Primitive Type never []

🔬 This is a nightly-only experimental API. (never_type #35121)

The ! type, also called "never".

! represents the type of computations which never resolve to any value at all. For example, the exit function fn exit(code: i32) -> ! exits the process without ever returning, and so returns !.

break, continue and return expressions also have type !. For example we are allowed to write:

#![feature(never_type)]
let x: ! = {
    return 123
};Run

Although the let is pointless here, it illustrates the meaning of !. Since x is never assigned a value (because return returns from the entire function), x can be given type !. We could also replace return 123 with a panic! or a never-ending loop and this code would still be valid.

A more realistic usage of ! is in this code:

let num: u32 = match get_a_number() {
    Some(num) => num,
    None => break,
};Run

Both match arms must produce values of type u32, but since break never produces a value at all we know it can never produce a value which isn't a u32. This illustrates another behaviour of the ! type - expressions with type ! will coerce into any other type.

! and generics

The main place you'll see ! used explicitly is in generic code. Consider the FromStr trait:

trait FromStr: Sized {
    type Err;
    fn from_str(s: &str) -> Result<Self, Self::Err>;
}Run

When implementing this trait for String we need to pick a type for Err. And since converting a string into a string will never result in an error, the appropriate type is !. (Currently the type actually used is an enum with no variants, though this is only because ! was added to Rust at a later date and it may change in the future). With an Err type of !, if we have to call String::from_str for some reason the result will be a Result<String, !> which we can unpack like this:

This example is not tested
// NOTE: This does not work today!
let Ok(s) = String::from_str("hello");Run

Since the Err variant contains a !, it can never occur. So we can exhaustively match on Result<T, !> by just taking the Ok variant. This illustrates another behaviour of ! - it can be used to "delete" certain enum variants from generic types like Result.

! and traits

When writing your own traits, ! should have an impl whenever there is an obvious impl which doesn't panic!. As is turns out, most traits can have an impl for !. Take Debug for example:

impl Debug for ! {
    fn fmt(&self, formatter: &mut fmt::Formatter) -> fmt::Result {
        *self
    }
}Run

Once again we're using !'s ability to coerce into any other type, in this case fmt::Result. Since this method takes a &! as an argument we know that it can never be called (because there is no value of type ! for it to be called with). Writing *self essentially tells the compiler "We know that this code can never be run, so just treat the entire function body has having type fmt::Result". This pattern can be used a lot when implementing traits for !. Generally, any trait which only has methods which take a self parameter should have such as impl.

On the other hand, one trait which would not be appropriate to implement is Default:

trait Default {
    fn default() -> Self;
}Run

Since ! has no values, it has no default value either. It's true that we could write an impl for this which simply panics, but the same is true for any type (we could impl Default for (eg.) File by just making default() panic.)

Trait Implementations

impl Display for !
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Formats the value using the given formatter. Read more

impl Debug for !
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Formats the value using the given formatter. Read more

impl PartialOrd<!> for !
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This method returns an ordering between self and other values if one exists. Read more

1.0.0
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This method tests less than (for self and other) and is used by the < operator. Read more

1.0.0
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This method tests less than or equal to (for self and other) and is used by the <= operator. Read more

1.0.0
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This method tests greater than (for self and other) and is used by the > operator. Read more

1.0.0
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This method tests greater than or equal to (for self and other) and is used by the >= operator. Read more

impl Ord for !
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This method returns an Ordering between self and other. Read more

1.21.0
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Compares and returns the maximum of two values. Read more

1.21.0
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Compares and returns the minimum of two values. Read more

impl Eq for !
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impl PartialEq<!> for !
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This method tests for self and other values to be equal, and is used by ==. Read more

1.0.0
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This method tests for !=.

impl Error for !
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A short description of the error. Read more

1.0.0
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The lower-level cause of this error, if any. Read more

impl Termination for !
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🔬 This is a nightly-only experimental API. (termination_trait #43301)

Is called to get the representation of the value as status code. This status code is returned to the operating system. Read more