Dotty Documentation


Given Clauses

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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, given the implied 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 context 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 context 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 Context Parameters

In many situations, the name of a context parameter need not be mentioned explicitly at all, since it is used only in synthesized arguments for other context 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 a context parameter of type Ord only to pass it on as an inferred argument to max. The name of the parameter is left out.

Generally, context 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 a context 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:

implied global for Universe { type Context = ... }
implied ctx for 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 Implied Instances

A method the in Predef returns the implied instance of a given type. For example, the implied instance of 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 context parameter.

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

Functions like the that have only context parameters are also called context functions.


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’ [‘erased’] (‘(’ ClsParams ‘)’ | GivenTypes)
DefParamClauses     ::=  ...
                      |  {DefParamClause} {GivenParamClause}
GivenParamClause    ::=  ‘given’ [‘erased’] (‘(’ DefParams ‘)’ | GivenTypes)
GivenTypes          ::=  AnnotType {‘,’ AnnotType}

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