Compile-time operations

The scala.compiletime Package

The scala.compiletime package contains helper definitions that provide support for compile-time operations over values. They are described in the following.

constValue and constValueOpt

constValue is a function that produces the constant value represented by a type.

import scala.compiletime.constValue

transparent inline def toIntC[N]: Int =
   inline constValue[N] match
      case 0        => 0
      case _: S[n1] => 1 + toIntC[n1]

inline val ctwo = toIntC[2]

constValueOpt is the same as constValue, however returning an Option[T] enabling us to handle situations where a value is not present. Note that S is the type of the successor of some singleton type. For example the type S[1] is the singleton type 2.


So far we have seen inline methods that take terms (tuples and integers) as parameters. What if we want to base case distinctions on types instead? For instance, one would like to be able to write a function defaultValue, that, given a type T, returns optionally the default value of T, if it exists. We can already express this using rewrite match expressions and a simple helper function, scala.compiletime.erasedValue, which is defined as follows:

def erasedValue[T]: T

The erasedValue function pretends to return a value of its type argument T. Calling this function will always result in a compile-time error unless the call is removed from the code while inlining.

Using erasedValue, we can then define defaultValue as follows:

import scala.compiletime.erasedValue

inline def defaultValue[T] =
   inline erasedValue[T] match
      case _: Byte    => Some(0: Byte)
      case _: Char    => Some(0: Char)
      case _: Short   => Some(0: Short)
      case _: Int     => Some(0)
      case _: Long    => Some(0L)
      case _: Float   => Some(0.0f)
      case _: Double  => Some(0.0d)
      case _: Boolean => Some(false)
      case _: Unit    => Some(())
      case _          => None


val dInt: Some[Int] = defaultValue[Int]
val dDouble: Some[Double] = defaultValue[Double]
val dBoolean: Some[Boolean] = defaultValue[Boolean]
val dAny: None.type = defaultValue[Any]

As another example, consider the type-level version of toInt below: given a type representing a Peano number, return the integer value corresponding to it. Consider the definitions of numbers as in the Inline Match section above. Here is how toIntT can be defined:

transparent inline def toIntT[N <: Nat]: Int =
   inline scala.compiletime.erasedValue[N] match
      case _: Zero.type => 0
      case _: Succ[n] => toIntT[n] + 1

inline val two = toIntT[Succ[Succ[Zero.type]]]

erasedValue is an erased method so it cannot be used and has no runtime behavior. Since toIntT performs static checks over the static type of N we can safely use it to scrutinize its return type (S[S[Z]] in this case).


The error method is used to produce user-defined compile errors during inline expansion. It has the following signature:

inline def error(inline msg: String): Nothing

If an inline expansion results in a call error(msgStr) the compiler produces an error message containing the given msgStr.

import scala.compiletime.{error, code}

inline def fail() =
   error("failed for a reason")

fail() // error: failed for a reason


inline def fail(p1: => Any) =
   error(code"failed on: $p1")

fail(identity("foo")) // error: failed on: identity("foo")

The scala.compiletime.ops package

The scala.compiletime.ops package contains types that provide support for primitive operations on singleton types. For example,* provides support for multiplying two singleton Int types, and scala.compiletime.ops.boolean.&& for the conjunction of two Boolean types. When all arguments to a type in scala.compiletime.ops are singleton types, the compiler can evaluate the result of the operation.

import scala.compiletime.ops.boolean.*

val conjunction: true && true = true
val multiplication: 3 * 5 = 15

Many of these singleton operation types are meant to be used infix (as in SLS §3.2.10).

Since type aliases have the same precedence rules as their term-level equivalents, the operations compose with the expected precedence rules:

val x: 1 + 2 * 3 = 7

The operation types are located in packages named after the type of the left-hand side parameter: for instance, represents addition of two numbers, while scala.compiletime.ops.string.+ represents string concatenation. To use both and distinguish the two types from each other, a match type can dispatch to the correct implementation:

import scala.compiletime.ops.*

import scala.annotation.infix

type +[X <: Int | String, Y <: Int | String] = (X, Y) match
   case (Int, Int) => int.+[X, Y]
   case (String, String) => string.+[X, Y]

val concat: "a" + "b" = "ab"
val addition: 1 + 1 = 2

Summoning Implicits Selectively

It is foreseen that many areas of typelevel programming can be done with rewrite methods instead of implicits. But sometimes implicits are unavoidable. The problem so far was that the Prolog-like programming style of implicit search becomes viral: Once some construct depends on implicit search it has to be written as a logic program itself. Consider for instance the problem of creating a TreeSet[T] or a HashSet[T] depending on whether T has an Ordering or not. We can create a set of implicit definitions like this:

trait SetFor[T, S <: Set[T]]

class LowPriority:
   implicit def hashSetFor[T]: SetFor[T, HashSet[T]] = ...

object SetsFor extends LowPriority:
   implicit def treeSetFor[T: Ordering]: SetFor[T, TreeSet[T]] = ...

Clearly, this is not pretty. Besides all the usual indirection of implicit search, we face the problem of rule prioritization where we have to ensure that treeSetFor takes priority over hashSetFor if the element type has an ordering. This is solved (clumsily) by putting hashSetFor in a superclass LowPriority of the object SetsFor where treeSetFor is defined. Maybe the boilerplate would still be acceptable if the crufty code could be contained. However, this is not the case. Every user of the abstraction has to be parameterized itself with a SetFor implicit. Considering the simple task "I want a TreeSet[T] if T has an ordering and a HashSet[T] otherwise", this seems like a lot of ceremony.

There are some proposals to improve the situation in specific areas, for instance by allowing more elaborate schemes to specify priorities. But they all keep the viral nature of implicit search programs based on logic programming.

By contrast, the new summonFrom construct makes implicit search available in a functional context. To solve the problem of creating the right set, one would use it as follows:

import scala.compiletime.summonFrom

inline def setFor[T]: Set[T] = summonFrom {
   case ord: Ordering[T] => new TreeSet[T](using ord)
   case _                => new HashSet[T]

A summonFrom call takes a pattern matching closure as argument. All patterns in the closure are type ascriptions of the form identifier : Type.

Patterns are tried in sequence. The first case with a pattern x: T such that an implicit value of type T can be summoned is chosen.

Alternatively, one can also use a pattern-bound given instance, which avoids the explicit using clause. For instance, setFor could also be formulated as follows:

import scala.compiletime.summonFrom

inline def setFor[T]: Set[T] = summonFrom {
   case given Ordering[T] => new TreeSet[T]
   case _                 => new HashSet[T]

summonFrom applications must be reduced at compile time.

Consequently, if we summon an Ordering[String] the code above will return a new instance of TreeSet[String].


println(setFor[String].getClass) // prints class scala.collection.immutable.TreeSet

Note summonFrom applications can raise ambiguity errors. Consider the following code with two givens in scope of type A. The pattern match in f will raise an ambiguity error of f is applied.

class A
given a1: A = new A
given a2: A = new A

inline def f: Any = summonFrom {
   case given _: A => ???  // error: ambiguous givens


The shorthand summonInline provides a simple way to write a summon that is delayed until the call is inlined.

transparent inline def summonInline[T]: T = summonFrom {
   case t: T => t


For more information about compile-time operations, see PR #4768, which explains how summonFrom's predecessor (implicit matches) can be used for typelevel programming and code specialization and PR #7201 which explains the new summonFrom syntax.