12.6 Formal Subprograms
subprograms can be used to pass callable entities to a generic unit.]
Language Design Principles
Reason: There are no null functions because
the return value has to be constructed somehow. We don't allow null for
abstract formal procedures, as the operation is dispatching. It doesn't
seem appropriate (or useful) to say that the implementation of something
is null in the formal type and all possible descendants of that type.
This also would define a dispatching operation that doesn't correspond
to a slot in the tag of the controlling type, which would be a new concept.
Finally, additional rules would be needed to define the meaning of a
dispatching null procedure (for instance, the convention of such a subprogram
should be intrinsic, but that's not what the language says). It doesn't
seem worth the effort.
Name Resolution Rules
The expected profile for the
if any, is that of the formal subprogram.
For a generic formal subprogram,
the expected profile for the actual is that of the formal subprogram.
The profiles of the formal and any named default shall be mode conformant.
The profiles of the formal and actual shall be mode conformant.
if the actual matching the formal_subprogram_declaration
denotes a generic formal object of another generic unit G
the instantiation containing the actual that occurs within the body of
a generic unit G
or within the body of a generic unit declared
within the declarative region of the generic unit G
, then the
corresponding parameter or result type of the formal subprogram of G
shall have a null_exclusion
otherwise, the subtype of the corresponding parameter
or result type of the actual matching the formal_subprogram_declaration
shall exclude null.
In addition to the places where
Legality Rules normally apply (see 12.3
this rule applies also in the private part of an instance of a generic
rule prevents “lying”. Null
must never be the value
of a parameter or result with an explicit null_exclusion
The first bullet is an assume-the-worst rule which prevents trouble in
generic bodies (including bodies of child generics) when the formal subtype
excludes null implicitly.
Ramification: The specific tagged type
could be any of a formal tagged private type, a formal derived type,
a formal interface type, or a normal tagged type. While the last case
doesn't seem to be very useful, there isn't any good reason for disallowing
it. This rule ensures that the operation is a dispatching operation of
some type, and that we unambiguously know what that type is.
We informally call a subprogram declared by
an abstract formal subprogram
, but we do not use this term in
(We do use it often in these notes.)
This means that the actual is either a primitive operation of the
controlling type, or an abstract formal subprogram. Also note that this
prevents the controlling type from being class-wide (with one exception
explained below), as only specific types have primitive operations (and
a formal subprogram eventually has to have an actual that is a primitive
of some type). This could happen in a case like:
type T(<>) is tagged private;
with procedure Foo (Obj : in T) is abstract;
package P ...
package New_P is new P (Something'Class, Some_Proc);
The instantiation here is always illegal, because
Some_Proc could never be a primitive operation of Something'Class (there
are no such operations). That's good, because we want calls to Foo always
to be dispatching calls.
Since it is possible
for a formal tagged type to be instantiated with a class-wide type, it
is possible for the (real) controlling type to be class-wide in one unusual
type NT(<>) is new T with private;
-- Presume that T has the following primitive operation:
-- with procedure Bar (Obj : in T);
package Gr ...
package body Gr is
package New_P2 is new P (NT, Foo => Bar);
package New_Gr is new Gr (Something'Class);
The instantiation of New_P2 is legal, since
Bar is a dispatching operation of the actual type of the controlling
type of the abstract formal subprogram Foo. This is not a problem, since
the rules given in 12.5.1
explain how this
routine dispatches even though its parameter is class-wide.
Note that this legality rule never needs to
be rechecked in an instance (that contains a nested instantiation). The
rule only talks about the actual type of the instantiation; it does not
require looking further; if the actual type is in fact a formal type,
we do not intend looking at the actual for that formal.
declares a generic formal subprogram. The types of the formal parameters
and result, if any, of the formal subprogram are those determined by
given in the formal_subprogram_declaration
however, independent of the particular subtypes that are denoted by the
the nominal subtypes of the formal parameters and result, if any, are
defined to be nonstatic, and unconstrained if of an array type [(no applicable
index constraint is provided in a call on a formal subprogram)]. In an
instance, a formal_subprogram_declaration
declares a view of the actual. The profile of this view takes its subtypes
and calling convention from the original profile of the actual entity,
while taking the formal parameter name
from the profile given in the formal_subprogram_declaration
The view is a function or procedure, never an entry.
This rule is intended to
be the same as the one for renamings-as-declarations, where the formal_subprogram_declaration
is analogous to a renaming-as-declaration, and the actual is analogous
to the renamed view.
If a subtype_mark
in the profile of the formal_subprogram_declaration
denotes a formal private or formal derived type and the actual type for
this formal type is a class-wide type T
'Class, then for the purposes
of resolving the corresponding actual subprogram at the point of the
instantiation, certain implicit declarations may be available as possible
resolutions as follows:
For each primitive subprogram of T
is directly visible at the point of the instantiation, and that has at
least one controlling formal parameter, a corresponding implicitly declared
subprogram with the same defining name, and having the same profile as
the primitive subprogram except that T
is systematically replaced
'Class in the types of its profile, is potentially use-visible.
The body of such a subprogram is as defined in 12.5.1
for primitive subprograms of a formal type when the actual type is class-wide.
This gives the same capabilities to formal subprograms as those that
primitive operations of the formal type have when the actual type is
class-wide. We do not want to discourage the use of explicit declarations
for (formal) subprograms!
Although the above wording seems to require constructing implicit versions
of all of the primitive subprograms of type T
, it should be clear
that a compiler only needs to consider those that could possibly resolve
to the corresponding actual subprogram. For instance, if the formal subprogram
is a procedure with two parameters, and the actual subprogram name is
Bar (either given explicitly or by default), the compiler need not consider
primitives that are functions, that have the wrong number of parameters,
that have defining names other than Bar, and so on; thus it does not
need to construct implicit declarations for those primitives.
Functions that only have a controlling result and do not have a controlling
parameter of T
are not covered by this rule, as any call would
be required to raise Program_Error by 12.5.1
It is better to detect the error earlier than at run time.
If a generic unit has a subprogram_default
specified by a box, and the corresponding actual parameter is omitted,
then it is equivalent to an explicit actual parameter that is a usage
name identical to the defining name of the formal.
Reason: This is necessary to trigger
all of the dispatching operation rules. It otherwise would not be considered
a dispatching operation, as formal subprograms are never primitive operations.
13 The matching rules for formal subprograms
state requirements that are similar to those applying to subprogram_renaming_declaration
). In particular, the name of a
parameter of the formal subprogram need not be the same as that of the
corresponding parameter of the actual subprogram; similarly, for these
need not correspond.
14 The constraints that apply to a parameter
of a formal subprogram are those of the corresponding formal parameter
of the matching actual subprogram (not those implied by the corresponding
in the _specification
of the formal subprogram).
A similar remark applies to the result of a function. Therefore, to avoid
confusion, it is recommended that the name
of a first subtype be used in any declaration of a formal subprogram.
15 The subtype specified for a formal parameter
of a generic formal subprogram can be any visible subtype, including
a generic formal subtype of the same generic_formal_part
16 A formal subprogram is matched by an
attribute of a type if the attribute is a function with a matching specification.
An enumeration literal of a given type matches a parameterless formal
function whose result type is the given type.
17 A default_name
denotes an entity that is visible or directly visible at the place of
a box used as a default is equivalent to a name that denotes an entity
that is directly visible at the place of the _instantiation
Proof: Visibility and name resolution
are applied to the equivalent explicit actual parameter.
A null procedure as a subprogram default has convention Intrinsic (see
This is an implicitly declared
subprogram, so it has convention Intrinsic as defined in 6.3.1
Examples of generic
"+"(X, Y : Item) return
Image(X : Enum) return
Pre_Action(X : in
Item) is null
; -- defaults to no action
Write(S : not null access
Desc : Descriptor)
Descriptor'Write; -- see 13.13.2
-- Dispatching operation on Descriptor with default
-- given the generic procedure declaration
with procedure Action (X : in Item);
procedure Iterate(Seq : in Item_Sequence);
-- and the procedure
procedure Put_Item(X : in Item);
-- the following instantiation is possible
procedure Put_List is new Iterate(Action => Put_Item);
Extensions to Ada 95
The formal subprogram default of null
is new. It allows the default
of a generic procedure to do nothing, such as for passing a debugging
Wording Changes from Ada 95
Incompatibilities With Ada 2005
It is now illegal to declare a formal abstract subprogram
whose controlling type is incomplete. It was never intended to allow
that, and such a type would have to come from outside of the generic
unit in Ada 2005, so it is unlikely to be useful. Moreover, a dispatching
call on the subprogram is likely to fail in many implementations. So
it is very unlikely that any code will need to be changed because of
this new rule.
Extensions to Ada 2005
Added construction of implicit
subprograms for primitives of class-wide actual types, to make it possible
to import subprograms via formal subprograms as well as by implicit primitive
operations of a formal type. (This is a Correction
as it is very
important for the usability of indefinite containers when instantiated
with class-wide types; thus we want Ada 2005 implementations to support
Ada 2005 and 2012 Editions sponsored in part by Ada-Europe