Rust closures: How a closure can implement more than one trait

A pretty interesting conversation took place on a series of Tweets a while back on Rust closures. This was (and still is, although less than before) a confusing topic for me as a Rust newbie. So I was expecting some help from the Rust Twitter community. What I'm about to discuss today comes as a side effect out of that discussion; it wasn't my line of query initially.

My confusion centered around how closures implement the three traits Fn, FnOnce, and FnMut. From a slender look it looks fairly simple:

Let's look at an example:

fn main() {
// this closure doesn't capture anything
let print_ = |film, rating| println!("{}: {}", film, rating);

let film_ratings = [("Sunset Boulevard", 7), ("The Last", 6), ("Drive", 8)];

for (film, rating) in film_ratings.iter() {
print_(film, rating);
}
}

The comment says it: this closure doesn't capture anything from the scope. So what trait does it implement?

Let's look at the docs on Fn:

Fn is implemented automatically by closures which only take immutable references to captured variables or don’t capture anything at all...

So that's it then, right?

Hmm, I have trust issues so let's test that statement on our piece of code. Jack was kind enough to provide the following code snippet that checks what trait(s) the closure implements.

It uses trait objects to create three variables of three types corresponding to each of the traits Fn, FnOnce and FnMut. Then they're assigned to the closure.

fn main() {
let print_ = |film, rating| println!("{}: {}", film, rating);

let film_ratings = [("Sunset Boulevard", 7), ("The Last", 6), ("Drive", 8)];

for (film, rating) in film_ratings.iter() {
print_(film, rating);
}

let _this_works: &dyn FnOnce(_, _) = &print_;
let _this_works_too: &dyn FnMut(_, _) = &print_;
let _all_of_these_work: &dyn Fn(_, _) = &print_;
}

This code compiles without so much as a warning...

So... the closure implements each trait. The question that arises now is why it ends up implementing all three (put pressure on the phrase "ends up").

I found a Stack Overflow answer that started shedding some light on that question.

It says that all closures implement FnOnce. Why? Because you should be able to call a closure at least once. Closures are functions, and if you can't call a function at least once it's not living up to its name is it?!

So our closure implements FnOnce. And according to the docs, since it doesn't capture anything, it also implements Fn. That's two out of three. What about the third one FnMut?

The following line in the Fn docs tries to give something away:

Since both FnMut and FnOnce are supertraits of Fn, any instance of Fn can be used as a parameter where a FnMut or FnOnce is expected.

Wait what? "Supertraits"?

Supertraits are Rust's way of achieving inheritance-like features. You can define a trait that uses some of the functionalities of another trait. The first trait then becomes the "supertrait" (or "parent trait", somewhat mirroring the OOP term "parent class"), and the second trait that depends on the first one becomes a "subtrait".

For a type that implements a subtrait, it also needs to implement its supertrait. That's enough, for now, to understand what's going on with our closures. I might delve into supertraits in another article in the future for my sanity (and clarity on it).

In our closure's case, so another way to explain its behavior is that since it implements Fn, it also implements the supertraits FnOnce and FnMut. This marks another claim made in that Stack Overflow answer:

A closure |...| ... will automatically implement as many of those [traits] as it can.

Bottomline:

Oh FnOnce is also a supertrait of Fnmut...

That's it for today's ramblings. Hope you've found it useful in some way. Thanks for reading!