The V parser


Tim Marston <>


The V parser can emit warnings when it encounters code which does not parse. Normally, this would indicate a problem with the code being parsed. But for development, it is useful to run the parser against a ton of known-good code (e.g., the V sources) to check the parser. To emit unexpected token warnings, run ctags with -d 16. (Note: this requires ctags to have been built with --enable-debugging).

A useful terminal command to run the V parser against the whole V source code and list the names of any files that fail to parser is:

$ cd vlib
$ find . -name '*test*' -prune -o -name '*.v' -print0 | \
    xargs -0 ctags -d 16 2>&1 | \
    sed -n 's/^UNEXPECTED.*at \([^:]*\):.*$/\1/p' | \
    sort | uniq


The V parser can also emit a dump of its operation by running ctags with -d 8. (Note: like the parser warnings, this also requires ctags to have been built with --enable-debugging.)

The dump is extremely useful for debugging the parser and shows:

  • individual grammar parsers starting ({foo:) and ending (:foo})

  • lexer reading tokens (UPPERCASE) - tokens read in non-primary token buffer appear in square brackets

  • tokens being “unread” (˄)

  • unread tokens being replayed (˅)

  • emitted tags (#)


The V parser currently has no support for

  • cross references (except modules)

  • function arguments

  • closure arguments

  • variable types


The V Parser reads tokens and parses V grammar in parallel (i.e., it does not build an AST).

The individual grammar parsers all follow these simple rules:

  • when called, token argument already holds the first token which an individual grammar parser should recognise

  • on return, individual parser functions read only the tokens they recognises and no additional tokens are read (i.e., they do not “over read”)

  • these rules are enforced by Assert statements at the start of each parser function

The lexer allows you to “unread” up to MAX_REPLAYS tokens. But unreading a token only stores it (to be replayed when getToken() is next called) and it does not reset the token to hold its previous value. Where it is necessary to read ahead and retain the value of a tokens, additional token buffers can be used (newToken()) or the primary token buffer can be duplicated (dupToken()) so that it can continue to be used for reading. Generally, the primary token buffer is used where it can be, so that the debug dump accurately shows where additional buffers are used. This helps to diagnose situations where unreading a token does not reset its previous value.

Use of expectToken(), rather than isToken(), is encouraged where applicable so that the parser can be run against as much known-good V code as possible and checked to ensure that is not caught out by uncommon grammar.

Fully-qualified Identifiers and External Symbols

The following tokens represent identifiers: - IDENT is a V variable/function/field name (e.g., foo) - TYPE is a V struct/interface/alias/union name (e.g., Foo) - EXTERN is never emitted by the lexer and represents an external symbol

When the lexer returns an IDENT or TYPE and parseFullyQualified() is subsequently called to consume any additional tokens which may make-up a fully-qualified identifier, the provided token is also updated to reflect the final, fully-qualified identifier, so that:

  • token->string is the whole, fully-qualified name of the identifier (e.g.,

  • token->type is updated to IDENT or TYPE to reflect the last part of the fully-qualified identifier (e.g., is an IDENT and foo.Bar is a TYPE), or to EXTERN where the fully-qualified identifier is an external symbol (e.g., or JS.Foo) and the type can not be determined further

  • the token is also marked as being fully-qualified, so that subsequent attempts to fully-qualify it (e.g., after it is unread and replayed) have no effect