assign - Destructuring Assignment Syntax for Perl


This code:

    use assign::0;

    my {$foo, bar => [ $first, @rest, $last ]} = $self->data;

works the same as this code:

    my $_temp1 = $self->data;
    my $foo = $_temp1->{foo};
    my $_temp2 = $_temp1->{bar};
    my $first = $_temp2->[0];
    my @rest = @$_temp2[1..(@$_temp2-2)];
    my $last = $_temp2->[@$_temp2-1] if @$_temp2 > 1;


This module enables a destructuring assignment syntax for Perl.

Instead of assigning a value to a variable, you can now assign to a data structure (array-ref or hash-ref) that specifies how to unpack a data structure into all the variables you need.

When you use this module you can put array-refs or hash-refs in places where you would put a variable that will be assigned to. The contents of these refs act as instructions for what variables to create and which parts of the target to take the assignment values from.

There are many useful combinations, which are documented below. The destructuring refs can be nested, allowing you to extract all the values you want from a complex data structure in a single statement.


This module is very new and experimental. The hope is that this may one day become a pragma module or possibly even part of the Perl language's syntax.

To preserve backwards compatability for early adopters, the module currently requires you to use assign::0;. When the module becomes stable and vetted, it will become simply use assign;.


Simply add a use assign::0; line to your program, and then you can use any of the assignment forms described below. You must use the module before the first line where you use one of the assignment forms.

If you need to turn off assign after turning it on for some reason, you can use the line: no assign.


To see how the assign module turns the new style assignment forms into plain old Perl code in you program, you can use the assign::0-debug()> method.

    require assign::0;
    print assign::0->debug(<perl-file-name>);
    print assign::0->debug(<perl-code-string-as-scalar-ref>);

This will perform the assign transformations on the Perl code and print the result.

You can do that as a perl one-liner like so:

    perl -e 'require assign::0; print assign::0->debug("")'

Remember to use require assign::0;, not use assign::0;.


The best way to explain this module is by example.

All the forms below have been implemented and should work as described for this version of the module.

Here we go...


  • my [$foo, $bar] = $array_ref;

    Define 2 my variables and assign the array-ref values in order.

    If there are less values on the RHS, the variables will be undefined. If there are more, they will be ignored.

    The RHS can be a variable or any expression as long as its value is an array-ref.

  • my [$foo, $bar] = (111, 222); ERROR

    If the LHS is an array-ref the RHS must also be an array-ref. If the LHS is a hash-ref the RHS must also be a hash-ref.

  • our [$foo, $bar] = $array_ref;

    Define our variables and assign the array-ref values.

  • local [$foo, $bar] = $array_ref;

    Define local variables and assign the array-ref values.

  • my $foo; our $bar; [$foo, $bar] = $array_ref;

    Assign the array-ref values to 2 pre-defined variables.

  • my {$foo, $bar} = {bar = 111, foo => 222};>

    Define 2 my variables and use the variable name as the key to extract from the hash-ref on the RHS.


  • my [ $foo, _, _, $bar ] = $array_ref;

    You can skip array values with the _ symbol.

  • my [ $foo, $_, $bar ] = $array_ref;

    Unpack into global $_, not a my variable. The $foo and $bar here are still my lexical vars.

  • my [ 7, $foo, 42, $bar ] = $array_ref;

    You can skip any number of array values by using a positive integer.

  • my [ $a, $b=42, $c="1\n2", $d=$a ] = $array_ref;

    You can define default values for variables. Currently the default must be a single token (string, number, variable). Also there must not be whitespace on either side of the =.

  • my [ $a, $b, @rest ] = $array_ref

    Slurp remaining elements into an array variable.

  • my [ $a, $b, @$rest ] = $array_ref

    Slurp remaining elements into an array reference variable ($rest).


There are many more forms that are intended to work, and many more cases we haven't thought of yet. Pretty much any place in Perl where a variable can be assigned to should also allow a structure to be assigned to.

Here's the current list of things intended to be added soon:

    my [ $x1, $xs->[5], $xs[10] ] = $d;
    my [ $a, @middle, $z ] = $d;        # Set all but first and last into array
    my [ $first, @-, $last ] = $d;      # Ignore middle
    my [ $x1, $x2, @-25 ] = $d;          # Take -27 and -26

    my [ @a => @b => @c ] = $d;         # Evenly distribute values over multiple arrays
    my [ @a => @- => @- ] = $d;           # Take every third element (0, 3, 6, ...)
    my [ @a => @19 ] = $d;              # Take every 19th element

    my [ @a, @b, @c ] = $d;             # Split into thirds
    my [ @a, @, @ ] = $d;               # Get first third

    # Hash destructuring:
    my { $k1, $k2 } = $d;               # Unpack a hash ref
    my { $k1, $k2 } = %d;               # Unpack a hash

    my { k1 => $x, $k2 } = $d;          # Use a var name different than key
    my { k1 => $x=111, $k2=222 } = $d;  # Set default values

    my { $key => $val } = $d;           # Unpack a single pair hash
    my { @key => @val } = $d;           # Unpack all keys and values (unzip)
    my [ @key => @val ] = $d;           # Unpack all keys and values *sorted*
    my { @keys } = $d;                  # Key array of all keys
    my [ @keys ] = $d;                  # Key array of all keys *sorted* (RHS must be hashref)
    my { @keys => _ } = $d;             #   Same as above
    my [ @keys => _ ] = $d;             #   Same as above but *sorted*
    my { _ => @vals } = $d;             # Get array of all values

    my { 'a-key', 'b.key' } = $d;       # Short for { 'a-key' => $a_key, 'b.key' => $b_key }
    my { 'foo bar' } = $d;              # Short for { "foo bar" => $foo_bar }

    # Nested destructuring:
    my { k1 => { $k2, $k3 }} = $d;      # Unpack nested hash (no $k1)
    my { $k1 => { $k2, $k3 }} = $d;     # Unpack nested hash w/ $k1 set to inner hash ref
    my { k1 => [ $x1, $x2 ]} = $d;      # Unpack array ref nested in hash (no nesting depth limit)

    # Operator assignments:
    [ $a, $b ] //= $d;                  # Only assign undefined variables
    [ $a, $b ] .= $d;                   # Append string to every var
    [ $a, $b ] += $d;                   # Add number to every var

    # In for loops:
    for my { $k => [ $x1, $x2 ]} (@list) {  # Unpack each collection from a list
    for my { $k => $v } (%hash) { $d;   # Unpack each key/val pair from a hash

    # In signatures:
    sub foo( $a, {$k1, [ $x1, $x2 ]} ) { … }
    sub foo({
        $name = "Fred",
        number => $num = 42,
    }) { … }

    # Regex:
    my [ $match, $cap1, $cap2 ] = $str =~ /…/;
    my [ $match, $cap1, $cap2 ] = /…/;  # Match using $_

    # Inline list expressions:
    my [ $a, @l{reverse}, $y, $z ] = $d;
    my [ $a, @l{map ($_ + 1), grep ($_ > 10)}, $z ] = $d;
    my [ $a, @{join '-'} => $s, $z ] = $d;


All of the new assignment forms introduced here would cause Perl syntax or runtime errors without using

Currently this module is a working prototype that uses Filter::Simple (Perl source code filtering) and (to parse and restructure Perl code).

Each destructuring form is removed and replaced with the appropriate Perl code to do the intended actions.

When all the syntax forms have been implemented and fully tested and the module has become stable, it will be rewritten as an XS module.

Note: Code transformations adjust the line numbers with #line <num> statements so that warnings and errors report line numbers that make sense.


Destructuring assignment is available in many common languages. The assign module got many ideas from these.



  • Ingy döt Net <<>>

  • Kang-min Liu <<>>


Copyright 2023 by Ingy döt Net

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.