Constant evaluation is the process of computing values at compile time. For a specific item (constant/static/array length) this happens after the MIR for the item is borrow-checked and optimized. In many cases trying to const evaluate an item will trigger the computation of its MIR for the first time.
Prominent examples are:
- The initializer of a
- Array length
- needs to be known to reserve stack or heap space
- Enum variant discriminants
- needs to be known to prevent two variants from having the same discriminant
- need to be known to check for overlapping patterns
Additionally constant evaluation can be used to reduce the workload or binary size at runtime by precomputing complex operations at compiletime and only storing the result.
All uses of constant evaluation can either be categorized as "influencing the type system" (array lengths, enum variant discriminants, const generic parameters), or as solely being done to precompute expressions to be used at runtime.
Constant evaluation can be done by calling the
const_eval_* functions of
They're the wrappers of the
const_eval_global_id_for_typeckevaluates a constant to a valtree, so the result value can be further inspected by the compiler.
const_eval_global_idevaluate a constant to an "opaque blob" containing its final value; this is only useful for codegen backends and the CTFE evaluator engine itself.
eval_static_initializerspecifically computes the initial values of a static. Statics are special; all other functions do not represent statics correctly and have thus assertions preventing their use on statics.
const_eval_* functions use a
ParamEnv of environment
in which the constant is evaluated (e.g. the function within which the constant is used)
GlobalId is made up of an
Instance referring to a constant
or static or of an
Instance of a function and an index into the function's
Constants for the type system are encoded in "valtree representation". The
allows us to represent
- many structs,
- enums and,
- most primitives.
The basic rule for
being permitted in the type system is that every value must be uniquely represented. In other
words: a specific value must only be representable in one specific way. For example: there is only
one way to represent an array of two integers as a
Even though theoretically a
[u32; 2] could be encoded in a
u64 and thus just be a
ValTree::Leaf(bits_of_two_u32), that is not a legal construction of
(and is very complex to do, so it is unlikely anyone is tempted to do so).
These rules also mean that some values are not representable. There can be no
unions in type
level constants, as it is not clear how they should be represented, because their active variant
is unknown. Similarly there is no way to represent raw pointers, as addresses are unknown at
compile-time and thus we cannot make any assumptions about them. References on the other hand
can be represented, as equality for references is defined as equality on their value, so we
ignore their address and just look at the backing value. We must make sure that the pointer values
of the references are not observable at compile time. We thus encode
&42 exactly like
Any conversion from
valtree back to codegen constants must reintroduce an actual indirection. At codegen time the
addresses may be deduplicated between multiple uses or not, entirely depending on arbitrary
As a consequence, all decoding of
ValTree must happen by matching on the type first and making
decisions depending on that. The value itself gives no useful information without the type that
belongs to it.
Other constants get represented as
ConstValue::Slice if possible. These values are only useful outside the
compile-time interpreter. If you need the value of a constant during
interpretation, you need to directly work with