The Complete Definitions

Now that all the relevant language features have been presented, this section describes the complete, honest definitions of Functor, Applicative, and Monad as they occur in the Lean standard library. For the sake of understanding, no details are omitted.


The complete definition of the Functor class makes use of universe polymorphism and a default method implementation:

class Functor (f : Type u → Type v) : Type (max (u+1) v) where
  map : {α β : Type u} → (α → β) → f α → f β
  mapConst : {α β : Type u} → α → f β → f α :=
    Function.comp map (Function.const _)

In this definition, Function.comp is function composition, which is typically written with the operator. Function.const is the constant function, which is a two-argument function that ignores its second argument. Applying this function to only one argument produces a function that always returns the same value, which is useful when an API demands a function but a program doesn't need to compute different results for different arguments. A simple version of Function.const can be written as follows:

def simpleConst  (x : α) (_ : β) : α := x

Using it with one argument as the function argument to demonstrates its utility:

#eval [1, 2, 3].map (simpleConst "same")
["same", "same", "same"]

The actual function has the following signature:

Function.const.{u, v} {α : Sort u} (β : Sort v) (a : α) (a✝ : β) : α

Here, the type argument β is an explicit argument, so the default definition of Functor.mapConst provides an _ argument that instructs Lean to find a unique type to pass to Function.const that would cause the program to type check. (Function.comp map (Function.const _) : α → f β → f α) is equivalent to fun (x : α) (y : f β) => map (fun _ => x) y.

The Functor type class inhabits a universe that is the greater of u+1 and v. Here, u is the level of universes accepted as arguments to f, while v is the universe returned by f. To see why the structure that implements the Functor type class must be in a universe that's larger than u, begin with a simplified definition of the class:

class Functor (f : Type u → Type v) : Type (max (u+1) v) where
  map : {α β : Type u} → (α → β) → f α → f β

This type class's structure type is equivalent to the following inductive type:

inductive Functor (f : Type u → Type v) : Type (max (u+1) v) where
  | mk : ({α β : Type u} → (α → β) → f α → f β) → Functor f

The implementation of the map method that is passed as an argument to contains a function that takes two types in Type u as arguments. This means that the type of the function itself is in Type (u+1), so Functor must also be at a level that is at least u+1. Similarly, other arguments to the function have a type built by applying f, so it must also have a level that is at least v. All the type classes in this section share this property.


The Applicative type class is actually built from a number of smaller classes that each contain some of the relevant methods. The first are Pure and Seq, which contain pure and seq respectively:

class Pure (f : Type u → Type v) : Type (max (u+1) v) where
  pure {α : Type u} : α → f α

class Seq (f : Type u → Type v) : Type (max (u+1) v) where
  seq : {α β : Type u} → f (α → β) → (Unit → f α) → f β

In addition to these, Applicative also depends on SeqRight and an analogous SeqLeft class:

class SeqRight (f : Type u → Type v) : Type (max (u+1) v) where
  seqRight : {α β : Type u} → f α → (Unit → f β) → f β

class SeqLeft (f : Type u → Type v) : Type (max (u+1) v) where
  seqLeft : {α β : Type u} → f α → (Unit → f β) → f α

The seqRight function, which was introduced in the section about alternatives and validation, is easiest to understand from the perspective of effects. E1 *> E2, which desugars to SeqRight.seqRight E1 (fun () => E2), can be understood as first executing E1, and then E2, resulting only in E2's result. Effects from E1 may result in E2 not being run, or being run multiple times. Indeed, if f has a Monad instance, then E1 *> E2 is equivalent to do let _ ← E1; E2, but seqRight can be used with types like Validate that are not monads.

Its cousin seqLeft is very similar, except the leftmost expression's value is returned. E1 <* E2 desugars to SeqLeft.seqLeft E1 (fun () => E2). SeqLeft.seqLeft has type f α → (Unit → f β) → f α, which is identical to that of seqRight except for the fact that it returns f α. E1 <* E2 can be understood as a program that first executes E1, and then E2, returning the original result for E1. If f has a Monad instance, then E1 <* E2 is equivalent to do let x ← E1; _ ← E2; pure x. Generally speaking, seqLeft is useful for specifying extra conditions on a value in a validation or parser-like workflow without changing the value itself.

The definition of Applicative extends all these classes, along with Functor:

class Applicative (f : Type u → Type v) extends Functor f, Pure f, Seq f, SeqLeft f, SeqRight f where
  map      := fun x y => Seq.seq (pure x) fun _ => y
  seqLeft  := fun a b => Seq.seq ( (Function.const _) a) b
  seqRight := fun a b => Seq.seq ( (Function.const _ id) a) b

A complete definition of Applicative requires only definitions for pure and seq. This is because there are default definitions for all of the methods from Functor, SeqLeft, and SeqRight. The mapConst method of Functor has its own default implementation in terms of These default implementations should only be overridden with new functions that are behaviorally equivalent, but more efficient. The default implementations should be seen as specifications for correctness as well as automatically-created code.

The default implementation for seqLeft is very compact. Replacing some of the names with their syntactic sugar or their definitions can provide another view on it, so:

fun a b => Seq.seq ( (Function.const _) a) b


fun a b => Seq.seq ((fun x _ => x) <$> a) b

How should (fun x _ => x) <$> a be understood? Here, a has type f α, and f is a functor. If f is List, then (fun x _ => x) <$> [1, 2, 3] evaluates to [fun _ => 1, fun _ => 2, fun _ => 3]. If f is Option, then (fun x _ => x) <$> some "hello" evaluates to some (fun _ => "hello"). In each case, the values in the functor are replaced by functions that return the original value, ignoring their argument. When combined with seq, this function discards the values from seq's second argument.

The default implementation for seqRight is very similar, except const has an additional argument id. This definition can be understood similarly, by first introducing some standard syntactic sugar and then replacing some names with their definitions:

fun a b => Seq.seq ( (Function.const _ id) a) b
fun a b => Seq.seq ((fun _ => id) <$> a) b
fun a b => Seq.seq ((fun _ => fun x => x) <$> a) b
fun a b => Seq.seq ((fun _ x => x) <$> a) b

How should (fun _ x => x) <$> a be understood? Once again, examples are useful. (fun _ x => x) <$> [1, 2, 3] is equivalent to [fun x => x, fun x => x, fun x => x], and (fun _ x => x) <$> some "hello" is equivalent to some (fun x => x). In other words, (fun _ x => x) <$> a preserves the overall shape of a, but each value is replaced by the identity function. From the perspective of effects, the side effects of a occur, but the values are thrown out when it is used with seq.


Just as the constituent operations of Applicative are split into their own type classes, Bind has its own class as well:

class Bind (m : Type u → Type v) where
  bind : {α β : Type u} → m α → (α → m β) → m β

Monad extends Applicative with Bind:

class Monad (m : Type u → Type v) extends Applicative m, Bind m : Type (max (u+1) v) where
  map      f x := bind x (Function.comp pure f)
  seq      f x := bind f fun y => y (x ())
  seqLeft  x y := bind x fun a => bind (y ()) (fun _ => pure a)
  seqRight x y := bind x fun _ => y ()

Tracing the collection of inherited methods and default methods from the entire hierarchy shows that a Monad instance requires only implementations of bind and pure. In other words, Monad instances automatically yield implementations of seq, seqLeft, seqRight, map, and mapConst. From the perspective of API boundaries, any type with a Monad instance gets instances for Bind, Pure, Seq, Functor, SeqLeft, and SeqRight.


  1. Understand the default implementations of map, seq, seqLeft, and seqRight in Monad by working through examples such as Option and Except. In other words, substitute their definitions for bind and pure into the default definitions, and simplify them to recover the versions map, seq, seqLeft, and seqRight that would be written by hand.
  2. On paper or in a text file, prove to yourself that the default implementations of map and seq satisfy the contracts for Functor and Applicative. In this argument, you're allowed to use the rules from the Monad contract as well as ordinary expression evaluation.