Contracts for Haskell


  • Simon Peyton-Jones
  • Dimitrios Vytiniotis
  • Koen Claessen
  • Charles-Pierre Astolfi


Contracts, just as types, give a specification of the arguments and return values of a function. For example we can give to head the following contract:

head ::: {x | not (null x)} -> Ok

Where Ok means that the result of head is not an error/exception as long as the argument isn't.

Any Haskell boolean expression can be used in a contract, for example

fac ::: a:Ok -> {x | x >= a}

is a contract that means that for every a which is an actual integer (not an error), then fac a >= a

We can also use a higher-order contracts:

map ::: ({x | x >= 0} -> {x | x > 0}) -> {xs | not (null xs)} -> Ok

This contract means that if we apply map to a non-empty list with a function that takes a non-negative integer and returns an positive integer then map returns a list of values without errors.

For a formal introduction, one can read [1].

The plan

Verifying that a function satisfies a given contract is obviously undecidable, but that does not mean that we can't prove anything interesting. Our plan is to translate Haskell programs to first-order logic (with equality) and then use Koen's automated theorem prover to check contract satisfaction. Given that first-order logic is only semi-decidable, the theorem prover can (and in fact does) hang when fed with contracts that are in contradiction with the function definition.

Current status

The current status is described in [3] and some code and examples can be found in [2]. Note that given it's just a prototype the input syntax is slightly different from Haskell. In the end, we should get a ghc extension for contracts.


  • Do we need cfness predicate anymore? It was important in the POPL paper but is still relevant?
  • UNR should be renamed to a less confusing name.
  • Hoare logic vs liquid types
  • Semantics & domain theory to prove the correctness of the translation
  • Unfolding for proving contracts on recursive functions


[1] :
[2] : and
[3] :

Last modified 6 years ago Last modified on Jun 20, 2011 2:01:16 PM