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A function is a routine that, in contrast to procedures, returns a value. A call of a function is virtually substituted by its return value. If the {$extendedSyntax} compiler switch state is off, function calls can not appear as non-productive statements, but have to be or be part of an expression.

The word function is a reserved word.

Return value

In addition to a normal procedure, a function’s formal signature contains a return type: The formal parameter list has to be succeeded by a colon and return type. For instance the following function returns a Boolean.

function myFunction(const firstParameter: real): Boolean;

When implementing functions there are several ways to define the function’s return value.

 1program functionDemo(input, output, stderr);
 3{$mode objFPC}
 5// traditional syntax:
 6// the result is stored in the variable
 7// its name is the same as the function's
 8function myLine(const x: real): real;
10	myLine := 0.5 * x + 2;

If {$modeswitch result+}, which is set by {$mode objFPC} and {$mode Delphi}, inside the implementation block the special identifier result is available, too:

13// using special `result` identifier
14function myParabola(const x: real): real;
16	result := sqr(x) - 1;

Additionally, in {$mode objFPC} the routine exit will set the return value, too, and leave the stack frame. In the previous two examples further statements could have appeared, and they would have been executed, whilst after an exit the routine is done. This is the behavior a return statement in C or other programming languages has.

19// using exit routine
20function even(const x: longint): Boolean;
22	exit(not odd(x));

In assembly language other rules apply. If the return type is an integral value, the accumulator register is used, provided it fits in there:

25// in assembly language:
26// return type fits into a single register => use accumulator register
27function zero(const x: int64): Boolean;
28{$ifDef CPUx86_64}
29assembler; register;
30{$asmMode intel}
32	// xor modifies flags => put it in front of test
33	xor rax, rax     // rax := 0    (remove residue)
35	test x, x        // x = 0 ?
36	setz al          // rax := ZF
38	// When you examine the assembler output
39	// you will notice the compiler automatically inserts code
40	// that moves the contents of rax to the right spot on the stack,
41	// unless the noStackFrame hint
42	// (automatically set by some optimization levels)
43	// instructs the compiler to omit the stack frame if possible.
47	result := x = 0;

Otherwise, depending on which {$asmMode} is active, the @result (Intel) or __result (AT&T) macro can be used.

52	bodyAttributes = record
53		surfaceArea: real;
54		volume: real;
55	end;
57// in assembly language:
58// return type doesn't fit into accumulator => @result macro gives address
59function sphere(const radius: real): bodyAttributes;
60{$ifDef CPUx86_64}
62{$asmMode intel}
64	three: longint = 3;
65	four: longint = 4;
67	r: real;
69	pextrq r, radius, 0 // r := (@radius+0)^
70	lea rax, @result    // rax := @result
71	fld r               // radius
73	fld st(0)           // radius radius
74	fild four           // 4 radius radius
75	fldpi               // pi 4 radius radius
76	fmul                // 4*pi radius radius
77	fxch                // radius 4*pi radius
78	fld st(0)           // radius radius 4*pi radius
79	fmul                // radius^2 4*pi radius
80	fmul                // 4*pi*radius^2 radius
81	fst [rax].bodyAttributes.surfaceArea
83	fmul                // 4*pi*radius^3
84	fild three          // 3 4*pi*radius^3
85	fdivp               // 4/3*pi*radius^3
86	fst [rax].bodyAttributes.volume
90	sphere.surfaceArea := 4 * pi() * sqr(radius);
91	sphere.volume := 4 / 3 * pi() * sqr(radius) * abs(radius);

Originally Pascal expected exact one assignment to the result variable (whichever is used). FPC however does not prohibit multiple assignments. It will emit a warning if none of the possible result identifiers were used or the exit routine is not written.

Function result does not seem to be set
You can get this warning if the compiler thinks that a function return value is not set. This will not be displayed for assembler procedures, or procedures that contain assembler blocks.
96	writeLn(sphere(2.0).surfaceArea);

Note, in the case of operator overloads, a special form of a function, a result variable identifier has to be declared in the formal signature. See the article for details.


Pure functions are functions that do not depend on an external state.

See also