# Function Definitions¶

## Introduction¶

A function is defined by first declaring its type followed by a number of equations called clauses. Each clause consists of the function being defined applied to a number of patterns, followed by `=` and a term called the right-hand side. For example:

```not : Bool → Bool
not true  = false
not false = true
```

Functions are allowed to call themselves recursively, for example:

```twice : Nat → Nat
twice zero    = zero
twice (suc n) = suc (suc (twice n))
```

## General form¶

The general form for defining a function is

```f : (x₁ : A₁) → … → (xₙ : Aₙ) → B
f p₁ … pₙ = d
…
f q₁ … qₙ = e
```

where `f` is a new identifier, `pᵢ` and `qᵢ` are patterns of type `Aᵢ`, and `d` and `e` are expressions.

The declaration above gives the identifier `f` the type `(x₁ : A₁) → … → (x₁ : A₁) → B` and `f` is defined by the defining equations. Patterns are matched from top to bottom, i.e., the first pattern that matches the actual parameters is the one that is used.

By default, Agda checks the following properties of a function definition:

• The patterns in the left-hand side of each clause should consist only of constructors and variables.
• No variable should occur more than once on the left-hand side of a single clause.
• The patterns of all clauses should together cover all possible inputs of the function.
• The function should be terminating on all possible inputs, see Termination Checking.

## Special patterns¶

In addition to constructors consisting of constructors and variables, Agda supports two special kinds of patterns: dot patterns and absurd patterns.

### Dot patterns¶

A dot pattern (also called inaccessible pattern) can be used when the only type-correct value of the argument is determined by the patterns given for the other arguments. The syntax for a dot pattern is `.t`.

As an example, consider the datatype `Square` defined as follows

```data Square : Nat → Set where
sq : (m : Nat) → Square (m * m)
```

Suppose we want to define a function `root : (n : Nat) → Square n → Nat` that takes as its arguments a number `n` and a proof that it is a square, and returns the square root of that number. We can do so as follows:

```root : (n : Nat) → Square n → Nat
root .(m * m) (sq m) = m
```

Notice that by matching on the argument of type `Square n` with the constructor `sq : (m : Nat) → Square (m * m)`, `n` is forced to be equal to `m * m`.

In general, when matching on an argument of type `D i₁ … iₙ` with a constructor `c : (x₁ : A₁) → … → (xₘ : Aₘ) → D j₁ … jₙ`, Agda will attempt to unify `i₁ … iₙ` with `j₁ … jₙ`. When the unification algorithm instantiates a variable `x` with value `t`, the corresponding argument of the function can be replaced by a dot pattern `.t`. Using a dot pattern is optional, but can help readability. The following are also legal definitions of `root`:

Since Agda 2.4.2.4:

```root₁ : (n : Nat) → Square n → Nat
root₁ _ (sq m) = m
```

Since Agda 2.5.2:

```root₂ : (n : Nat) → Square n → Nat
root₂ n (sq m) = m
```

In the case of `root₂`, `n` evaluates to `m * m` in the body of the function and is thus equivalent to

```root₃ : (n : Nat) → Square n → Nat
root₃ _ (sq m) = let n = m * m in m
```

### Absurd patterns¶

Absurd patterns can be used when none of the constructors for a particular argument would be valid. The syntax for an absurd pattern is `()`.

As an example, if we have a datatype `Even` defined as follows

```data Even : Nat → Set where
even-zero  : Even zero
even-plus2 : {n : Nat} → Even n → Even (suc (suc n))
```

then we can define a function `one-not-even : Even 1 → ⊥` by using an absurd pattern:

```one-not-even : Even 1 → ⊥
one-not-even ()
```

Note that if the left-hand side of a clause contains an absurd pattern, its right-hand side must be omitted.

In general, when matching on an argument of type `D i₁ … iₙ` with an absurd pattern, Agda will attempt for each constructor `c : (x₁ : A₁) → … → (xₘ : Aₘ) → D j₁ … jₙ` of the datatype `D` to unify `i₁ … iₙ` with `j₁ … jₙ`. The absurd pattern will only be accepted if all of these unifications end in a conflict.

### As-patterns¶

As-patterns (or `@-patterns`) can be used to name a pattern. The name has the same scope as normal pattern variables (i.e. the right-hand side, where clause, and dot patterns). The name reduces to the value of the named pattern. For example:

```module _ {A : Set} (_<_ : A → A → Bool) where
merge : List A → List A → List A
merge xs [] = xs
merge [] ys = ys
merge xs@(x ∷ xs₁) ys@(y ∷ ys₁) =
if x < y then x ∷ merge xs₁ ys
else y ∷ merge xs ys₁
```

As-patterns are properly supported since Agda 2.5.2.

## Case trees¶

Internally, Agda represents function definitions as case trees. For example, a function definition

```max : Nat → Nat → Nat
max zero    n       = n
max m       zero    = m
max (suc m) (suc n) = suc (max m n)
```

will be represented internally as a case tree that looks like this:

```max m n = case m of
zero   -> n
suc m' -> case n of
zero   -> suc m'
suc n' -> suc (max m' n')
```

Note that because Agda uses this representation of the function `max` the equation `max m zero = m` will not hold by definition, but must be proven instead. Since 2.5.1 you can have Agda warn you when a situation like this occurs by adding `{-# OPTIONS --exact-split #-}` at the top of your file.