Pattern Matching

Pattern matching provides convenient ways to manipulate data. The basic syntax for pattern matching with MLStyle is of the form

@match data begin
    pattern1 => result1
    pattern2 => result2
    patternn => resultn

MLStyle will first test if data is matched by pattern1 and if it does match, return result1. If pattern1 does not match, then MLStyle moves on to the next pattern in sequence. If no pattern in the list matches data, an error is thrown.

In version 0.4.1 and newer, if you only have a single pattern you may instead write

@match data pattern => result

without the block syntax.

Literal Patterns

Patterns with a literal (e.g. 1, false, nothing, 4.0, 1f-6, etc) on the left hand side will check if the the argument is equal to that literal:

julia> @match 10 begin
           1  => "wrong!"
           2  => "wrong!"
           10 => "right!"

All literal data introduced with Julia syntax can be matched by literal patterns.

However, note that the equality is strict for primitive types(Int8-64, UInt8-64, Bool, etc.) and singleton types(struct Data end; Data()).

Specifically, substrings can match a literal string.

Capturing Patterns

A pattern where there is a symbol such as x on the left hand side will bind the input value to that symbol and let you use that captured value on the right hand side

julia> @match 1 begin
           x => x + 1

You can put _ on the left hand side of a pattern if you don’t care about what the captured value is.

However, sometimes a symbol might not be used for capturing. If and only if some visible global variable x satisfying MLStyle.is_enum(x) == true, x is used as an enum pattern.

Check Custom Patterns for details.

Type Patterns

Writing ::Foo on the left hand side of a pattern will match if the input is of type Foo. You can conbine this with a literal pattern by writing x::Foo which will match inputs of type Foo and bind them to a variable x.

julia> @match 1 begin
           ::Float64  => nothing
           b :: Int => b
           _        => nothing


Writing if cond end as a pattern will match if cond==true

julia> @match 1.0 begin
           if 1 < 5 end  => (5 - 1)

Unlike most of ML languages or other libraries who only permit guards in the end of a case clause, MLStyle.jl allows you to put guards anywhere during matching.

However, remember, due to some Julia optimization details, even if the guards can be put in the middle of a matching process, it is still better to postpone it until the end of matching sequence. This allows for better performance.

Sometimes, in practice, you might want to introduce type variables into the scope, in this case use where clause, and see Advanced Type Patterns for more details.


pat2 && pat2 on the left hand side of a pattern will match if and only if pat1 and pat2 match individually. This lets you combine two separate patterns together,

julia> @match 2 begin
           x::Int && if x < 5 end => (5 - x)
  • As Pattern

Writing pat && x on the left hand side of a pattern will bind the input to x if pat matches the input, allowing the input to be used on the right hand side. This is sometimes called an As-Pattern in ML derived languages, but in MLStyle, it is just a subset of the functionality in the And-Pattern

julia> @match (1, 2) begin
           (a, b) && c => c[1] == a && c[2] == b

Destructuring Tuples, Arrays, and Dictionaries with Pattern Matching

  • Tuple Patterns
julia> @match (1, 2, (3, 4, (5, ))) begin
           (a, b, (c, d, (5, ))) => (a, b, c, d)
(1, 2, 3, 4)
  • Array Patterns
julia> it = @match [1, 2, 3, 4] begin
         [1, pack..., a] => (pack, a)
([2, 3], 4)

julia> first(it)
2-element view(::Array{Int64,1}, 2:3) with eltype Int64:
julia> it[2]

julia> @match Int[1, 2] begin
         Any[1, 2] => :a
         Int[_, _] => :b
  • Dict pattern(like Elixir’s dictionary matching or ML record matching)
julia> dict = Dict(1 => 2, "3" => 4, 5 => Dict(6 => 7))
Dict{Any,Any} with 3 entries:
  1   => 2
  5   => Dict(6=>7)
  "3" => 4

julia> @match dict begin
           Dict("3" => four::Int,
                 5  => Dict(6 => sev)) && if four < sev end => sev

Note that, due to the lack of an operation for distinguishing nothing from “key not found” in Julia’s standard library, the dictionary pattern has a little overhead. This will be resolved after Julia#34821 is completed.

P.S: MLStyle will not refer an external package to solve this issue, as MLStyle is generating “runtime support free” code, which means that any code generated by MLStyle itself depends only on Stdlib. This feature allows MLStyle to be introduced as a dependency only in development, instead of being distributed together to downstream codes.

Deconstruction of Custom Composite Data

In order to deconstruct arbitrary data types in a similar way to Tuple, Array and Dict, simply declare them to be record types with the @as_record macro.

Here is an example, check more about ADTs(and GADTs) at Algebraic Data Type Syntax in MLStyle.

julia> @data Color begin
         RGB(r::Int, g::Int, b::Int)

julia> # treating those types as records for more flexible pattern matching

julia> @as_record RGB

julia> @as_record Gray

julia> color_to_int(x) = @match x begin
           RGB(;r, g, b) => 16 + b + 6g + 36r
           Gray(i)       => 232 + i
color_to_int (generic function with 1 method)

julia> RGB(200, 0, 200) |> color_to_int

julia> Gray(10)         |> color_to_int

In above cases, after @as_record T, we can use something called field punning to match structures very conveniently.

@match rbg_datum begin
    RGB(;r) && if r < 20 end => ...
    RGB(;r, g) && if 10r < g end => ...

As you can see, field punning can be partial.


Equivalent to guard patterns, writing GuardBy(f) in a pattern will match if and only if f applied to the pattern matching input gives true:

function pred(x)
    x > 5

@match x begin
    x && GuardBy(pred) => 5 - x # only succeed when x > 5
    _        => 1

@match x begin
    x && GuardBy(x -> x > 5) => 5 - x # only succeed when x > 5
    _        => 1

Range Patterns

julia> @match 1 begin
           0:2:10 => 1
           1:10 => 2

Reference Patterns

This feature is known as the pin operator from Elixir which could slightly extend ML based pattern matching.

c = ...
@match (x, y) begin
    (&c, _)  => "x equals to c!"
    (_,  &c) => "y equals to c!"
    _        => "none of x and y equal to c"

Reference Patterns are useful, for example, when it’s necessary to match on the values of numeric variables, but not the type:

c = Int16(10) # c is of type Int16

@match c begin
    10.0 => "there is a match" #pattern is a Float
    _    => "there is not a match"
end # => "there is not a match"

@match c begin
    &10.0 => "there is a match"
    _    => "there is not a match"
end # => "there is a match"

When matching a primitive type or an immutable, size-zero type literal pattern matching behaves with strict equality. This behavior is similar to the === operator in base Julia. Reference patterns behave more like the == operator in base Julia, where the type of the numeric variable is ignored, and only abstract values are compared.

Macro Call Patterns

By default, macro calls occur in patterns will be no different than its expanded expression, hence the following bidirectional relationship sometimes holds:

julia> macro mymacro(a)
@mymacro (macro with 1 method)

julia> a = 2

julia> a == @match @mymacro(a) begin
                @mymacro(a) => a

# expanded form:
# julia> a == @match [a] begin
#                [a] => a
#            end

However, you can also change the pattern compilation behavior by overloading MLStyle.pattern_unmacrocall, whose usage can be found at the implementation of the pattern support for @r_str.

Some examples about string macro patterns:

@match  raw"$$$" begin
    raw"$$$" => ...

@match "123" begin
    r"\G\d+$" => ...

Custom Patterns

As we’ve suggested in Capturing-Patterns, you can always define your own patterns with MLStyle and easily leverge our compiler and optimizer.

You can extend following APIs for your pattern objects, to implement custom patterns:

  • MLStyle.pattern_uncall

    • args:

      • pat_obj

        your pattern object, should be a global variable in some module. The pattern is visible if and only if the global variable is visible in current scope.

      • expr_to_pat::Function

        this is provided for you to transform an AST into patterns, for instance, expr_to_pat(:([a, 1])), with which you create a pattern same as [a, 1].

      • type_params

      • type_args

      • args

    • usage

      We compile the AST pat_obj{c, d}(e, f) where {a, b} into the pattern with MLStyle.pattern_uncall(pat_obj, expr_to_pat, [:a, :b], [:c, :d], [:e, :f]).

  • MLStyle.pattern_unref

    • args:

      • pat_obj
      • expr_to_pat
      • args
    • usage

      We compile the AST pat_obj[a, b] into patterns with MLStyle.pattern_unref(pat_obj, expr_to_pat, [:a, :b].

  • MLStyle.is_enum

    In a pattern [A, B], usually we think both A and B are capturing patterns. However, it is handy if we can have a pattern A whose match means comparing to the global variable A.

    To achieve this, we provide MLStyle.is_enum. For a visible global variable A, if MLStyle.is_enum(A) == true, a symbol A will compile into a pattern with MLStyle.pattern_uncall(A, expr_to_ast, [], [], []).

We present some examples for understandability:

Support Pattern Matching for Julia Enums

julia> using MLStyle
julia> using MLStyle.AbstractPatterns: literal
julia> @enum E E1 E2
# mark E1, E2 as non-capturing patterns
julia> MLStyle.is_enum(::E) = true
# tell the compiler how to match E1, E2
julia> MLStyle.pattern_uncall(e::E, _, _, _, _) = literal(e)
julia> x = E2
julia> @match x begin
           E1 => "match E1!"
           E2 => "match E2!"
"match E2!"
x = E1
julia> @macroexpand @match x begin
                  E1 => "match E1!"
                  E2 => "match E2!"

      var"##return#261" = nothing
      var"##263" = x
      if var"##263" === E1
          var"##return#261" = let
                  "match E1!"
          $(Expr(:symbolicgoto, Symbol("####final#262#264")))
      if var"##263" === E2
          var"##return#261" = let
                  "match E2!"
          $(Expr(:symbolicgoto, Symbol("####final#262#264")))
      (error)("matching non-exhaustive, at #= ... =#")
      $(Expr(:symboliclabel, Symbol("####final#262#264")))

Pattern Synonyms

pattern synonyms is a tasty feature in Haskell programming language for defining patterns based on existing patterns.

We can support it:

suppose we want to regard Triple as a pattern (_, _, _)

julia> struct Triple end
julia> MLStyle.pattern_uncall(::Type{Triple}, expr_to_ast, _, _, _) =
            expr_to_ast(:(  (_, _, _)  ))
julia> @match (1, 2) begin
            Triple => "triple"
            _ => "no a triple"

"no a triple"

julia> @match (1, 2, 3) begin
            Triple => "triple"
            _ => "no a triple"


Active Patterns and ADTs are implemented via custom patterns.

The custom patterns gives us so-called extensible pattern matching.

Or Patterns

Writing pat1 || pat2 will match if either pat1 or pat2 match. If pat1 matches, MLStyle will not attempt to match pat2.

test(num) =
    @match num begin
       ::Float64 ||
        0        ||
        1        ||
        2        => true

        _        => false

test(0)   # true
test(1)   # true
test(2)   # true
test(1.0) # true
test(3)   # false
test("")  # false

Tips: Or Patterns could be nested.

Advanced Type Patterns

We can introduce type parameters via where syntax.

@match 1 begin
    a :: T where T => T
end # => Int64

However, whenever you’re using where, DO NOT use locally captured type arguments in the right side of ::, when :: is directly under a where.

Wrong use:

@match (1, (2, 3)) begin
    (::T1 where T1, ::Tuple{T1, T2} where T2) => (T1, T2)
# T1 not defined

Workaround 1:

@match (1, (2, 3)) begin
    (::T1 where T1, ::Tuple{T1′, T2} where {T1′, T2}) &&
     if T1′ == T1 end => (T1, T2)
# (Int64, Int64)

Workaround 2:

@match (1, (2, 3)) begin
    (::T1, (::T1, ::T2)) :: Tuple{T1, Tuple{T1, T2}} where {T1, T2} =>
        (T1, T2)
# (Int64, Int64)

Some other examples:

julia> @match 1 begin
           ::T where T => T

julia> @match 1 begin
           ::T where T <: Number => T

julia> @match 1 begin
           ::T where T <: AbstractFloat => T
ERROR: matching non-exhaustive, at #= REPL[n]:1 =#

Do-Patterns & Many-Patterns

To introduce side-effects into pattern matching, we provide a built-in pattern called Do pattern to achieve this.

Also, a pattern called Many can work with Do pattern in a perfect way.

@match [1, 2, 3] begin
    Many(::Int) => true
    _ => false
end # true

@match [1, 2, 3,  "a", "b", "c", :a, :b, :c] begin
    Do(count = 0) &&
        a::Int && Do(count = count + a) ||
        ::String                        ||
        ::Symbol && Do(count = count + 1)
    ] => count
end # 9

Do and Many may be not used very often but quite convenient for some specific domain.

P.S 1: when assigning variables with Do, don’t do Do((x, y) = expr), use this: Do(x = expr[1], y = expr[2]). Our pattern compile needs to aware the scope change!

P.S 2: Do[x...] is an eye candy for Do(x), and so does Many[x] for Many(x). HOWEVER, do not use begin end syntax in Do[...] or Many[...]. Julia restricts the parser and it’ll not get treated as a begin end block.

P.S 3: The let pattern is different from the Do pattern.

  • Do[x=y] changes x, but let x = y end shadows x. let may also change a variable’s value. Check the documents of @switch macro.
  • You can write non-binding in Do: Do[println(1)], but you cannot do this in let patterns.

Let Patterns

@match 1 begin
    let x = 1 end => x

Bind a variable without changing the value of existing variables, i.e., let patterns shadow symbols.

let may also change a variable’s value. Check the documents of @switch macro.

Active Patterns

This implementation is a subset of F# Active Patterns.

There’re 3 distinct active patterns, first of which is the normal form:

# 1-ary deconstruction: return Union{Some{T}, Nothing}
@active LessThan0(x) begin
    if x >= 0

@match 15 begin
    LessThan0(a) => a
    _ => 0
end # 0

@match -15 begin
    LessThan0(a) => a
    _ => 0
end # -15

# 0-ary deconstruction: return Bool
@active IsLessThan0(x) begin
    x < 0

@match 10 begin
    IsLessThan0() => :a
    _ => :b
end # b

# (n+2)-ary deconstruction: return Tuple{E1, E2, ...}
@active SplitVecAt2(x) begin
    (x[1:2], x[2+1:end])

@match [1, 2, 3, 4, 7] begin
    SplitVecAt2(a, b) => (a, b)
# ([1, 2], [3, 4, 7])

Above 3 cases can be enhanced by becoming parametric:

@active SplitVecAt{N::Int}(x) begin
    (x[1:N], x[N+1:end])

@match [1, 2, 3, 4, 7] begin
    SplitVecAt{2}(a, b) => (a, b)
# ([1, 2], [3, 4, 7])

@active Re{r :: Regex}(x) begin
    res = match(r, x)
    if res !== nothing
        # use explicit `if-else` to emphasize the return should be Union{T, Nothing}.

@match "123" begin
    Re{r"\d+"}(x) => x
    _ => @error ""
end # RegexMatch("123")

Sometimes the enum syntax is useful and convenient:

@active IsEven(x) begin
    x % 2 === 0

MLStyle.is_enum(::Type{IsEven}) = true

@match 6 begin
    IsEven => :even
    _ => :odd
end # :even

Expr Patterns

This is mainly for AST manipulations. In fact, another pattern informally called “Ast pattern”, would be translated into Expr patterns.

function extract_name(e)
        @match e begin
            ::Symbol                           => e
            Expr(:<:, a, _)                    => extract_name(a)
            Expr(:struct, _, name, _)          => extract_name(name)
            Expr(:call, f, _...)               => extract_name(f)
            Expr(:., subject, attr, _...)      => extract_name(subject)
            Expr(:function, sig, _...)         => extract_name(sig)
            Expr(:const, assn, _...)           => extract_name(assn)
            Expr(:(=), fn, body, _...)         => extract_name(fn)
            Expr(expr_type,  _...)             => error("Can't extract name from ",
                                                        expr_type, " expression:\n",
                                                        "    $e\n")
@assert :f == extract_name(:(
    function f()
        1 + 1

Julia Code as Expr Patterns

For convenience I call this “AST pattern”, note it’s not a formal name.

rmlines =  begin
    e :: Expr           -> Expr(e.head, filter(x -> x !== nothing, map(rmlines, e.args))...)
      :: LineNumberNode -> nothing
    a                   -> a
expr = quote
    struct S{T}
        a :: Int
        b :: T
end |> rmlines

@match expr begin
        struct $name{$tvar}
            $f1 :: $t1
            $f2 :: $t2
    end =>
        struct $name{$tvar}
            $f1 :: $t1
            $f2 :: $t2
    end |> rmlines == expr
end # true

How you create an AST, then how you match them.

How you use AST interpolations($ operation), then how you use capturing patterns on them.

The pattern quote .. end is equivalent to :(begin ... end).

Additionally, you can use any other patterns simultaneously when matching ASTs. In fact, there are regular patterns inside a $ expression of your AST pattern.

A more complex example presented here might help with your comprehension about this:

ast = quote
    function f(a, b, c, d)
      let d = a + b + c, e = x -> 2x + d

@match ast begin

        function $funcname(
            $(a && if islowercase(string(a)[1]) end))

            let $bind_name = a + b + $last_operand, $(other_bindings...)

    end && if isempty(block1) && isempty(block2) end =>

         Dict(:funcname => funcname,
              :firstarg => firstarg,
              :args     => args,
              :last_operand => last_operand,
              :other_bindings => other_bindings,
              :app_fn         => app_fn,
              :app_arg        => app_arg)

# Dict{Symbol,Any} with 7 entries:
#   :app_fn         => :e
#   :args           => Any[:b, :c]
#   :firstarg       => :a
#   :funcname       => :f
#   :other_bindings => Any[:(e = (x->begin…
#   :last_operand   => :c
#   :app_arg        => :d

If you are interested, here are several useful articles about AST Patterns: