Next: , Previous: , Up: ref-sem-ctr   [Contents][Index] Do Loops   since release 4.1

Proposed in [Schimpf 2002], the control structure

(Iterators do Body)

often eliminates the need to write an auxiliary predicate to perform some simple iteration. Semantically a do loop can be viewed as a shorthand for a goal:

PreCallGoals, aux(CallArgs).

where aux is a new, unique predicate symbol, CallArgs is its initial arguments, and PreCallGoals is a sequence of goals to be executed before calling aux, which is of the following form:

aux(BaseArgs) :- !.
aux(HeadArgs) :- PreBodyGoals, Body, aux(RecArgs).

where BaseArgs, HeadArgs and RecArgs are sequence of arguments and PreBodyGoals is a sequence of goals. Thus the semantics of a do loop is precisely defined by a set of rewrite rules from Iterators to those sequences of arguments and goals. Those rules are given in tabular form at the end of this section.

The ‘do’ operator is an infix operator of the same priority as ‘;’. It is recommended to always enclose a do loop in parentheses. Iterators is a comma-separated sequence of iterators, and Goal is any goal.

Before giving the full list of available iterators, we now show some simple examples.

The iterator foreach(Var,List) provides iteration over a list:

| ?- (foreach(X,[1,2,3]) do writeq(X), nl).

The same iterator can be used to construct a list:

| ?- (foreach(X,[1,2,3]), foreach(Y,List) do Y is X+3).
List = [4, 5, 6]

The iterator fromto(First,In,Out,Last) can be used to express an accumulator with initial value First, final value Last, with In and Out being local variables in Body:

| ?- (foreach(X,[1,2,3]), fromto(0,In,Out,Sum) do Out is In+X).
Sum = 6

The iterator for(Var,Min,Max) will iterate Body with Var ranging over integers Min thru Max, which can be expressions:

| ?- (for(I,1,5), foreach(I,List) do true).
List = [1,2,3,4,5]

The iterator count(Var,Min,Max) will iterate Body with Var ranging over ascending integers from Min, unifying Max with the final value. Its main use is to count the number of iterations:

| ?- (foreach(X,[a,b,c,d,e]), count(I,1,N), foreach(I-X,Pairs) do true).
N = 5,
Pairs = [1-a,2-b,3-c,4-d,5-e]

The iterator foreacharg(Var,Struct) provides iteration over the arguments of a structure. The variant foreacharg(Var,Struct,I) also exists, with I ranging over the argument number, 1-based:

| ?- (foreacharg(A,f(1,2,3)), foreach(A,List) do true).
List = [1,2,3]

| ?- (foreacharg(A,f(a,b,c,d,e),I), foreach(I-A,List) do true).
List = [1-a,2-b,3-c,4-d,5-e]

Do loops have special variable scoping rules, which sometimes contradict the default rule that the scope of a variable is the clause in which it occurs: the scope of variables occurring in Body as well as variables quantified by iterators is one loop iteration. The exact scope of variables is given in the table below. To override the scoping rule, i.e. to enable a variable to be passed to all loop iterations, use the param(Var) declaration:

| ?- (for(I,1,5), foreach(X,List), param(X) do true).
List = [X,X,X,X,X]

An omitted param(Var) iterator is often spotted by the compiler, which issues a warning. Suppose that we want to define a predicate that removes all occurrences of the element Kill from the list List giving Residue. A do loop formulation is given below, along with a buggy version where param(Kill) is missing:

delete1(List, Kill, Residue) :- % correct
        (   foreach(X,List),
        do  (X = Kill -> S0 = S ; S0 = [X|S])

delete2(List, Kill, Residue) :- % wrong
        (   foreach(X,List),
        do  (X = Kill -> S0 = S ; S0 = [X|S])

The compiler warns about the missing param(Kill), and for a good reason: the first version works as intended, but the second does not:

| ?- [do].
% compiling /home/matsc/sicstus4/
* [Kill] treated as local in do loop but also used outside
* suggest renaming or adding param([Kill])
* Approximate lines: 8-15, file: '/home/matsc/sicstus4/'
% compiled /home/matsc/sicstus4/ in module user, 10 msec 192 bytes
| ?- delete1([1,2,3,4,5], 3, R).
R = [1,2,4,5]

| ?- delete2([1,2,3,4,5], 3, R).
R = []

In some cases it is harmless and even useful to use the same local variable name in two do-loops. The compiler tries to detect this and will suppress warnings in these cases:

sums_and_squares(List, Doubles, Squares) :-
        % X is used as a local variable in both do-loops. This is
        % harmless and will give no warning.
        (   foreach(X, List),
            foreach(Double, Doubles)
            Double is X+X
        (   foreach(X, List),
            foreach(Square, Squares)
            Square is X*X

Please note: In the context of multiple iterators, for the loop to terminate, all termination conditions must hold simultaneously. For example:

| ?- (for(I,1,2), for(J,1,3) do writeq(I-J), nl).

will not terminate, because the two termination condition never hold simultaneously.

Finally, do loops can be used as a control structure in grammar rules as well. A do loop in a grammar rule context will generate (or parse) the concatenation of the lists of symbols generated (or parsed) by each loop iteration. For example, suppose that you are representing three-dimensional points as lists [x,y,z]. Suppose that you need to generate a list of all such points for x between 1 and Length, y between 1 and Width, and z between 1 and Height. A generator of such lists can be written as a grammar rule with nested do loops as follows.

| ?- compile(user).
| points3d(Length, Width, Height) -->
|         (   for(X,1,Length),
|             param(Width,Height)
|         do  (   for(Y,1,Width),
|                 param(X,Height)
|             do  (   for(Z,1,Height),
|                     param(X,Y)
|                 do  [[X,Y,Z]]
|                 )
|             )
|         ).
| ?- ^D
% compiled user in module user, 0 msec 1024 bytes
| ?- phrase(points3d(3,2,4), S).
S = [[1,1,1],[1,1,2],[1,1,3],[1,1,4],

We now summarize the available iterators. In this table, the phrase “var is a local variable” means that var should occur in Goal and is a brand new variable in each iteration. All other variables have global scope, i.e. the scope is the clause containing the do loop.


In the first iteration, In=First. In the n:th iteration, In is the value that Out had at the end of the (n-1):th iteration. In and Out are local variables. The termination condition is Out=Last.


Iterate with X ranging over all elements of List. X is a local variable. Can also be used for constructing a list. The termination condition is Tail = [], where Tail is the suffix of List that follows the elements that have been iterated over.


with X ranging over all arguments of Struct. X is a local variable. Cannot be used for constructing a term. So the termination condition is true iff all arguments have been iterated over.


Iterate with X ranging over all arguments of Struct and Idx ranging over the argument number, 1-based. X and Idx are local variables. Cannot be used for constructing a term. So the termination condition is true iff all arguments have been iterated over.


This is used when the number of iterations is known. Let Min take the value integer(MinExpr), let Max take the value integer(MaxExpr), and let Past take the value max(Min,Max+1). Iterate with I ranging over integers from Min to max(Min,Max) inclusive. I is a local variable. The termination condition is I = Past.


This is normally used for counting the number of iterations. Let Min take the value integer(MinExpr). Iterate with I ranging over integers from Min. I is a local variable. The termination condition is I = Max, i.e. Max can be and typically is a variable.


For declaring variables global, i.e. shared with the context. Var can be a single variable, or a list of them. The termination condition is true. Please note: By default, variables have local scope.

IterSpec1, IterSpec2

The iterators are iterated synchronously; that is, they all take their first value for the first iteration, their second value for the second iteration, etc. The order in which they are written does not matter. The set of local variables is the union of those of the iterators. The termination condition is the conjunction of those of the iterators.

Finally, we present the set of rewrite rules for the conceptual aux predicate that was introduced above. The rules define the translation from the iterators to the previously introduced PreCallGoals, CallArgs, BaseArgs, HeadArgs, PreBodyGoals, and RecArgs. This defines the precise semantics of any do loop:

foreacharg(A,S)functor(S,_,N), N1 is N+1I1 is I0+1, arg(I0,S,A)
foreacharg(A,S,I1)functor(S,_,N), N1 is N+1I1 is I0+1, arg(I0,S,A)
count(I,FE,T)F is integer(FE)-1I is I0+1
for(I,FE,TE)F is integer(FE),I1 is I+1
S is max(F,integer(TE)+1)

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