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The conversion tactic mode #

Inside a tactic block, one can use the keyword conv to enter conversion mode. This mode allows to travel inside assumptions and goals, even inside λ binders in them, to apply rewriting or simplifying steps.

This is similar to the conversion tacticals (tactic combinators) found in other theorem provers like HOL4, HOL Light or Isabelle.

Basic navigation and rewriting #

As a first example, let us prove example (a b c : ℕ) : a * (b * c) = a * (c * b) (examples in this file are somewhat artificial since the ring tactic from tactic.ring could finish them immediately). The naive first attempt is to enter tactic mode and try rw mul_comm. But this transforms the goal into b * c * a = a * (c * b), after commuting the very first multiplication appearing in the term. There are several ways to fix this issue, and one way is to use a more precise tool : the conversion mode. The following code block shows the current target after each line. Note that the target is prefixed by | where normal mode shows a goal prefixed by (these targets are still called "goals" though).

example (a b c : ) : a * (b * c) = a * (c * b) :=
begin
  conv
  begin          -- | a * (b * c) = a * (c * b)
    to_lhs,      -- | a * (b * c)
    congr,       -- 2 goals : | a and | b * c
    skip,        -- | b * c
    rw mul_comm, -- | c * b
  end
end

The above snippet show three navigation commands:

Once arrived at the relevant target, we can use rw as in normal mode. Note that Lean tries to solves the current goal if it became x = x (in the strict syntactical sense, definitional equality is not enough: one needs to conclude by refl or trivial in this case).

The second main reason to use conversion mode is to rewrite under binders. Suppose we want to prove example (λ x : ℕ, 0+x) = (λ x, x). The naive first attempt is to enter tactic mode and try rw zero_add. But this fails with a frustrating

rewrite tactic failed, did not find
instance of the pattern in the target expression 0 + ?m_3
state:
⊢ (λ (x : ℕ), 0 + x) = λ (x : ℕ), x

The solution is:

example : (λ x : , 0 + x) = (λ x, x) :=
begin
  conv
  begin           -- | (λ (x : ℕ), 0 + x) = λ (x : ℕ), x
    to_lhs,       -- | λ (x : ℕ), 0 + x
    funext,       -- | 0 + x
    rw zero_add,  -- | x
  end
end

where funext is the navigation command entering inside the λ binder. Note that this example is somewhat artificial, one could also do:

example : (λ x : , 0+x) = (λ x, x) :=
by funext ; rw zero_add

All this is also available to rewrite an hypothesis H from the local context using conv at H.

Pattern matching #

Navigation using the above commands can be tedious. One can shortcut it using pattern matching as follows:

example (a b c : ) : a * (b * c) = a * (c * b) :=
begin
conv in (b*c)
begin          -- | b * c
  rw mul_comm, -- | c * b
end
end

As usual, begin and end can be replaced by curly brackets to delimit conversion mode and a single tactic invocation can be introduced by by to get the one liner:

example (a b c : ) : a * (b * c) = a * (c * b) :=
by conv in (b*c) { rw mul_comm }

Beware that a well known bug makes Lean printing: "find converter failed, pattern was not found" when the tactics inside conversion mode fail, even if the pattern was actually found.

Of course wild-cards are allowed:

example (a b c : ) : a + (b * c) = a + (c * b) :=
by conv in (_ * c) { rw mul_comm }

In all those cases, only the first match is affected. A more sophisticated version of pattern matching is available inside conversion mode using the for command. The following performs rewriting only for the second and third occurrences of b * c:

example (a b c : ) : (b * c) * (b * c) * (b * c) = (b * c) * (c * b)  * (c * b):=
by conv { for (b * c) [2, 3] { rw mul_comm } }

Other tactics inside conversion mode #

Besides rewriting using rw, one can use simp, dsimp, change and whnf. change is a useful tool -- it allows changing a term to something definitionally equal, rather like the show command in tactic mode. The whnf command means "reduces to weak head normal form" and will eventually be explained in Programming in Lean section 8.4.

Extensions to conv provided by mathlib, such as ring and norm_num, can be found in the mathlib docs.