In a recent thread on /r/haskell about how to motivate the AMP proposal in teaching, I read a comment that finally helped me understand the purpose of `Functor`

s, `Applicative`

s and `Monad`

s.

## Wait, what is AMP?

For the reader that hasn’t followed this debacle, the AMP proposal is basically about making `Applicative`

a superclass of `Monad`

. That this hasn’t been so is often considered one of the historical errors Haskell carries around, since a `Monad`

is always an `Applicative`

.

The hierachy of `Functor`

, `Applicative`

and `Monad`

is thus changed to,

```
class Functor f where
-- ...
class Functor f => Applicative f where
-- ...
class Applicative m => Monad m where
-- ...
```

which makes more sense than the arbitrary split before (i.e. `Monad`

was just “on its own”).

The concerns surrounding this change has mostly been about beginner-friendliness, since a `Monad`

now needs an instance of both `Applicative`

and `Functor`

.

There are various other considerations, which the interested reader can find out more about on the GHC 7.10 migration page or the Haskell wiki entry about AMP.

## Back to Functor, Applicative and Monad

I’m mostly going to paraphrase /u/ForTheFunctionGod’s comment (which you can find here), while trying to expand a bit on it with my own understanding.

One can naturally extend the intuition of a `Functor`

to an `Applicative`

and from there to a `Monad`

.

**An explanation of the first two might go as follows:**

Let’s say I have a list of numbers and want to add

But what if I had two lists of numbers and wanted to add each number from the first list to each number from the second list? With`2`

to each of these numbers. You can write`fmap (+2) [1..10]`

(using`Functor`

).`Applicative`

you can do just that - it’s like`fmap`

only it can take multiple arguments. You can write`(+) <$> [1,5,10] <*> [11..13]`

.

**From here, one can motivate Monad by asking:**

What if I wanted to abort midway through - say, if I encountered a problem? You can then write:

```
= do
add xs ys <- xs
x if x < 0 then []
else do
<- ys
y if y < 0 then []
else return (x+y)
```

Thus we have the natural hierachy:

`Functor`

: apply a function to a container.`Applicative`

: apply a multi-argument function to multiple containers.`Monad`

: like`Applicative`

but I can decide what to do next after each step.

## Examples of Functor, Applicative and Monad

While the above may help a bit in the *“why?”*, there is still the question of how to use them. I won’t go into much detail since there exists a wealth of information on this topic already (you can quickly google them), but just give some brief examples of what happens when using them.

** Functor is the simplest**, and can be thought of as a much more general

`map`

. Wherever you use `map`

you can always replace it with `fmap`

, but not the other way around.```
> fmap (*2) [1..10]
2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16,18,20] [
```

`fmap`

simply takes every element of the list and applies the function to it.

** Applicative on the other hand** is a bit more tricky to understand. The best starting point is probably to show where

`fmap`

is not enough.Imagine we want to apply the function `*`

(multiplication) to a list, we could try `fmap (*) [1..3]`

but that would give us a bunch of partially applied functions back, like `[(*1), (*2), (*3)]`

.

Now, what can we do with this? We can for example map a value onto the list of partially applied functions, which would look something like this using `fmap`

,

```
> let a = fmap (*) [1..3]
> fmap (\f -> f 9) a
9,18,27] [
```

which can be seen as applying a function that takes a function as argument an applies `9`

to that function, to every function in the list `a`

. The real problem comes when we want to apply a `Functor`

function to `Functor`

values, but I won’t get into much detail on that (you can read more here).

Luckily, instead of writing the above, we can use `<*>`

which is a part of `Applicative`

. We can instead write,

```
> fmap (*) [1..3] <*> [9]
9,18,27] [
```

Note that the reason we put `9`

inside a context (here a list), is because `Applicative`

expects everything to be a `Functor`

. Since the first part is so common, `Control.Applicative`

actually exports `<$>`

, so we can do the following instead, replacing `fmap`

,

```
> (*) <$> [1..3] <*> [9]
9,18,27] [
```

Admittedly, it’s a bit more interesting when we want to apply the multiple functions to multiple arguments, as such,

```
> (*) <$> [1,5,10] <*> [11..13]
11,12,13,55,60,65,110,120,130]
[> (*) <$> Just 3 <*> Just 5
```

or perhaps inside contexts, such as `Maybe`

,

```
> (*) <$> Just 3 <*> Just 5
Just 15
```

but I won’t go into more detail about that, since that isn’t the purpose of this post.

** Monad is the last**, but perhaps most tricky. I’ll try to be as brief as possible though. Too see the

*“what happens next, based on what happened before”*part, we will look into the

`Maybe`

monad used with `do`

notation. It will not explain `Monad`

usage in general, but should be enough to get the gist that *“something”*happens between the steps.

For example (note that I use ; instead of linebreaks because we are executing in the GHCi REPL),

```
> do Just 6; Nothing; Just 9
Nothing
```

You may be aware that a `do`

block returns the last line executed in it - so why did it here return `Nothing`

when the last line was `Just 9`

? That is because on each step the bind function `>>=`

(or `=<<`

for the other direction) is applied. The `Maybe`

`Monad`

defines that if it encounters a `Nothing`

then every subsequent actions also return a `Nothing`

.

To understand this better, let’s take a look at the `Maybe`

instance,

```
instance Monad Maybe where
return x = Just x
Nothing >>= f = Nothing
Just x >>= f = f x
fail _ = Nothing
```

Notably here is the line that says `Nothing >>= f = Nothing`

. It throws away whatever future action it gets and just returns `Nothing`

. This is in contrast to `Just x >>= f = f x`

which can be seen as unpacking `x`

from `Just x`

and then applying the future action, `f`

, to that `x`

.

## Wrap up

Hopefully this should have helped understand the difference of `Functor`

, `Applicative`

and `Monad`

a bit, and how they work together. To understand these concepts more in depth, I recommend reading a bit up on them, and especially for `Monad`

, try reading about the `Writer`

and `State`

`Monad`

s, how they are used and how they are implemented. One resource for that is the chapter on a few more monads in LYAH.

If you are confused about *“What exactly is a Functor, is it a class or interface or whatever?”*, then I gave my take on it here. Other than that, I encourage that you read a bit on Type Class’.

Finally, I can deeply recommend the book Haskell Programming - from first principle. It is still in development as of this date, but already features 700 pages of quality content. Simply the best Haskell book I have ever read (or, I’m still reading it as of writing).