singletons-3.0: Basic singleton types and definitions
Copyright(C) 2017 Ryan Scott
LicenseBSD-style (see LICENSE)
MaintainerRyan Scott
Safe HaskellNone



Defines the class ShowSing which is useful for defining Show instances for singleton types. Because ShowSing crucially relies on QuantifiedConstraints, it is only defined if this library is built with GHC 8.6 or later.


The ShowSing type

class (forall (z :: k). ShowSing' z) => ShowSing (k :: Type) Source #

In addition to the promoted and singled versions of the Show class that singletons-base provides, it is also useful to be able to directly define Show instances for singleton types themselves. Doing so is almost entirely straightforward, as a derived Show instance does 90 percent of the work. The last 10 percent—getting the right instance context—is a bit tricky, and that's where ShowSing comes into play.

As an example, let's consider the singleton type for lists. We want to write an instance with the following shape:

instance ??? => Show (SList (z :: [k])) where
  showsPrec p SNil = showString "SNil"
  showsPrec p (SCons sx sxs) =
    showParen (p > 10) $ showString "SCons " . showsPrec 11 sx
                       . showSpace . showsPrec 11 sxs

To figure out what should go in place of ???, observe that we require the type of each field to also be Show instances. In other words, we need something like (Show (Sing (a :: k))). But this isn't quite right, as the type variable a doesn't appear in the instance head. In fact, this a type is really referring to an existentially quantified type variable in the SCons constructor, so it doesn't make sense to try and use it like this.

Luckily, the QuantifiedConstraints language extension provides a solution to this problem. This lets you write a context of the form (forall a. Show (Sing (a :: k))), which demands that there be an instance for Show (Sing (a :: k)) that is parametric in the use of a. This lets us write something closer to this:

instance (forall a. Show (Sing (a :: k))) => SList (Sing (z :: [k])) where ...

The ShowSing class is a thin wrapper around (forall a. Show (Sing (a :: k))). With ShowSing, our final instance declaration becomes this:

instance ShowSing k => Show (SList (z :: [k])) where ...

In fact, this instance can be derived:

deriving instance ShowSing k => Show (SList (z :: [k]))

(Note that the actual definition of ShowSing is slightly more complicated than what this documentation might suggest. For the full story, refer to the documentation for ShowSing`.)

When singling a derived Show instance, singletons-th will also generate a Show instance for the corresponding singleton type using ShowSing. In other words, if you give singletons-th a derived Show instance, then you'll receive the following in return:

  • A promoted (PShow) instance
  • A singled (SShow) instance
  • A Show instance for the singleton type

What a bargain!


Instances details
(forall (z :: k). ShowSing' z) => ShowSing k Source # 
Instance details

Defined in Data.Singletons.ShowSing

Internal utilities

class (forall (sing :: k -> Type). sing ~ Sing => Show (sing z)) => ShowSing' (z :: k) Source #

The workhorse that powers ShowSing. The only reason that ShowSing` exists is to work around GHC's inability to put type families in the head of a quantified constraint (see this GHC issue for more details on this point). In other words, GHC will not let you define ShowSing like so:

class (forall (z :: k). Show (Sing z)) => ShowSing k

By replacing Show (Sing z) with ShowSing' z, we are able to avoid this restriction for the most part.

The superclass of ShowSing` is a bit peculiar:

class (forall (sing :: k -> Type). sing ~ Sing => Show (sing z)) => ShowSing` (z :: k)

One might wonder why this superclass is used instead of this seemingly more direct equivalent:

class Show (Sing z) => ShowSing` (z :: k)

Actually, these aren't equivalent! The latter's superclass mentions a type family in its head, and this gives GHC's constraint solver trouble when trying to match this superclass against other constraints. (See the discussion beginning at for more on this point). The former's superclass, on the other hand, does not mention a type family in its head, which allows it to match other constraints more easily. It may sound like a small difference, but it's the only reason that ShowSing is able to work at all without a significant amount of additional workarounds.

The quantified superclass has one major downside. Although the head of the quantified superclass is more eager to match, which is usually a good thing, it can bite under certain circumstances. Because Show (sing z) will match a Show instance for any types sing :: k -> Type and z :: k, (where k is a kind variable), it is possible for GHC's constraint solver to get into a situation where multiple instances match Show (sing z), and GHC will get confused as a result. Consider this example:

-- As in Data.Singletons
newtype WrappedSing :: forall k. k -> Type where
  WrapSing :: forall k (a :: k). { unwrapSing :: Sing a } -> WrappedSing a

instance ShowSing k => Show (WrappedSing (a :: k)) where
  showsPrec _ s = showString "WrapSing {unwrapSing = " . showsPrec 0 s . showChar '}'

When typechecking the Show instance for WrappedSing, GHC must fill in a default definition show = defaultShow, where defaultShow :: Show (WrappedSing a) => WrappedSing a -> String. GHC's constraint solver has two possible ways to satisfy the Show (WrappedSing a) constraint for defaultShow:

  1. The top-level instance declaration for Show (WrappedSing (a :: k)) itself, and
  2. Show (sing (z :: k)) from the head of the quantified constraint arising from ShowSing k.

In practice, GHC will choose (2), as local quantified constraints shadow global constraints. This confuses GHC greatly, causing it to error out with an error akin to Couldn't match type Sing with WrappedSing. See for a full diagnosis of the issue.

The bad news is that because of GHC#17934, we have to manually define show (and showList) in the Show instance for WrappedSing in order to avoid confusing GHC's constraint solver. In other words, deriving Show is a no-go for WrappedSing. The good news is that situations like WrappedSing are quite rare in the world of singletons—most of the time, Show instances for singleton types do not have the shape Show (sing (z :: k)), where k is a polymorphic kind variable. Rather, most such instances instantiate k to a specific kind (e.g., Bool, or [a]), which means that they will not overlap the head of the quantified superclass in ShowSing` as observed above.

Note that we define the single instance for ShowSing` without the use of a quantified constraint in the instance context:

instance Show (Sing z) => ShowSing` (z :: k)

We could define this instance with a quantified constraint in the instance context, and it would be equally as expressive. But it doesn't provide any additional functionality that the non-quantified version gives, so we opt for the non-quantified version, which is easier to read.


Instances details
Show (Sing z) => ShowSing' (z :: k) Source # 
Instance details

Defined in Data.Singletons.ShowSing

Orphan instances

ShowSing k => Show (WrappedSing a) Source # 
Instance details

ShowSing k => Show (SWrappedSing ws) Source # 
Instance details