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Kotlin language specification

Version 1.5-rfc+0.1

Marat Akhin

Mikhail Belyaev


[statement {semis statement}] [semis]
{label | annotation} (declaration | assignment | loopStatement | expression)

Kotlin does not explicitly distinguish between statements, expressions and declarations, i.e., expressions and declarations can be used in statement positions. This section focuses only on those statements that are not expressions or declarations. For information on those parts of Kotlin, please refer to the Expressions and Declarations sections of the specification.

Example: Kotlin supports using conditionals both as expressions and as statements. As their use as expressions is more general, detailed information about conditionals is available in the Expressions section of the specification.


((directlyAssignableExpression '=') | (assignableExpression assignmentAndOperator)) {NL} expression
| '-='
| '*='
| '/='
| '%='

An assignment is a statement that writes a new value to some program entity, denoted by its left-hand side. Both left-hand and right-hand sides of an assignment must be expressions, more so, there are several restrictions for the expression on the left-hand side.

For an expression to be assignable, i.e. be allowed to occur on the left-hand side of an assignment, it must be one of the following:

Note: Kotlin assignments are not expressions and cannot be used as such.

Simple assignments

A simple assignment is an assignment which uses the assign operator =. If the left-hand side of an assignment refers to a mutable property, a value of that property is changed when an assignment is evaluated, using the following rules (applied in order).

If the left-hand side of an assignment is an indexing expression, the whole statement is treated as an overloaded operator with the following expansion:

A[B1,B2,B3,,BN]=CA[B_1,B_2,B_3,\ldots,B_N] = C is the same as calling A.set(B1,B2,B3,,BN,C)A\texttt{.set}(B_1,B_2,B_3,\ldots,B_N,C) where set is a suitable operator function.

Operator assignments

An operator assignment is a combined-form assignment which involves one of the following operators: +=, -=, *=, /=, %=. All of these operators are overloadable operator functions with the following expansions (applied in order):

Note: before Kotlin version 1.3, there were additional overloadable functions for % called mod/modAssign

After the expansion, the resulting function call expression or simple assignment is processed according to their corresponding rules, and overload resolution and type checking are performed. If both expansion variants result in correctly resolved and inferred code, this should be reported as an operator overloading ambiguity. If only one of the expansion variants can be resolved correctly, this variant is picked as the correct one. If neither of variants result in correct code, the operator calls must be reported as unresolved.

Example: consider the following compound operator statement: x[y] += z. The corresponding expansion variants are x.get(y).plusAssign(z) and x.set(x.get(y).plus(z)) according to expansion rules for corresponding operators. If, for example, the call to set in the second variant results in resolution or inference error, the whole corresponding expansion is deemed unresolved and the first variant is picked if applicable.

Note: although for most real-world use cases operators ++ and -- are similar to operator assignments, in Kotlin they are expressions and are described in the corresponding section of this specification.

Safe assignments

If the left-hand side of an assignment involves a safe-navigation operator, it is treated as a special case of safe assignment. Safe assignments are expanded similar to safe navigation operator expressions:

Example: The assignment

x?.y[0] = z

is expanded to

when(val $tmp = x) {
    null -> null
    else -> { $tmp.y[0] = z }

which, according to expansion rules for indexing assignments is, in turn, expanded to

when(val $tmp = x) {
    null -> null
    else -> { $tmp.y.set(0, z) }

Loop statements

Loop statements describe an evaluation of a certain number of statements repeatedly until a loop exit condition applies.

| whileStatement
| doWhileStatement

Loops are closely related to the semantics of jump expressions, as these expressions, namely break and continue, are only allowed in a body of a loop. Please refer to the corresponding sections for details.

While-loop statements

(controlStructureBody | ';')

A while-loop statement is similar to an if expression in that it also has a condition expression and a body consisting of zero or more statements. While-loop statement evaluating its body repeatedly for as long as its condition expression evaluates to true or a jump expression is evaluated to finish the loop.

Note: this also means that the condition expression is evaluated before every evaluation of the body, including the first one.

The while-loop condition expression must be a subtype of kotlin.Boolean.

Do-while-loop statements


A do-while-loop statement, similarly to a while-loop statement, also describes a loop, with the following differences. First, it has a different syntax. Second, it evaluates the loop condition expression after evaluating the loop body.

Note: this also means that the body is always evaluated at least once.

The do-while-loop condition expression must be a subtype of kotlin.Boolean.

For-loop statements

(variableDeclaration | multiVariableDeclaration)

Note: unlike most other languages, Kotlin does not have a free-form condition-based for loops. The only form of a for-loop available in Kotlin is the “foreach” loop, which iterates over lists, arrays and other data structures.

A for-loop statement is a special kind of loop statement used to iterate over some data structure viewed as an iterable collection of elements. A for-loop statement consists of a loop body, a container expression and an iteration variable declaration.

The for-loop is actually an overloadable syntax form with the following expansion:

for(VarDecl in C) Body is the same as

when(val $iterator = C.iterator()) {
    else -> while ($iterator.hasNext()) {
                val VarDecl = __iterator.next()
                <... all the statements from Body>

where iterator, hasNext, next are all suitable operator functions available in the current scope. VarDecl here may be a variable name or a set of variable names as per destructuring variable declarations.

Note: the expansion is hygienic, i.e., the generated iterator variable never clashes with any other variable in the program and cannot be accessed outside the expansion.

Code blocks

[statement {semis statement}] [semis]

A code block is a sequence of zero or more statements between curly braces separated by newlines or/and semicolons. Evaluating a code block means evaluating all its statements in the order they appear inside of it.

Note: Kotlin does not support code blocks as statements; a curly-braces code block in a statement position is a lambda literal.

A last expression of a code block is the last statement in it (if any) if and only if this statement is also an expression. A code block is said to contain no last expression if it does not contain any statements or its last statement is not an expression (e.g., it is an assignment, a loop or a declaration).

Informally: you may consider the case of a missing last expression as if a synthetic last expression with no runtime semantics and type kotlin.Unit is introduced in its place.

A control structure body is either a single statement or a code block. A last expression of a control structure body CSB\operatorname{\text{CSB}} is either the last expression of a code block (if CSB\operatorname{\text{CSB}} is a code block) or the single expression itself (if CSB\operatorname{\text{CSB}} is an expression). If a control structure body is not a code block or an expression, it has no last expression.

Note: this is equivalent to wrapping the single expression in a new synthetic code block.

In some contexts, a control structure body is expected to have a value and/or a type. The value of a control structure body is:

The type of a control structure body is the type of its value.

Coercion to kotlin.Unit

When we expect the type of a control structure body to be kotlin.Unit, we relax the type checking requirements for its type by coercing it to kotlin.Unit. Specifically, we ignore the type mismatch between kotlin.Unit and the control structure body type.


fun foo() {
    val a /* : () -> Unit */ = {
        if (true) 42
        // CSB with no last expression
        // Type is defined to be `kotlin.Unit`

    val b: () -> Unit = {
        if (true) 42 else -42
        // CSB with last expression of type `kotlin.Int`
        // Type is expected to be `kotlin.Unit`
        // Coercion to kotlin.Unit applied