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1213. Meaning of valid and singular iterator underspecified

Section: 27.2 [iterator.requirements] Status: Open Submitter: Daniel Krügler Opened: 2009-09-19 Last modified: 2017-02-03

Priority: 4

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The terms valid iterator and singular aren't properly defined. The fuzziness of those terms became even worse after the resolution of 208 (including further updates by 278). In 27.2 [iterator.requirements] as of N2723 the standard says now:

5 - These values are called past-the-end values. Values of an iterator i for which the expression *i is defined are called dereferenceable. The library never assumes that past-the-end values are dereferenceable. Iterators can also have singular values that are not associated with any container. [...] Results of most expressions are undefined for singular values; the only exceptions are destroying an iterator that holds a singular value and the assignment of a non-singular value to an iterator that holds a singular value. [...] Dereferenceable values are always non-singular.

10 - An invalid iterator is an iterator that may be singular.

First, issue 208 intentionally removed the earlier constraint that past-the-end values are always non-singular. The reason for this was to support null pointers as past-the-end iterators of e.g. empty sequences. But there seem to exist different views on what a singular (iterator) value is. E.g. according to the SGI definition a null pointer is not a singular value:

Dereferenceable iterators are always nonsingular, but the converse is not true. For example, a null pointer is nonsingular (there are well defined operations involving null pointers) even thought it is not dereferenceable.

and proceeds:

An iterator is valid if it is dereferenceable or past-the-end.

Even if the standard prefers a different meaning of singular here, the change was incomplete, because by restricting feasible expressions of singular iterators to destruction and assignment isn't sufficient for a past-the-end iterator: Of-course it must still be equality-comparable and in general be a readable value.

Second, the standard doesn't clearly say whether a past-the-end value is a valid iterator or not. E.g. 23.10.11 [specialized.algorithms]/1 says:

In all of the following algorithms, the formal template parameter ForwardIterator is required to satisfy the requirements of a forward iterator (24.1.3) [..], and is required to have the property that no exceptions are thrown from [..], or dereference of valid iterators.

The standard should make better clear what "singular pointer" and "valid iterator" means. The fact that the meaning of a valid value has a core language meaning doesn't imply that for an iterator concept the term "valid iterator" has the same meaning.

Let me add a final example: In 99 [allocator.concepts.members] of N2914 we find:

pointer X::allocate(size_type n);

11 Returns: a pointer to the allocated memory. [Note: if n == 0, the return value is unspecified. —end note]


void X::deallocate(pointer p, size_type n);

Preconditions: p shall be a non-singular pointer value obtained from a call to allocate() on this allocator or one that compares equal to it.

If singular pointer value would include null pointers this make the preconditions unclear if the pointer value is a result of allocate(0): Since the return value is unspecified, it could be a null pointer. Does that mean that programmers need to check the pointer value for a null value before calling deallocate?

[ 2010-11-09 Daniel comments: ]

A later paper is in preparation.

[ 2010 Batavia: ]

Doesn't need to be resolved for Ox

[2014-02-20 Re-open Deferred issues as Priority 4]

Consider to await the paper.

Proposed resolution: