base- Basic libraries

Copyright(c) The University of Glasgow 2001
LicenseBSD-style (see the file libraries/base/LICENSE)
Safe HaskellUnsafe




Safe coercions between data types.

More in-depth information can be found on the Roles wiki page



Safe coercions

coerce :: Coercible * a b => a -> b

The function coerce allows you to safely convert between values of types that have the same representation with no run-time overhead. In the simplest case you can use it instead of a newtype constructor, to go from the newtype's concrete type to the abstract type. But it also works in more complicated settings, e.g. converting a list of newtypes to a list of concrete types.

class Coercible a b

This two-parameter class has instances for types a and b if the compiler can infer that they have the same representation. This class does not have regular instances; instead they are created on-the-fly during type-checking. Trying to manually declare an instance of Coercible is an error.

Nevertheless one can pretend that the following three kinds of instances exist. First, as a trivial base-case:

instance a a

Furthermore, for every type constructor there is an instance that allows to coerce under the type constructor. For example, let D be a prototypical type constructor (data or newtype) with three type arguments, which have roles nominal, representational resp. phantom. Then there is an instance of the form

instance Coercible b b' => Coercible (D a b c) (D a b' c')

Note that the nominal type arguments are equal, the representational type arguments can differ, but need to have a Coercible instance themself, and the phantom type arguments can be changed arbitrarily.

The third kind of instance exists for every newtype NT = MkNT T and comes in two variants, namely

instance Coercible a T => Coercible a NT
instance Coercible T b => Coercible NT b

This instance is only usable if the constructor MkNT is in scope.

If, as a library author of a type constructor like Set a, you want to prevent a user of your module to write coerce :: Set T -> Set NT, you need to set the role of Set's type parameter to nominal, by writing

type role Set nominal

For more details about this feature, please refer to Safe Coercions by Joachim Breitner, Richard A. Eisenberg, Simon Peyton Jones and Stephanie Weirich.