a implicit parameter.

def the[T] given (x: T): x.type = x


Here is the new syntax of parameters and arguments seen as a delta from the standard context free syntax of Scala 3.

ClsParamClauses     ::=  ...
                      |  {ClsParamClause} {GivenClsParamClause}
GivenClsParamClause ::=  ‘given’ (‘(’ ClsParams ‘)’ | GivenTypes)
DefParamClauses     ::=  ...
                      |  {DefParamClause} {GivenParamClause}
GivenParamClause    ::=  ‘given’ (‘(’ DefParams ‘)’ | GivenTypes)
GivenTypes          ::=  AnnotType {‘,’ AnnotType}

InfixExpr           ::=  ...
                      |  InfixExpr ‘given’ (InfixExpr | ParArgumentExprs)