Tactics

In this chapter, we describe an alternative approach to constructing proofs, using tactics. A proof term is a representation of a mathematical proof; tactics are commands, or instructions, that describe how to build such a proof. Informally, you might begin a mathematical proof by saying "to prove the forward direction, unfold the definition, apply the previous lemma, and simplify." Just as these are instructions that tell the reader how to find the relevant proof, tactics are instructions that tell Lean how to construct a proof term. They naturally support an incremental style of writing proofs, in which you decompose a proof and work on goals one step at a time.

We will describe proofs that consist of sequences of tactics as "tactic-style" proofs, to contrast with the ways of writing proof terms we have seen so far, which we will call "term-style" proofs. Each style has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, tactic-style proofs can be harder to read, because they require the reader to predict or guess the results of each instruction. But they can also be shorter and easier to write. Moreover, tactics offer a gateway to using Lean's automation, since automated procedures are themselves tactics.

Entering Tactic Mode

Conceptually, stating a theorem or introducing a have statement creates a goal, namely, the goal of constructing a term with the expected type. For example, the following creates the goal of constructing a term of type p ∧ q ∧ p, in a context with constants p q : Prop, hp : p and hq : q:

theorem test (p q : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) : p ∧ q ∧ p :=
  sorry

You can write this goal as follows:

    p : Prop, q : Prop, hp : p, hq : q ⊢ p ∧ q ∧ p

Indeed, if you replace the "sorry" by an underscore in the example above, Lean will report that it is exactly this goal that has been left unsolved.

Ordinarily, you meet such a goal by writing an explicit term. But wherever a term is expected, Lean allows us to insert instead a by <tactics> block, where <tactics> is a sequence of commands, separated by semicolons or line breaks. You can prove the theorem above in that way:

theorem test (p q : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) : p ∧ q ∧ p :=
  by apply And.intro
     exact hp
     apply And.intro
     exact hq
     exact hp

We often put the by keyword on the preceding line, and write the example above as:

theorem test (p q : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) : p ∧ q ∧ p := by
  apply And.intro
  exact hp
  apply And.intro
  exact hq
  exact hp

The apply tactic applies an expression, viewed as denoting a function with zero or more arguments. It unifies the conclusion with the expression in the current goal, and creates new goals for the remaining arguments, provided that no later arguments depend on them. In the example above, the command apply And.intro yields two subgoals:

    case left
    p q : Prop
    hp : p
    hq : q
    ⊢ p

    case right
    p q : Prop
    hp : p
    hq : q
    ⊢ q ∧ p

The first goal is met with the command exact hp. The exact command is just a variant of apply which signals that the expression given should fill the goal exactly. It is good form to use it in a tactic proof, since its failure signals that something has gone wrong. It is also more robust than apply, since the elaborator takes the expected type, given by the target of the goal, into account when processing the expression that is being applied. In this case, however, apply would work just as well.

You can see the resulting proof term with the #print command:

theorem test (p q : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) : p ∧ q ∧ p := by
 apply And.intro
 exact hp
 apply And.intro
 exact hq
 exact hp
#print test

You can write a tactic script incrementally. In VS Code, you can open a window to display messages by pressing Ctrl-Shift-Enter, and that window will then show you the current goal whenever the cursor is in a tactic block. In Emacs, you can see the goal at the end of any line by pressing C-c C-g, or see the remaining goal in an incomplete proof by putting the cursor after the first character of the last tactic. If the proof is incomplete, the token by is decorated with a red squiggly line, and the error message contains the remaining goals.

Tactic commands can take compound expressions, not just single identifiers. The following is a shorter version of the preceding proof:

theorem test (p q : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) : p ∧ q ∧ p := by
  apply And.intro hp
  exact And.intro hq hp

Unsurprisingly, it produces exactly the same proof term.

theorem test (p q : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) : p ∧ q ∧ p := by
 apply And.intro hp
 exact And.intro hq hp
#print test

Multiple tactic applications can be written in a single line by concatenating with a semicolon.

theorem test (p q : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) : p ∧ q ∧ p := by
  apply And.intro hp; exact And.intro hq hp

Tactics that may produce multiple subgoals often tag them. For example, the tactic apply And.intro tagged the first subgoal as left, and the second as right. In the case of the apply tactic, the tags are inferred from the parameters' names used in the And.intro declaration. You can structure your tactics using the notation case <tag> => <tactics>. The following is a structured version of our first tactic proof in this chapter.

theorem test (p q : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) : p ∧ q ∧ p := by
  apply And.intro
  case left => exact hp
  case right =>
    apply And.intro
    case left => exact hq
    case right => exact hp

You can solve the subgoal right before left using the case notation:

theorem test (p q : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) : p ∧ q ∧ p := by
  apply And.intro
  case right =>
    apply And.intro
    case left => exact hq
    case right => exact hp
  case left => exact hp

Note that Lean hides the other goals inside the case block. We say it is "focusing" on the selected goal. Moreover, Lean flags an error if the selected goal is not fully solved at the end of the case block.

For simple subgoals, it may not be worth selecting a subgoal using its tag, but you may still want to structure the proof. Lean also provides the "bullet" notation . <tactics> (or · <tactics>) for structuring proof.

theorem test (p q : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) : p ∧ q ∧ p := by
  apply And.intro
  . exact hp
  . apply And.intro
    . exact hq
    . exact hp

Basic Tactics

In addition to apply and exact, another useful tactic is intro, which introduces a hypothesis. What follows is an example of an identity from propositional logic that we proved in a previous chapter, now proved using tactics.

example (p q r : Prop) : p ∧ (q ∨ r) ↔ (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r) := by
  apply Iff.intro
  . intro h
    apply Or.elim (And.right h)
    . intro hq
      apply Or.inl
      apply And.intro
      . exact And.left h
      . exact hq
    . intro hr
      apply Or.inr
      apply And.intro
      . exact And.left h
      . exact hr
  . intro h
    apply Or.elim h
    . intro hpq
      apply And.intro
      . exact And.left hpq
      . apply Or.inl
        exact And.right hpq
    . intro hpr
      apply And.intro
      . exact And.left hpr
      . apply Or.inr
        exact And.right hpr

The intro command can more generally be used to introduce a variable of any type:

example (α : Type) : α → α := by
  intro a
  exact a

example (α : Type) : ∀ x : α, x = x := by
  intro x
  exact Eq.refl x

You can use it to introduce several variables:

example : ∀ a b c : Nat, a = b → a = c → c = b := by
  intro a b c h₁ h₂
  exact Eq.trans (Eq.symm h₂) h₁

As the apply tactic is a command for constructing function applications interactively, the intro tactic is a command for constructing function abstractions interactively (i.e., terms of the form fun x => e). As with lambda abstraction notation, the intro tactic allows us to use an implicit match.

example (α : Type) (p q : α → Prop) : (∃ x, p x ∧ q x) → ∃ x, q x ∧ p x := by
  intro ⟨w, hpw, hqw⟩
  exact ⟨w, hqw, hpw⟩

You can also provide multiple alternatives like in the match expression.

example (α : Type) (p q : α → Prop) : (∃ x, p x ∨ q x) → ∃ x, q x ∨ p x := by
  intro
  | ⟨w, Or.inl h⟩ => exact ⟨w, Or.inr h⟩
  | ⟨w, Or.inr h⟩ => exact ⟨w, Or.inl h⟩

The intros tactic can be used without any arguments, in which case, it chooses names and introduces as many variables as it can. You will see an example of this in a moment.

The assumption tactic looks through the assumptions in context of the current goal, and if there is one matching the conclusion, it applies it.

example (x y z w : Nat) (h₁ : x = y) (h₂ : y = z) (h₃ : z = w) : x = w := by
  apply Eq.trans h₁
  apply Eq.trans h₂
  assumption   -- applied h₃

It will unify metavariables in the conclusion if necessary:

example (x y z w : Nat) (h₁ : x = y) (h₂ : y = z) (h₃ : z = w) : x = w := by
  apply Eq.trans
  assumption      -- solves x = ?b with h₁
  apply Eq.trans
  assumption      -- solves y = ?h₂.b with h₂
  assumption      -- solves z = w with h₃

The following example uses the intros command to introduce the three variables and two hypotheses automatically:

example : ∀ a b c : Nat, a = b → a = c → c = b := by
  intros
  apply Eq.trans
  apply Eq.symm
  assumption
  assumption

Note that names automatically generated by Lean are inaccessible by default. The motivation is to ensure your tactic proofs do not rely on automatically generated names, and are consequently more robust. However, you can use the combinator unhygienic to disable this restriction.

example : ∀ a b c : Nat, a = b → a = c → c = b := by unhygienic
  intros
  apply Eq.trans
  apply Eq.symm
  exact a_2
  exact a_1

You can also use the rename_i tactic to rename the most recent inaccessible names in your context. In the following example, the tactic rename_i h1 _ h2 renames two of the last three hypotheses in your context.

example : ∀ a b c d : Nat, a = b → a = d → a = c → c = b := by
  intros
  rename_i h1 _ h2
  apply Eq.trans
  apply Eq.symm
  exact h2
  exact h1

The rfl tactic is syntactic sugar for exact rfl.

example (y : Nat) : (fun x : Nat => 0) y = 0 :=
  by rfl

The repeat combinator can be used to apply a tactic several times.

example : ∀ a b c : Nat, a = b → a = c → c = b := by
  intros
  apply Eq.trans
  apply Eq.symm
  repeat assumption

Another tactic that is sometimes useful is the revert tactic, which is, in a sense, an inverse to intro.

example (x : Nat) : x = x := by
  revert x
  -- goal is ⊢ ∀ (x : Nat), x = x
  intro y
  -- goal is y : Nat ⊢ y = y
  rfl

Moving a hypothesis into the goal yields an implication:

example (x y : Nat) (h : x = y) : y = x := by
  revert h
  -- goal is x y : Nat ⊢ x = y → y = x
  intro h₁
  -- goal is x y : Nat, h₁ : x = y ⊢ y = x
  apply Eq.symm
  assumption

But revert is even more clever, in that it will revert not only an element of the context but also all the subsequent elements of the context that depend on it. For example, reverting x in the example above brings h along with it:

example (x y : Nat) (h : x = y) : y = x := by
  revert x
  -- goal is y : Nat ⊢ ∀ (x : Nat), x = y → y = x
  intros
  apply Eq.symm
  assumption

You can also revert multiple elements of the context at once:

example (x y : Nat) (h : x = y) : y = x := by
  revert x y
  -- goal is ⊢ ∀ (x y : Nat), x = y → y = x
  intros
  apply Eq.symm
  assumption

You can only revert an element of the local context, that is, a local variable or hypothesis. But you can replace an arbitrary expression in the goal by a fresh variable using the generalize tactic.

example : 3 = 3 := by
  generalize 3 = x
  -- goal is x : Nat ⊢ x = x
  revert x
  -- goal is ⊢ ∀ (x : Nat), x = x
  intro y
  -- goal is y : Nat ⊢ y = y
  rfl

The mnemonic in the notation above is that you are generalizing the goal by setting 3 to an arbitrary variable x. Be careful: not every generalization preserves the validity of the goal. Here, generalize replaces a goal that could be proved using rfl with one that is not provable:

example : 2 + 3 = 5 := by
  generalize 3 = x
  -- goal is x : Nat ⊢ 2 + x = 5
  admit

In this example, the admit tactic is the analogue of the sorry proof term. It closes the current goal, producing the usual warning that sorry has been used. To preserve the validity of the previous goal, the generalize tactic allows us to record the fact that 3 has been replaced by x. All you need to do is to provide a label, and generalize uses it to store the assignment in the local context:

example : 2 + 3 = 5 := by
  generalize h : 3 = x
  -- goal is x : Nat, h : 3 = x ⊢ 2 + x = 5
  rw [← h]

Here the rewrite tactic, abbreviated rw, uses h to replace x by 3 again. The rewrite tactic will be discussed below.

More Tactics

Some additional tactics are useful for constructing and destructing propositions and data. For example, when applied to a goal of the form p ∨ q, you use tactics such as apply Or.inl and apply Or.inr. Conversely, the cases tactic can be used to decompose a disjunction.

example (p q : Prop) : p ∨ q → q ∨ p := by
  intro h
  cases h with
  | inl hp => apply Or.inr; exact hp
  | inr hq => apply Or.inl; exact hq

Note that the syntax is similar to the one used in match expressions. The new subgoals can be solved in any order.

example (p q : Prop) : p ∨ q → q ∨ p := by
  intro h
  cases h with
  | inr hq => apply Or.inl; exact hq
  | inl hp => apply Or.inr; exact hp

You can also use a (unstructured) cases without the with and a tactic for each alternative.

example (p q : Prop) : p ∨ q → q ∨ p := by
  intro h
  cases h
  apply Or.inr
  assumption
  apply Or.inl
  assumption

The (unstructured) cases is particularly useful when you can close several subgoals using the same tactic.

example (p : Prop) : p ∨ p → p := by
  intro h
  cases h
  repeat assumption

You can also use the combinator tac1 <;> tac2 to apply tac2 to each subgoal produced by tactic tac1.

example (p : Prop) : p ∨ p → p := by
  intro h
  cases h <;> assumption

You can combine the unstructured cases tactic with the case and . notation.

example (p q : Prop) : p ∨ q → q ∨ p := by
  intro h
  cases h
  . apply Or.inr
    assumption
  . apply Or.inl
    assumption

example (p q : Prop) : p ∨ q → q ∨ p := by
  intro h
  cases h
  case inr h =>
    apply Or.inl
    assumption
  case inl h =>
    apply Or.inr
    assumption

example (p q : Prop) : p ∨ q → q ∨ p := by
  intro h
  cases h
  case inr h =>
    apply Or.inl
    assumption
  . apply Or.inr
    assumption

The cases tactic can also be used to decompose a conjunction.

example (p q : Prop) : p ∧ q → q ∧ p := by
  intro h
  cases h with
  | intro hp hq => constructor; exact hq; exact hp

In this example, there is only one goal after the cases tactic is applied, with h : p ∧ q replaced by a pair of assumptions, hp : p and hq : q. The constructor tactic applies the unique constructor for conjunction, And.intro. With these tactics, an example from the previous section can be rewritten as follows:

example (p q r : Prop) : p ∧ (q ∨ r) ↔ (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r) := by
  apply Iff.intro
  . intro h
    cases h with
    | intro hp hqr =>
      cases hqr
      . apply Or.inl; constructor <;> assumption
      . apply Or.inr; constructor <;> assumption
  . intro h
    cases h with
    | inl hpq =>
      cases hpq with
      | intro hp hq => constructor; exact hp; apply Or.inl; exact hq
    | inr hpr =>
      cases hpr with
      | intro hp hr => constructor; exact hp; apply Or.inr; exact hr

You will see in Chapter Inductive Types that these tactics are quite general. The cases tactic can be used to decompose any element of an inductively defined type; constructor always applies the first applicable constructor of an inductively defined type. For example, you can use cases and constructor with an existential quantifier:

example (p q : Nat → Prop) : (∃ x, p x) → ∃ x, p x ∨ q x := by
  intro h
  cases h with
  | intro x px => constructor; apply Or.inl; exact px

Here, the constructor tactic leaves the first component of the existential assertion, the value of x, implicit. It is represented by a metavariable, which should be instantiated later on. In the previous example, the proper value of the metavariable is determined by the tactic exact px, since px has type p x. If you want to specify a witness to the existential quantifier explicitly, you can use the exists tactic instead:

example (p q : Nat → Prop) : (∃ x, p x) → ∃ x, p x ∨ q x := by
  intro h
  cases h with
  | intro x px => exists x; apply Or.inl; exact px

Here is another example:

example (p q : Nat → Prop) : (∃ x, p x ∧ q x) → ∃ x, q x ∧ p x := by
  intro h
  cases h with
  | intro x hpq =>
    cases hpq with
    | intro hp hq =>
      exists x

These tactics can be used on data just as well as propositions. In the next example, they are used to define functions which swap the components of the product and sum types:

def swap_pair : α × β → β × α := by
  intro p
  cases p
  constructor <;> assumption

def swap_sum : Sum α β → Sum β α := by
  intro p
  cases p
  . apply Sum.inr; assumption
  . apply Sum.inl; assumption

Note that up to the names we have chosen for the variables, the definitions are identical to the proofs of the analogous propositions for conjunction and disjunction. The cases tactic will also do a case distinction on a natural number:

open Nat
example (P : Nat → Prop) (h₀ : P 0) (h₁ : ∀ n, P (succ n)) (m : Nat) : P m := by
  cases m with
  | zero    => exact h₀
  | succ m' => exact h₁ m'

The cases tactic, and its companion, the induction tactic, are discussed in greater detail in the Tactics for Inductive Types section.

The contradiction tactic searches for a contradiction among the hypotheses of the current goal:

example (p q : Prop) : p ∧ ¬ p → q := by
  intro h
  cases h
  contradiction

You can also use match in tactic blocks.

example (p q r : Prop) : p ∧ (q ∨ r) ↔ (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r) := by
  apply Iff.intro
  . intro h
    match h with
    | ⟨_, Or.inl _⟩ => apply Or.inl; constructor <;> assumption
    | ⟨_, Or.inr _⟩ => apply Or.inr; constructor <;> assumption
  . intro h
    match h with
    | Or.inl ⟨hp, hq⟩ => constructor; exact hp; apply Or.inl; exact hq
    | Or.inr ⟨hp, hr⟩ => constructor; exact hp; apply Or.inr; exact hr

You can "combine" intro h with match h ... and write the previous examples as follows

example (p q r : Prop) : p ∧ (q ∨ r) ↔ (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r) := by
  apply Iff.intro
  . intro
    | ⟨hp, Or.inl hq⟩ => apply Or.inl; constructor <;> assumption
    | ⟨hp, Or.inr hr⟩ => apply Or.inr; constructor <;> assumption
  . intro
    | Or.inl ⟨hp, hq⟩ => constructor; assumption; apply Or.inl; assumption
    | Or.inr ⟨hp, hr⟩ => constructor; assumption; apply Or.inr; assumption

Structuring Tactic Proofs

Tactics often provide an efficient way of building a proof, but long sequences of instructions can obscure the structure of the argument. In this section, we describe some means that help provide structure to a tactic-style proof, making such proofs more readable and robust.

One thing that is nice about Lean's proof-writing syntax is that it is possible to mix term-style and tactic-style proofs, and pass between the two freely. For example, the tactics apply and exact expect arbitrary terms, which you can write using have, show, and so on. Conversely, when writing an arbitrary Lean term, you can always invoke the tactic mode by inserting a by block. The following is a somewhat toy example:

example (p q r : Prop) : p ∧ (q ∨ r) → (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r) := by
  intro h
  exact
    have hp : p := h.left
    have hqr : q ∨ r := h.right
    show (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r) by
      cases hqr with
      | inl hq => exact Or.inl ⟨hp, hq⟩
      | inr hr => exact Or.inr ⟨hp, hr⟩

The following is a more natural example:

example (p q r : Prop) : p ∧ (q ∨ r) ↔ (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r) := by
  apply Iff.intro
  . intro h
    cases h.right with
    | inl hq => exact Or.inl ⟨h.left, hq⟩
    | inr hr => exact Or.inr ⟨h.left, hr⟩
  . intro h
    cases h with
    | inl hpq => exact ⟨hpq.left, Or.inl hpq.right⟩
    | inr hpr => exact ⟨hpr.left, Or.inr hpr.right⟩

In fact, there is a show tactic, which is similar to the show expression in a proof term. It simply declares the type of the goal that is about to be solved, while remaining in tactic mode.

example (p q r : Prop) : p ∧ (q ∨ r) ↔ (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r) := by
  apply Iff.intro
  . intro h
    cases h.right with
    | inl hq =>
      show (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r)
      exact Or.inl ⟨h.left, hq⟩
    | inr hr =>
      show (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r)
      exact Or.inr ⟨h.left, hr⟩
  . intro h
    cases h with
    | inl hpq =>
      show p ∧ (q ∨ r)
      exact ⟨hpq.left, Or.inl hpq.right⟩
    | inr hpr =>
      show p ∧ (q ∨ r)
      exact ⟨hpr.left, Or.inr hpr.right⟩

The show tactic can actually be used to rewrite a goal to something definitionally equivalent:

example (n : Nat) : n + 1 = Nat.succ n := by
  show Nat.succ n = Nat.succ n
  rfl

There is also a have tactic, which introduces a new subgoal, just as when writing proof terms:

example (p q r : Prop) : p ∧ (q ∨ r) → (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r) := by
  intro ⟨hp, hqr⟩
  show (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r)
  cases hqr with
  | inl hq =>
    have hpq : p ∧ q := And.intro hp hq
    apply Or.inl
    exact hpq
  | inr hr =>
    have hpr : p ∧ r := And.intro hp hr
    apply Or.inr
    exact hpr

As with proof terms, you can omit the label in the have tactic, in which case, the default label this is used:

example (p q r : Prop) : p ∧ (q ∨ r) → (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r) := by
  intro ⟨hp, hqr⟩
  show (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r)
  cases hqr with
  | inl hq =>
    have : p ∧ q := And.intro hp hq
    apply Or.inl
    exact this
  | inr hr =>
    have : p ∧ r := And.intro hp hr
    apply Or.inr
    exact this

The types in a have tactic can be omitted, so you can write have hp := h.left and have hqr := h.right. In fact, with this notation, you can even omit both the type and the label, in which case the new fact is introduced with the label this.

example (p q r : Prop) : p ∧ (q ∨ r) → (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r) := by
  intro ⟨hp, hqr⟩
  cases hqr with
  | inl hq =>
    have := And.intro hp hq
    apply Or.inl; exact this
  | inr hr =>
    have := And.intro hp hr
    apply Or.inr; exact this

Lean also has a let tactic, which is similar to the have tactic, but is used to introduce local definitions instead of auxiliary facts. It is the tactic analogue of a let in a proof term.

example : ∃ x, x + 2 = 8 := by
  let a : Nat := 3 * 2
  exists a

As with have, you can leave the type implicit by writing let a := 3 * 2. The difference between let and have is that let introduces a local definition in the context, so that the definition of the local declaration can be unfolded in the proof.

We have used . to create nested tactic blocks. In a nested block, Lean focuses on the first goal, and generates an error if it has not been fully solved at the end of the block. This can be helpful in indicating the separate proofs of multiple subgoals introduced by a tactic. The notation . is whitespace sensitive and relies on the indentation to detect whether the tactic block ends. Alternatively, you can define tactic blocks using curly braces and semicolons.

example (p q r : Prop) : p ∧ (q ∨ r) ↔ (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r) := by
  apply Iff.intro
  { intro h;
    cases h.right;
    { show (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r);
      exact Or.inl ⟨h.left, ‹q›⟩ }
    { show (p ∧ q) ∨ (p ∧ r);
      exact Or.inr ⟨h.left, ‹r›⟩ } }
  { intro h;
    cases h;
    { show p ∧ (q ∨ r);
      rename_i hpq;
      exact ⟨hpq.left, Or.inl hpq.right⟩ }
    { show p ∧ (q ∨ r);
      rename_i hpr;
      exact ⟨hpr.left, Or.inr hpr.right⟩ } }

It is useful to use indentation to structure proof: every time a tactic leaves more than one subgoal, we separate the remaining subgoals by enclosing them in blocks and indenting. Thus if the application of theorem foo to a single goal produces four subgoals, one would expect the proof to look like this:

  apply foo
  . <proof of first goal>
  . <proof of second goal>
  . <proof of third goal>
  . <proof of final goal>

or

  apply foo
  case <tag of first goal>  => <proof of first goal>
  case <tag of second goal> => <proof of second goal>
  case <tag of third goal>  => <proof of third goal>
  case <tag of final goal>  => <proof of final goal>

or

  apply foo
  { <proof of first goal>  }
  { <proof of second goal> }
  { <proof of third goal>  }
  { <proof of final goal>  }

Tactic Combinators

Tactic combinators are operations that form new tactics from old ones. A sequencing combinator is already implicit in the by block:

example (p q : Prop) (hp : p) : p ∨ q :=
  by apply Or.inl; assumption

Here, apply Or.inl; assumption is functionally equivalent to a single tactic which first applies apply Or.inl and then applies assumption.

In t₁ <;> t₂, the <;> operator provides a parallel version of the sequencing operation: t₁ is applied to the current goal, and then t₂ is applied to all the resulting subgoals:

example (p q : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) : p ∧ q :=
  by constructor <;> assumption

This is especially useful when the resulting goals can be finished off in a uniform way, or, at least, when it is possible to make progress on all of them uniformly.

The first | t₁ | t₂ | ... | tₙ applies each tᵢ until one succeeds, or else fails:

example (p q : Prop) (hp : p) : p ∨ q := by
  first | apply Or.inl; assumption | apply Or.inr; assumption

example (p q : Prop) (hq : q) : p ∨ q := by
  first | apply Or.inl; assumption | apply Or.inr; assumption

In the first example, the left branch succeeds, whereas in the second one, it is the right one that succeeds. In the next three examples, the same compound tactic succeeds in each case.

example (p q r : Prop) (hp : p) : p ∨ q ∨ r :=
  by repeat (first | apply Or.inl; assumption | apply Or.inr | assumption)

example (p q r : Prop) (hq : q) : p ∨ q ∨ r :=
  by repeat (first | apply Or.inl; assumption | apply Or.inr | assumption)

example (p q r : Prop) (hr : r) : p ∨ q ∨ r :=
  by repeat (first | apply Or.inl; assumption | apply Or.inr | assumption)

The tactic tries to solve the left disjunct immediately by assumption; if that fails, it tries to focus on the right disjunct; and if that doesn't work, it invokes the assumption tactic.

You will have no doubt noticed by now that tactics can fail. Indeed, it is the "failure" state that causes the first combinator to backtrack and try the next tactic. The try combinator builds a tactic that always succeeds, though possibly in a trivial way: try t executes t and reports success, even if t fails. It is equivalent to first | t | skip, where skip is a tactic that does nothing (and succeeds in doing so). In the next example, the second constructor succeeds on the right conjunct q ∧ r (remember that disjunction and conjunction associate to the right) but fails on the first. The try tactic ensures that the sequential composition succeeds.

example (p q r : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) (hr : r) : p ∧ q ∧ r := by
  constructor <;> (try constructor) <;> assumption

Be careful: repeat (try t) will loop forever, because the inner tactic never fails.

In a proof, there are often multiple goals outstanding. Parallel sequencing is one way to arrange it so that a single tactic is applied to multiple goals, but there are other ways to do this. For example, all_goals t applies t to all open goals:

example (p q r : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) (hr : r) : p ∧ q ∧ r := by
  constructor
  all_goals (try constructor)
  all_goals assumption

In this case, the any_goals tactic provides a more robust solution. It is similar to all_goals, except it succeeds if its argument succeeds on at least one goal.

example (p q r : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) (hr : r) : p ∧ q ∧ r := by
  constructor
  any_goals constructor
  any_goals assumption

The first tactic in the by block below repeatedly splits conjunctions:

example (p q r : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) (hr : r) :
      p ∧ ((p ∧ q) ∧ r) ∧ (q ∧ r ∧ p) := by
  repeat (any_goals constructor)
  all_goals assumption

In fact, we can compress the full tactic down to one line:

example (p q r : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) (hr : r) :
      p ∧ ((p ∧ q) ∧ r) ∧ (q ∧ r ∧ p) := by
  repeat (any_goals (first | constructor | assumption))

The combinator focus t ensures that t only effects the current goal, temporarily hiding the others from the scope. So, if t ordinarily only effects the current goal, focus (all_goals t) has the same effect as t.

Rewriting

The rewrite tactic (abbreviated rw) and the simp tactic were introduced briefly in Calculational Proofs. In this section and the next, we discuss them in greater detail.

The rewrite tactic provides a basic mechanism for applying substitutions to goals and hypotheses, providing a convenient and efficient way of working with equality. The most basic form of the tactic is rewrite [t], where t is a term whose type asserts an equality. For example, t can be a hypothesis h : x = y in the context; it can be a general lemma, like add_comm : ∀ x y, x + y = y + x, in which the rewrite tactic tries to find suitable instantiations of x and y; or it can be any compound term asserting a concrete or general equation. In the following example, we use this basic form to rewrite the goal using a hypothesis.

example (f : Nat → Nat) (k : Nat) (h₁ : f 0 = 0) (h₂ : k = 0) : f k = 0 := by
  rw [h₂] -- replace k with 0
  rw [h₁] -- replace f 0 with 0

In the example above, the first use of rw replaces k with 0 in the goal f k = 0. Then, the second one replaces f 0 with 0. The tactic automatically closes any goal of the form t = t. Here is an example of rewriting using a compound expression:

example (x y : Nat) (p : Nat → Prop) (q : Prop) (h : q → x = y)
        (h' : p y) (hq : q) : p x := by
  rw [h hq]; assumption

Here, h hq establishes the equation x = y.

Multiple rewrites can be combined using the notation rw [t_1, ..., t_n], which is just shorthand for rw [t_1]; ...; rw [t_n]. The previous example can be written as follows:

example (f : Nat → Nat) (k : Nat) (h₁ : f 0 = 0) (h₂ : k = 0) : f k = 0 := by
  rw [h₂, h₁]

By default, rw uses an equation in the forward direction, matching the left-hand side with an expression, and replacing it with the right-hand side. The notation ←t can be used to instruct the tactic to use the equality t in the reverse direction.

example (f : Nat → Nat) (a b : Nat) (h₁ : a = b) (h₂ : f a = 0) : f b = 0 := by
  rw [←h₁, h₂]

In this example, the term ←h₁ instructs the rewriter to replace b with a. In the editors, you can type the backwards arrow as \l. You can also use the ascii equivalent, <-.

Sometimes the left-hand side of an identity can match more than one subterm in the pattern, in which case the rw tactic chooses the first match it finds when traversing the term. If that is not the one you want, you can use additional arguments to specify the appropriate subterm.

example (a b c : Nat) : a + b + c = a + c + b := by
  rw [Nat.add_assoc, Nat.add_comm b, ← Nat.add_assoc]

example (a b c : Nat) : a + b + c = a + c + b := by
  rw [Nat.add_assoc, Nat.add_assoc, Nat.add_comm b]

example (a b c : Nat) : a + b + c = a + c + b := by
  rw [Nat.add_assoc, Nat.add_assoc, Nat.add_comm _ b]

In the first example above, the first step rewrites a + b + c to a + (b + c). The next step applies commutativity to the term b + c; without specifying the argument, the tactic would instead rewrite a + (b + c) to (b + c) + a. Finally, the last step applies associativity in the reverse direction, rewriting a + (c + b) to a + c + b. The next two examples instead apply associativity to move the parenthesis to the right on both sides, and then switch b and c. Notice that the last example specifies that the rewrite should take place on the right-hand side by specifying the second argument to Nat.add_comm.

By default, the rewrite tactic affects only the goal. The notation rw [t] at h applies the rewrite t at hypothesis h.

example (f : Nat → Nat) (a : Nat) (h : a + 0 = 0) : f a = f 0 := by
  rw [Nat.add_zero] at h
  rw [h]

The first step, rw [Nat.add_zero] at h, rewrites the hypothesis a + 0 = 0 to a = 0. Then the new hypothesis a = 0 is used to rewrite the goal to f 0 = f 0.

The rewrite tactic is not restricted to propositions. In the following example, we use rw [h] at t to rewrite the hypothesis t : Tuple α n to t : Tuple α 0.

def Tuple (α : Type) (n : Nat) :=
  { as : List α // as.length = n }

example (n : Nat) (h : n = 0) (t : Tuple α n) : Tuple α 0 := by
  rw [h] at t
  exact t

Using the Simplifier

Whereas rewrite is designed as a surgical tool for manipulating a goal, the simplifier offers a more powerful form of automation. A number of identities in Lean's library have been tagged with the [simp] attribute, and the simp tactic uses them to iteratively rewrite subterms in an expression.

example (x y z : Nat) (p : Nat → Prop) (h : p (x * y))
        : (x + 0) * (0 + y * 1 + z * 0) = x * y := by
  simp

example (x y z : Nat) (p : Nat → Prop) (h : p (x * y))
        : p ((x + 0) * (0 + y * 1 + z * 0)) := by
  simp; assumption

In the first example, the left-hand side of the equality in the goal is simplified using the usual identities involving 0 and 1, reducing the goal to x * y = x * y. At that point, simp applies reflexivity to finish it off. In the second example, simp reduces the goal to p (x * y), at which point the assumption h finishes it off. Here are some more examples with lists:

open List

example (xs : List Nat)
        : reverse (xs ++ [1, 2, 3]) = [3, 2, 1] ++ reverse xs := by
  simp

example (xs ys : List α)
        : length (reverse (xs ++ ys)) = length xs + length ys := by
  simp [Nat.add_comm]

As with rw, you can use the keyword at to simplify a hypothesis:

example (x y z : Nat) (p : Nat → Prop)
        (h : p ((x + 0) * (0 + y * 1 + z * 0))) : p (x * y) := by
  simp at h; assumption

Moreover, you can use a "wildcard" asterisk to simplify all the hypotheses and the goal:

attribute [local simp] Nat.mul_comm Nat.mul_assoc Nat.mul_left_comm
attribute [local simp] Nat.add_assoc Nat.add_comm Nat.add_left_comm

example (w x y z : Nat) (p : Nat → Prop)
        (h : p (x * y + z * w * x)) : p (x * w * z + y * x) := by
  simp at *; assumption

example (x y z : Nat) (p : Nat → Prop)
        (h₁ : p (1 * x + y)) (h₂ : p (x * z * 1))
        : p (y + 0 + x) ∧ p (z * x) := by
  simp at * <;> constructor <;> assumption

For operations that are commutative and associative, like multiplication on the natural numbers, the simplifier uses these two facts to rewrite an expression, as well as left commutativity. In the case of multiplication the latter is expressed as follows: x * (y * z) = y * (x * z). The local modifier tells the simplifier to use these rules in the current file (or section or namespace, as the case may be). It may seem that commutativity and left-commutativity are problematic, in that repeated application of either causes looping. But the simplifier detects identities that permute their arguments, and uses a technique known as ordered rewriting. This means that the system maintains an internal ordering of terms, and only applies the identity if doing so decreases the order. With the three identities mentioned above, this has the effect that all the parentheses in an expression are associated to the right, and the expressions are ordered in a canonical (though somewhat arbitrary) way. Two expressions that are equivalent up to associativity and commutativity are then rewritten to the same canonical form.

attribute [local simp] Nat.mul_comm Nat.mul_assoc Nat.mul_left_comm
attribute [local simp] Nat.add_assoc Nat.add_comm Nat.add_left_comm
example (w x y z : Nat) (p : Nat → Prop)
        : x * y + z * w * x = x * w * z + y * x := by
  simp

example (w x y z : Nat) (p : Nat → Prop)
        (h : p (x * y + z * w * x)) : p (x * w * z + y * x) := by
  simp; simp at h; assumption

As with rewrite, you can send simp a list of facts to use, including general lemmas, local hypotheses, definitions to unfold, and compound expressions. The simp tactic also recognizes the ←t syntax that rewrite does. In any case, the additional rules are added to the collection of identities that are used to simplify a term.

def f (m n : Nat) : Nat :=
  m + n + m

example {m n : Nat} (h : n = 1) (h' : 0 = m) : (f m n) = n := by
  simp [h, ←h', f]

A common idiom is to simplify a goal using local hypotheses:

example (f : Nat → Nat) (k : Nat) (h₁ : f 0 = 0) (h₂ : k = 0) : f k = 0 := by
  simp [h₁, h₂]

To use all the hypotheses present in the local context when simplifying, we can use the wildcard symbol, *:

example (f : Nat → Nat) (k : Nat) (h₁ : f 0 = 0) (h₂ : k = 0) : f k = 0 := by
  simp [*]

Here is another example:

example (u w x y z : Nat) (h₁ : x = y + z) (h₂ : w = u + x)
        : w = z + y + u := by
  simp [*, Nat.add_assoc, Nat.add_comm, Nat.add_left_comm]

The simplifier will also do propositional rewriting. For example, using the hypothesis p, it rewrites p ∧ q to q and p ∨ q to true, which it then proves trivially. Iterating such rewrites produces nontrivial propositional reasoning.

example (p q : Prop) (hp : p) : p ∧ q ↔ q := by
  simp [*]

example (p q : Prop) (hp : p) : p ∨ q := by
  simp [*]

example (p q r : Prop) (hp : p) (hq : q) : p ∧ (q ∨ r) := by
  simp [*]

The next example simplifies all the hypotheses, and then uses them to prove the goal.

example (u w x x' y y' z : Nat) (p : Nat → Prop)
        (h₁ : x + 0 = x') (h₂ : y + 0 = y')
        : x + y + 0 = x' + y' := by
  simp at *
  simp [*]

One thing that makes the simplifier especially useful is that its capabilities can grow as a library develops. For example, suppose we define a list operation that symmetrizes its input by appending its reversal:

def mk_symm (xs : List α) :=
  xs ++ xs.reverse

Then for any list xs, reverse (mk_symm xs) is equal to mk_symm xs, which can easily be proved by unfolding the definition:

def mk_symm (xs : List α) :=
 xs ++ xs.reverse
theorem reverse_mk_symm (xs : List α)
        : (mk_symm xs).reverse = mk_symm xs := by
  simp [mk_symm]

We can now use this theorem to prove new results:

def mk_symm (xs : List α) :=
 xs ++ xs.reverse
theorem reverse_mk_symm (xs : List α)
       : (mk_symm xs).reverse = mk_symm xs := by
 simp [mk_symm]
example (xs ys : List Nat)
        : (xs ++ mk_symm ys).reverse = mk_symm ys ++ xs.reverse := by
  simp [reverse_mk_symm]

example (xs ys : List Nat) (p : List Nat → Prop)
        (h : p (xs ++ mk_symm ys).reverse)
        : p (mk_symm ys ++ xs.reverse) := by
  simp [reverse_mk_symm] at h; assumption

But using reverse_mk_symm is generally the right thing to do, and it would be nice if users did not have to invoke it explicitly. You can achieve that by marking it as a simplification rule when the theorem is defined:

def mk_symm (xs : List α) :=
 xs ++ xs.reverse
@[simp] theorem reverse_mk_symm (xs : List α)
        : (mk_symm xs).reverse = mk_symm xs := by
  simp [mk_symm]

example (xs ys : List Nat)
        : (xs ++ mk_symm ys).reverse = mk_symm ys ++ xs.reverse := by
  simp

example (xs ys : List Nat) (p : List Nat → Prop)
        (h : p (xs ++ mk_symm ys).reverse)
        : p (mk_symm ys ++ xs.reverse) := by
  simp at h; assumption

The notation @[simp] declares reverse_mk_symm to have the [simp] attribute, and can be spelled out more explicitly:

def mk_symm (xs : List α) :=
 xs ++ xs.reverse
theorem reverse_mk_symm (xs : List α)
        : (mk_symm xs).reverse = mk_symm xs := by
  simp [mk_symm]

attribute [simp] reverse_mk_symm

example (xs ys : List Nat)
        : (xs ++ mk_symm ys).reverse = mk_symm ys ++ xs.reverse := by
  simp

example (xs ys : List Nat) (p : List Nat → Prop)
        (h : p (xs ++ mk_symm ys).reverse)
        : p (mk_symm ys ++ xs.reverse) := by
  simp at h; assumption

The attribute can also be applied any time after the theorem is declared:

def mk_symm (xs : List α) :=
 xs ++ xs.reverse
theorem reverse_mk_symm (xs : List α)
        : (mk_symm xs).reverse = mk_symm xs := by
  simp [mk_symm]

example (xs ys : List Nat)
        : (xs ++ mk_symm ys).reverse = mk_symm ys ++ xs.reverse := by
  simp [reverse_mk_symm]

attribute [simp] reverse_mk_symm

example (xs ys : List Nat) (p : List Nat → Prop)
        (h : p (xs ++ mk_symm ys).reverse)
        : p (mk_symm ys ++ xs.reverse) := by
  simp at h; assumption

Once the attribute is applied, however, there is no way to permanently remove it; it persists in any file that imports the one where the attribute is assigned. As we will discuss further in Attributes, one can limit the scope of an attribute to the current file or section using the local modifier:

def mk_symm (xs : List α) :=
 xs ++ xs.reverse
theorem reverse_mk_symm (xs : List α)
        : (mk_symm xs).reverse = mk_symm xs := by
  simp [mk_symm]

section
attribute [local simp] reverse_mk_symm

example (xs ys : List Nat)
        : (xs ++ mk_symm ys).reverse = mk_symm ys ++ xs.reverse := by
  simp

example (xs ys : List Nat) (p : List Nat → Prop)
        (h : p (xs ++ mk_symm ys).reverse)
        : p (mk_symm ys ++ xs.reverse) := by
  simp at h; assumption
end

Outside the section, the simplifier will no longer use reverse_mk_symm by default.

Note that the various simp options we have discussed --- giving an explicit list of rules, and using at to specify the location --- can be combined, but the order they are listed is rigid. You can see the correct order in an editor by placing the cursor on the simp identifier to see the documentation string that is associated with it.

There are two additional modifiers that are useful. By default, simp includes all theorems that have been marked with the attribute [simp]. Writing simp only excludes these defaults, allowing you to use a more explicitly crafted list of rules. In the examples below, the minus sign and only are used to block the application of reverse_mk_symm.

def mk_symm (xs : List α) :=
  xs ++ xs.reverse
@[simp] theorem reverse_mk_symm (xs : List α)
        : (mk_symm xs).reverse = mk_symm xs := by
  simp [mk_symm]

example (xs ys : List Nat) (p : List Nat → Prop)
        (h : p (xs ++ mk_symm ys).reverse)
        : p (mk_symm ys ++ xs.reverse) := by
  simp at h; assumption

example (xs ys : List Nat) (p : List Nat → Prop)
        (h : p (xs ++ mk_symm ys).reverse)
        : p ((mk_symm ys).reverse ++ xs.reverse) := by
  simp [-reverse_mk_symm] at h; assumption

example (xs ys : List Nat) (p : List Nat → Prop)
        (h : p (xs ++ mk_symm ys).reverse)
        : p ((mk_symm ys).reverse ++ xs.reverse) := by
  simp only [List.reverse_append] at h; assumption

The simp tactic has many configuration options. For example, we can enable contextual simplifications as follows.

example : if x = 0 then y + x = y else x ≠ 0 := by
  simp (config := { contextual := true })

when contextual := true, simp uses the fact that x = 0 when simplifying y + x = y, and x ≠ 0 when simplifying the other branch. Here is another example.

example : ∀ (x : Nat) (h : x = 0), y + x = y := by
  simp (config := { contextual := true })

Another useful configuration option is arith := true which enables arithmetical simplifications. It is so useful that simp_arith is a shorthand for simp (config := { arith := true }).

example : 0 < 1 + x ∧ x + y + 2 ≥ y + 1 := by
  simp_arith

Split Tactic

The split tactic is useful for breaking nested if-then-else and match expressions in cases. For a match expression with n cases, the split tactic generates at most n subgoals. Here is an example.

def f (x y z : Nat) : Nat :=
  match x, y, z with
  | 5, _, _ => y
  | _, 5, _ => y
  | _, _, 5 => y
  | _, _, _ => 1

example (x y z : Nat) : x ≠ 5 → y ≠ 5 → z ≠ 5 → z = w → f x y w = 1 := by
  intros
  simp [f]
  split
  . contradiction
  . contradiction
  . contradiction
  . rfl

We can compress the tactic proof above as follows.

def f (x y z : Nat) : Nat :=
 match x, y, z with
 | 5, _, _ => y
 | _, 5, _ => y
 | _, _, 5 => y
 | _, _, _ => 1
example (x y z : Nat) : x ≠ 5 → y ≠ 5 → z ≠ 5 → z = w → f x y w = 1 := by
  intros; simp [f]; split <;> first | contradiction | rfl

The tactic split <;> first | contradiction | rfl first applies the split tactic, and then for each generated goal it tries contradiction, and then rfl if contradiction fails. Like simp, we can apply split to a particular hypothesis.

def g (xs ys : List Nat) : Nat :=
  match xs, ys with
  | [a, b], _ => a+b+1
  | _, [b, c] => b+1
  | _, _      => 1

example (xs ys : List Nat) (h : g xs ys = 0) : False := by
  simp [g] at h; split at h <;> simp_arith at h

Extensible Tactics

In the following example, we define the notation triv using the command syntax. Then, we use the command macro_rules to specify what should be done when triv is used. You can provide different expansions, and the tactic interpreter will try all of them until one succeeds.

-- Define a new tactic notation
syntax "triv" : tactic

macro_rules
  | `(tactic| triv) => `(tactic| assumption)

example (h : p) : p := by
  triv

-- You cannot prove the following theorem using `triv`
-- example (x : α) : x = x := by
--  triv

-- Let's extend `triv`. The tactic interpreter
-- tries all possible macro extensions for `triv` until one succeeds
macro_rules
  | `(tactic| triv) => `(tactic| rfl)

example (x : α) : x = x := by
  triv

example (x : α) (h : p) : x = x ∧ p := by
  apply And.intro <;> triv

-- We now add a (recursive) extension
macro_rules | `(tactic| triv) => `(tactic| apply And.intro <;> triv)

example (x : α) (h : p) : x = x ∧ p := by
  triv

Exercises

  1. Go back to the exercises in Chapter Propositions and Proofs and Chapter Quantifiers and Equality and redo as many as you can now with tactic proofs, using also rw and simp as appropriate.

  2. Use tactic combinators to obtain a one line proof of the following:

example (p q r : Prop) (hp : p)
        : (p ∨ q ∨ r) ∧ (q ∨ p ∨ r) ∧ (q ∨ r ∨ p) := by
  admit