Contract Semantics

Assume-guarantee contracts

This section discusses the semantics of contracts, and in particular modes, in Kind 2. For details regarding the syntax, please see the Contracts section.

An assume-guarantee contract (A,G) for a node n is a set of assumptions A and a set of guarantees G. Assumptions describe how n must be used, while guarantees specify how n behaves.

More formally, n respects its contract (A,G) if all of its executions satisfy the temporal LTL formula

\[\square A \Rightarrow \square G\]

That is, if the assumptions always hold then the guarantees hold. Contracts are interesting when a node top calls a node sub, where sub has a contract (A,G).

From the point of view of sub, a contract ({a_1, ..., a_n}, {g_1, ..., g_m}) represents the same verification challenge as if sub had been written

node sub (...) returns (...) ;
  assert a_1 ;
  assert a_n ;
  --%PROPERTY g_1 ;
  --%PROPERTY g_m ;

The guarantees must be invariant of sub when the assumptions are forced.

For the caller however, the call sub(<params>) is legal if and only if the assumptions of sub are invariants of top at call-site. The verification challenge for top is therefore the same as

node top (...) returns (...) ;
  ... sub(<params>) ...
  --%PROPERTY a_1(<call_site>) ;
  --%PROPERTY a_n(<call_site>) ;


Kind 2 augments traditional assume-guarantee contracts with the notion of mode. A mode (R,E) is a set R or requires and a set E of ensures. A Kind 2 contract is therefore a triplet (A,G,M) where M is a set of modes. If M is empty then the semantics of the contract is exactly that of an assume-guarantee contract.


A mode represents a situation / reaction implication. A contract (A,G,M) can be re-written as an assume-guarantee contract (A,G') where

\[G' = G\ \cup\ \{\ \bigwedge_i r_i \Rightarrow \bigwedge_i e_i \mid (\{r_i\}, \{e_i\}) \in M \}\]

For instance, a (linear) contract for non-linear multiplication could be

node abs (in: real) returns (res: real) ;
let res = if in < 0.0 then - in else in ; tel

node times (lhs, rhs: real) returns (res: real) ;

  mode absorbing (
    require lhs = 0.0 or rhs = 0.0 ;
    ensure res = 0.0 ;
  ) ;
  mode lhs_neutral (
    require not absorbing ;
    require abs(lhs) = 1.0 ;
    ensure abs(res) = abs(rhs) ;
  ) ;
  mode rhs_neutral (
    require not absorbing ;
    require abs(rhs) = 1.0 ;
    ensure abs(res) = abs(lhs) ;
  ) ;
  mode positive (
    require (
      rhs > 0.0 and lhs > 0.0
    ) or (
      rhs < 0.0 and lhs < 0.0
    ) ;
    ensure res > 0.0 ;
  ) ;
  mode pos_neg (
    require (
      rhs > 0.0 and lhs < 0.0
    ) or (
      rhs < 0.0 and lhs > 0.0
    ) ;
    ensure res < 0.0 ;
  ) ;
  res = lhs * rhs ;

Motivation: modes were introduced in the contract language of Kind 2 to account for the fact that most requirements found in specification documents are actually implications between a situation and a behavior. In a traditional assume-guarantee contract, such requirements have to be written as situation => behavior guarantees. We find this cumbersome, error-prone, but most importantly we think some information is lost in this encoding. Modes make writing specification more straightforward and user-friendly, and allow Kind 2 to keep the mode information around to

  • improve feedback for counterexamples,

  • generate mode-based test-cases, and

  • adopt a defensive approach to guard against typos and specification oversights to a certain extent. This defensive approach is discussed in the next section.

Defensive checks

Conceptually modes correspond to different situations triggering different behaviors for a node. Kind 2 is defensive in the sense that when a contract has at least one mode, it will check that the modes account for all situations the assumptions allow before trying to prove the node respects its contract.

More formally, consider a node n with contract

\[(A, G, \{(R_i, E_i)\})\]

The defensive check consists in checking that the disjunction of the requires of each mode

\[\mathsf{one\_mode\_active} = \bigvee_i (\bigwedge_j r_{ij})\]

is an invariant for the system

\[A \wedge G \wedge (\bigwedge r_i \Rightarrow \bigwedge e_i)\]

If one_mode_active is indeed invariant, it means that as long as

  • the assumptions are respected, and

  • the node is correct w.r.t. its contract then at least one mode is active at all time.

Kind 2 follows this defensive approach. If a mode is missing, or a requirement is more restrictive than it should be then Kind 2 will detect the modes that are not exhaustive and provide a counterexample.

This defensive approach is not as constraining as it first appears. If one wants to leave some situation unspecified on purpose, it is enough to add to the current set of (non-exhaustive) modes a mode like

mode base_case (
  require true ;
) ;

which explicitly accounts for, and hence documents, the missing cases.

In addition, Kind 2 checks that all modes are reachable in the system. In other words, Kind 2 also checks that for each mode there exists a reachable state satisfying the conjunction of its requires. This lets you know whether the mode implication is vacuously true or not.

When the node associated to the contract has a body (it is not imported), the check will be performed twice. First, considering only the information of the contract. Then, considering the equations of the body too.

Notice that when running Kind 2 in modular mode, the reachability check is performed locally to a node without taking call contexts into account; only the specified assumptions are considered.

You can disable this check by passing --check_nonvacuity false to Kind 2, or by suppressing all reachability checks (--check_reach false).