Move paths

In reality, it's not enough to track initialization at the granularity of local variables. Rust also allows us to do moves and initialization at the field granularity:

fn foo() {
    let a: (Vec<u32>, Vec<u32>) = (vec![22], vec![44]);

    // a.0 and a.1 are both initialized

    let b = a.0; // moves a.0

    // a.0 is not initialized, but a.1 still is

    let c = a.0; // ERROR
    let d = a.1; // OK

To handle this, we track initialization at the granularity of a move path. A MovePath represents some location that the user can initialize, move, etc. So e.g. there is a move-path representing the local variable a, and there is a move-path representing a.0. Move paths roughly correspond to the concept of a Place from MIR, but they are indexed in ways that enable us to do move analysis more efficiently.

Move path indices

Although there is a MovePath data structure, they are never referenced directly. Instead, all the code passes around indices of type MovePathIndex. If you need to get information about a move path, you use this index with the move_paths field of the MoveData. For example, to convert a MovePathIndex mpi into a MIR Place, you might access the MovePath::place field like so:


Building move paths

One of the first things we do in the MIR borrow check is to construct the set of move paths. This is done as part of the MoveData::gather_moves function. This function uses a MIR visitor called Gatherer to walk the MIR and look at how each Place within is accessed. For each such Place, it constructs a corresponding MovePathIndex. It also records when/where that particular move path is moved/initialized, but we'll get to that in a later section.

Illegal move paths

We don't actually create a move-path for every Place that gets used. In particular, if it is illegal to move from a Place, then there is no need for a MovePathIndex. Some examples:

  • You cannot move from a static variable, so we do not create a MovePathIndex for static variables.
  • You cannot move an individual element of an array, so if we have e.g. foo: [String; 3], there would be no move-path for foo[1].
  • You cannot move from inside of a borrowed reference, so if we have e.g. foo: &String, there would be no move-path for *foo.

These rules are enforced by the move_path_for function, which converts a Place into a MovePathIndex -- in error cases like those just discussed, the function returns an Err. This in turn means we don't have to bother tracking whether those places are initialized (which lowers overhead).

Looking up a move-path

If you have a Place and you would like to convert it to a MovePathIndex, you can do that using the MovePathLookup structure found in the rev_lookup field of MoveData. There are two different methods:

  • find_local, which takes a mir::Local representing a local variable. This is the easier method, because we always create a MovePathIndex for every local variable.
  • find, which takes an arbitrary Place. This method is a bit more annoying to use, precisely because we don't have a MovePathIndex for every Place (as we just discussed in the "illegal move paths" section). Therefore, find returns a LookupResult indicating the closest path it was able to find that exists (e.g., for foo[1], it might return just the path for foo).


As we noted above, move-paths are stored in a big vector and referenced via their MovePathIndex. However, within this vector, they are also structured into a tree. So for example if you have the MovePathIndex for a.b.c, you can go to its parent move-path a.b. You can also iterate over all children paths: so, from a.b, you might iterate to find the path a.b.c (here you are iterating just over the paths that are actually referenced in the source, not all possible paths that could have been referenced). These references are used for example in the find_in_move_path_or_its_descendants function, which determines whether a move-path (e.g., a.b) or any child of that move-path (e.g.,a.b.c) matches a given predicate.