As input parameters

While Rust chooses how to capture variables on the fly mostly without type annotation, this ambiguity is not allowed when writing functions. When taking a closure as an input parameter, the closure's complete type must be annotated using one of a few traits, and they're determined by what the closure does with captured value. In order of decreasing restriction, they are:

  • Fn: the closure uses the captured value by reference (&T)
  • FnMut: the closure uses the captured value by mutable reference (&mut T)
  • FnOnce: the closure uses the captured value by value (T)

On a variable-by-variable basis, the compiler will capture variables in the least restrictive manner possible.

For instance, consider a parameter annotated as FnOnce. This specifies that the closure may capture by &T, &mut T, or T, but the compiler will ultimately choose based on how the captured variables are used in the closure.

This is because if a move is possible, then any type of borrow should also be possible. Note that the reverse is not true. If the parameter is annotated as Fn, then capturing variables by &mut T or T are not allowed. However, &T is allowed.

In the following example, try swapping the usage of Fn, FnMut, and FnOnce to see what happens:

// A function which takes a closure as an argument and calls it.
// <F> denotes that F is a "Generic type parameter"
fn apply<F>(f: F) where
    // The closure takes no input and returns nothing.
    F: FnOnce() {
    // ^ TODO: Try changing this to `Fn` or `FnMut`.


// A function which takes a closure and returns an `i32`.
fn apply_to_3<F>(f: F) -> i32 where
    // The closure takes an `i32` and returns an `i32`.
    F: Fn(i32) -> i32 {


fn main() {
    use std::mem;

    let greeting = "hello";
    // A non-copy type.
    // `to_owned` creates owned data from borrowed one
    let mut farewell = "goodbye".to_owned();

    // Capture 2 variables: `greeting` by reference and
    // `farewell` by value.
    let diary = || {
        // `greeting` is by reference: requires `Fn`.
        println!("I said {}.", greeting);

        // Mutation forces `farewell` to be captured by
        // mutable reference. Now requires `FnMut`.
        println!("Then I screamed {}.", farewell);
        println!("Now I can sleep. zzzzz");

        // Manually calling drop forces `farewell` to
        // be captured by value. Now requires `FnOnce`.

    // Call the function which applies the closure.

    // `double` satisfies `apply_to_3`'s trait bound
    let double = |x| 2 * x;

    println!("3 doubled: {}", apply_to_3(double));

See also:

std::mem::drop, Fn, FnMut, Generics, where and FnOnce