Changes Introduced in CVL 2

CVL 2 is a major overhaul to the type system of CVL. Though many of the changes are internal, we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce a few improvements to the syntax. The general goal of these changes is to make the behavior of CVL more explicit and predictable, and to bring the syntax more in line with Solidity’s syntax.

This document summarizes the changes to CVL syntax introduced by CVL 2.

The CVLMigration repository contains examples demonstrating each of the changes; the cvl1 branch contains the examples in valid CVL 1 syntax, while the cvl2 branch contains the same examples in CVL 2 syntax. You can see the differences here, our you can clone the repository and compare the cvl1 and cvl2 branches using your favorite tools.

Superficial syntax changes

There are several simple changes to the syntax to make specs more uniform and consistent, and to reduce the superficial differences with Solidity.

function and ; required for methods block entries

In CVL 2, methods block entries must now start with function and end with ; (semicolons were optional in CVL 1). For example (CVL 1, CVL 2, diff):

transferFrom(address, address, uint) returns(bool) envfree

will become

function transferFrom(address, address, uint) external returns(bool) envfree;

(note also the addition of external, described below).

This is also true for entries with summaries:

balanceOf(address) returns(uint256) => ALWAYS(3)

will become

function balanceOf(address) external returns(uint256) => ALWAYS(3);

If you do not change this, you will get an error message like the following:

CRITICAL: [main] ERROR ALWAYS - certora/spec/MethodsEntries.spec:4:5: Syntax error: unexpected token near ID(transferFrom)
CRITICAL: [main] ERROR ALWAYS - certora/spec/MethodsEntries.spec:4:5: Couldn't repair and continue parse unexpected token near ID(transferFrom)

Required ; in more places

using, import, use, and invariant statements all require a ; at the end. For example (CVL 1, CVL 2, diff):

invariant balanceOfZeroIsZero()
    balanceOf(0) == 0


invariant balanceOfZeroIsZero()
    balanceOf(0) == 0;

use and invariant statements do not require (and may not have) a semicolon if they are followed by a preserved or filtered block. For example, the following is valid in both CVL 1 and CVL 2:

invariant totalSupplyBoundsBalance(address a)
    balanceOf(a) <= totalSupply()
    { preserved { require false; } }

If you do not change this, you will see an error like the following:

CRITICAL: [main] ERROR ALWAYS - certora/spec/Semicolons.spec:5:1: Syntax error: unexpected token near using
CRITICAL: [main] ERROR ALWAYS - certora/spec/Semicolons.spec:5:1: Couldn't repair and continue parse unexpected token near using

Method literals require sig:

In some places in CVL, you can refer to a contract method by its name and argument types. For example, you might write (CVL 1, CVL 2, diff):

f.selector == approve(address, uint).selector

In this example, approve(address,uint) is a method literal. In CVL 2, these methods literals must now start with sig:. For example, the above would become:

f.selector == sig:approve(address, uint).selector

If you do not change this, you will see the following error:

Error: Error in spec file (MethodLiterals.spec:14:5): Variable address is undefined (first instance only reported)
Error: Error in spec file (MethodLiterals.spec:14:5): Variable uint is undefined (first instance only reported)
Error: Error in spec file (MethodLiterals.spec:15:34): could not type expression "address", message: unknown variable "address"
Error: Error in spec file (MethodLiterals.spec:15:43): could not type expression "uint", message: unknown variable "uint"

Use of contract name instead of using variable

In CVL 1, the only way to refer to a contract in the scene was to first introduce a contract instance variable with a using statement, and then use that variable. For example, to access a struct type S defined in PrimaryContract.sol, you would need to write (CVL 1, CVL 2, diff):

using PrimaryContract as primary;

rule structExample {
    primary.S x;

In CVL 2, you must now use the name of the contract, rather than the instance variable, when referring to user-defined types. The above example would now be written

rule structExample {
    PrimaryContract.S x;

There is no need for a using statement in this example.

If you don’t change this, you will an error like the following:

Error: Error in spec file (ContractNames.spec:12:19): Contract name primary does not exist in the scene. Make sure you are using a contract name and not a contract instance name.

Calling methods on secondary contracts still requires using a contract instance variable:

using SecondaryContract as secondary;

rule multicontractExample {

Entries in the methods block may use either the contract name or an instance variable:

using SecondaryContract as secondary;

methods {
    //// both are valid (and the effect is the same):
    secondary.balanceOf(address) returns(uint) envfree
    SecondaryContract.transfer(address, uint) returns(bool) envfree

Using the contract name in the methods block currently has the same effect as using an instance variable; this may change in future versions of CVL.

Rules must start with rule

In CVL 1, you could omit the keyword rule when writing rules (CVL 1, CVL 2, diff):

transferReverts {

In CVL 2, the rule keyword is no longer optional:

rule transferReverts {

If you don’t change this, you will receive an error like the following:

CRITICAL: [main] ERROR ALWAYS - certora/spec/RuleKeyword.spec:3:1: Syntax error: unexpected token near ID(transferReverts)

Changes to methods block entries

In addition to the superficial changes listed above, there are some changes to the way that methods block entries can be written (there are also a few instances where the meanings of entries has changed). In CVL 1, methods block entries often had several different functions and meanings:

  • They were used to indicate targets for summarization

  • They were used to write generic specs that could apply to contracts with missing methods

  • They were used to declare targets envfree

The changes described in this section make these different uses more explicit:

Most Solidity types allowed as arguments

CVL 1 had some restrictions on the types of arguments allowed in methods block entries. For example, user-defined types (such as enums and structs) were not fully supported.

CVL 2 methods block entries may use any Solidity types for arguments and return values, except for function types and contract or interface types.

To work around the missing types, CVL 1 allowed users to encode some user-defined types as primitive types in the methods block; these workarounds are no longer allowed in CVL 2. For example, consider the following solidity function:

contract Example {
    enum Permission { READ, WRITE };

    function f(Permission p) internal { ... }

In CVL 1, a methods block entry for f would need to declare that it takes a uint8 argument:

methods {
    f(uint8 permission) => NONDET

In CVL 2, the methods block entry should use the same type as the Solidity implementations[^contract-types] (compare files), except for function types and contract or interface types:

methods {
    function f(Example.Permission p) internal => NONDET;

The method can be called from CVL as follows:

rule example {

Contract functions that take or return contract or interface types should instead use address in the methods block declaration. For example, if the contract contains the following function:

function listToken(IERC20 token) internal { ... }

the methods block should use address for the token argument:

methods {
    function listToken(address token) internal;

Contract functions that take or return function types are not currently supported.

Required internal or external annotation

Every methods block entry must be marked either internal or external. The annotation must come after the argument list and before the returns clause.

If a function is declared public in Solidity, then the Solidity compiler creates an internal implementation method, and an external wrapper method that calls the internal implementation. Therefore, you can summarize a public method by marking the summarization internal.


The behavior of internal vs. external summarization for public methods can be confusing, especially because functions called directly from CVL are not summarized. See Visibility modifiers.

optional methods block entries

In CVL 1, you could write an entry in the methods block for a method that does not exist in the contract; rules that would call the non-existent method were skipped during verification.

This behavior can lead to confusion, because typos or name changes could silently cause a rule to be skipped.

In CVL 2, this behavior is still available, but the methods entry must contain the keyword optional somewhere after the returns clause and before the summarization (if any).

Required calldata, memory, or storage annotations for reference types

In CVL 2, methods block entries for internal functions must contain either calldata, memory, or storage annotations for all arguments with reference types (such as arrays).

For methods block entries of external functions the location annotation must be omitted unless it’s the storage annotation on an external library function, in which case it is required (the reasoning here is to have the information required in order to correctly calculate a function’s sighash).

Summaries only apply to one contract by default

In CVL 1, a summary in the methods block applied to all methods with the given signature.

In CVL 2, summaries only apply to a single contract, unless the old behavior is explicitly requested by using _ as the receiver. If no contract is specified, the default is currentContract.


The receiver contract must be the contract where the method is defined. If a contract inherits a method defined in a supercontract, the receiver must be the supercontract, rather than the inheriting contract.

Entries that use _ as the receiver are called wildcard entries, summaries that do not are called exact entries.

Consider the following example:

using C as c;

methods {
    function f(uint)   internal => NONDET;
    function c.g(uint) internal => ALWAYS(4);
    function h(uint)   internal => ALWAYS(1);
    function _.h(uint) internal => NONDET;

In this example, the internal function currentContract.f has a NONDET summary, c.g has an ALWAYS summary, a call to currentContact.h has an ALWAYS summary and a call to h(uint) on any other contract will use a NONDET summary.

Summaries for specific contract methods (including the default currentContract) always override wildcard summaries.

Wildcard entries cannot be declared optional or envfree, since these annotations only make sense for specific contract methods.


The meaning of your summarizations will change from CVL 1 to CVL 2. In CVL 2, any entry without an _ will only apply to a single contract!

Requirements on returns

In CVL 1, the returns clause on methods block entries was optional. CVL 2 has stricter requirements on the declared return types.

Entries that apply to specific contracts (i.e. those that don’t use the _.f syntax) must include a returns clause if the contract method returns a value. A specific-contract entry may only omit the returns clause if the contract method does not return a value.

The Prover will report an error if the contract method’s return type differs from the type declared in the methods block entry.

Wildcard entries must not declare return types, because they may apply to multiple methods that return different types. If a wildcard entry is summarized with a ghost or function summary, the summary must include an expect clause; see Function summaries for more details.

Changes to integer types

In CVL 1, the rules for casting between integer types were complex; CVL 2 simplifies them.

The general rule of thumb is that you should use mathint whenever possible; only use uint or int types for data that will be passed as input to contract functions.

It is now impossible for CVL math expressions to cause overflow - all integer operations are exact. The remainder of this section describes the changes in detail.

Mathematical operations return mathint

In CVL 2, the results of all arithmetic operators have type mathint, regardless of the input types. Arithmetic operators include +, *, -, /, ^, and %, but not bitwise operators like <<, xor, and | (changes to bitwise operators are described below).

The primary impact of this change is that you may need to declare more of your variables as mathint instead of uint. If you are passing the results of arithmetic operations to contract functions, you will need to be more explicit about the overflow behavior by using the new casting operators.

Comparisons require identical types

When comparing two integers using ==, <=, <, >, or >=, CVL 2 will require both sides of the equation to have identical types, and implicit casts will not be used. Comparisons with number literals (e.g. 0 or 1) are allowed for any integer type.

If you do not have identical types (and cannot change one of your variables to a mathint), the best solution is to use the special to_mathint operator to convert both sides to mathint. For example:

assert to_mathint(balanceOf(user)) == initial + deposit;

Note that in this example, we do not need to cast the right hand side, since the result of + is always of type mathint.


When should you not simply cast to mathint? We have one example: consider the following code:

ghost uint256 sum;

hook ... {
    havoc sum assuming sum@new == sum@old + newBalance - oldBalance;

Simply casting to mathint will turn overflows into vacuity.

In this particular example, the right solution is to declare sum to be a mathint instead of a uint. Note that with the more recent update syntax, this problem will correctly be reported as an error. For example, if you mistakenly write the following:

ghost uint256 sum;

hook ... {
    sum = sum + newBalance - oldBalance;

then the Prover will again report a type error, but the only available solutions are to change sum to a mathint (which would prevent the vacuity) or write an explicit assert or require cast (which would make the vacuity explicit).

Implicit and explicit casting

If every number that can be represented by one type can also be represented by another type, then we say that the first type is a subtype of the second type.

For example, a uint8 variable could have any value between 0 and 2^8-1, and all of these values can be stored in a uint16 variable, so uint8 is a subtype of uint16. An int16 can also store any value between 0 and 2^8-1, so uint8 is also a subtype of int16.

All integer types are subtypes of mathint, since any integer can be represented by a mathint.

In CVL 1, the rules for converting between supertypes and subtypes were complicated; they depended not only on the types involved, but on the context in which the conversion happened. CVL 2 simplifies these rules and improves the clarity and predictability of casts.

In CVL 2, with one exception, you can always use a subtype whenever the supertype is accepted. For example, you can always use a uint8 where an int16 is expected. We say that the subtype can be “implicitly cast” to the supertype.

The one exception is comparison operators; as mentioned above, you must add an explicit conversion if you want to compare two numbers with different types. The to_mathint operator exists solely for this purpose; in all other contexts you can simply use any number when a mathint is expected (since all integer types are subtypes of mathint).

In order to convert from a supertype to a subtype, you must use an explicit cast. In CVL 1, only a few casting operators (such as to_uint256) were supported.

CVL 2 replaces these casting operators with two new casting operators: assert casts such as assert_uint8(x) or assert_int256(x), and require casts such as require_uint8(x) or require_int256(x). Each of these casts checks that the value is in range; the assert cast will report a counterexample if the value is out of range, while the require cast will ignore counterexamples where the cast value is out of range.


As with normal require statements, require casts can cause vacuity and should be used with care.

CVL 2 supports assert and require casts on all numeric types.

Casts from address or bytes1bytes32 to integer types are not supported (see Support for bytes1…bytes32 regarding casting in the other direction, and Casting enums to integer types for information on casting enums).

require and assert casts are not allowed anywhere inside of a quantified statement. You can work around this limitation by adding a second variable. For example, the following axiom is invalid because x+1 is not a uint:

ghost mapping(uint => uint) a {
    axiom forall uint x . a[x+1] == 0

However, it can be replaced with the following:

ghost mapping(uint => uint) a {
    axiom forall uint x . forall uint y . (to_mathint(y) == x + 1) => a[y] == 0

Casting enums to integer types

In CVL2 enums are not directly comparable to the corresponding integer type (uint8). Instead one must use one of the new cast operators. For example

uint8 x = MyContract.MyEnum.VAL; // will fail typechecking
uint8 x = assert_uint8(MyContract.MyEnum.VAL); // good
mathint x = to_mathint(MyContract.MyEnum.VAL); // good

Casting integer types to an enum is not supported.

Casting addresses to bytes32

CVL2 supports casting from the address type to the bytes32 type. For example:

address a = 0xa44f5d3d624DfD660ecc11FF777587AD0a19606d;
bytes32 b = to_bytes32(a);

The cast from address to bytes32 behaves equivalently to the Solidity code:

address a = 0xa44f5d3d624DfD660ecc11FF777587AD0a19606d;
bytes32 b = bytes32(uint256(uint160(a)));

Among other things, this behavior means that the resulting bytes32 value is right-aligned and zero-padded to the left.

CVL2 also supports casting from the bytes32 type to the address type using either the require_address() or assert_address() cast functions.

bytes32 b = to_bytes32(0xa44f5d3d624DfD660ecc11FF777587AD0a19606d);
address a = assert_address(b);

Note that require_address() will silently allow a cast to continue when the bytes32 variable contains a value that lies in the range 2^160 < var < 2^256. The assert_address() cast function will fail when the bytes32 variable contains a value in that same range.

bytes32 b = to_bytes32(0xa44f5d3d624DfD660ecc11FF777587AD0a19606d0e); // Note this contains one extra byte
address a = require_address(b);                                       // Silently does the cast.

While when using assert_address:

bytes32 b = to_bytes32(0xa44f5d3d624DfD660ecc11FF777587AD0a19606d0e); // Note this contains one extra byte
address a = assert_address(b);                                       // This will fail.

Casting from bytes32 to address behaves equivalently to the Solidity code:

bytes32 b = bytes32(0xa44f5d3d624DfD660ecc11FF777587AD0a19606d);
address a = address(uint160(uint256(b)));

Modulo operator % returns negative values for negative inputs

As in Solidity, if n < 0 then n % k == -(-n % k).

Support for bytes1bytes32

CVL 2 supports the types bytes1, bytes2, …, bytes32, as in Solidity. Number literals must be explicitly cast to these types using to_bytesN; for example:

bytes32 x = to_bytes32(0);

Unlike Solidity, bytes1bytes32 literals do not need to be written in hex or padded to the correct length.

The only conversion between integer types and these types is from uint<i*8> to bytes<i> (i.e. unsigned integers with the same bitwidth as the target bytes<i> type); For example:

uint24 u;
bytes3 x = to_bytes3(u); // This is OK
bytes4 y = to_bytes4(u); // This will fail

Changes for bitwise operations

In CVL1, the exact details for bitwise operations (such as &, |, and <<) were not completely specified, especially for negative integers.

In CVL 2, all bitwise operations (&, |, ~, >>, >>>, <<, and xor) on integer types first convert to a 256 bit word, then perform the operations on the full 256-bit word, then convert back to the expected type. Signed integer types use twos-complement encoding.

The two right-shifts differ in how they treat signed integers. >> is an arithmetic shift; it preserves the sign bit. >>> is a logical shift; it pads the shifted word with zero.

Bitwise operations cannot be performed on mathint values.


By default, bitwise operators are overapproximated (in both CVL 1 and CVL 2), so you may see counterexamples that incorrectly compute the results of bitwise operations. The approximations are still sound: the Prover will not report a rule as verified if the original code does not satisfy the rule.

The --precise_bitwise_ops flag makes the Prover’s reasoning about bitwise operations more precise, but this flag is experimental in CVL 2.

Changes to the fallback function

In CVL 1, you could determine whether a method object was the fallback function by comparing its selector to certorafallback().selector:

assert f.selector == certorafallback().selector,
    "f must be the fallback";

In CVL 2, certorafallback() is no longer valid. Instead, you can use the new field f.isFallback to detect the fallback method:

assert f.isFallback,
    "f must be the fallback";

Removed features

As we transit to CVL 2, we have removed several language features that are no longer used.

We have removed these features because we think they are no longer used and no longer useful. If you find that you do need one of these features, contact Certora support.

Methods entries for sighashes

In CVL 1, you could write a sighash instead of a method identifier in the methods block. This feature is no longer supported. You will need to have the name and argument types of the called method in order to provide an entry.

invoke, sinvoke, and call

Older versions of CVL had special syntax for calling contract and CVL functions:

  • invoke f(args); should be replaced with f@withrevert(args);.

  • sinvoke f(args); should be replaced with f(args);.

  • call f(args) should be replaced with f(args).

static_assert and static_require

These deprecated aliases for assert and require are being removed; replace them with assert and require respectively.

invoke_fallback and certorafallback()

The invoke_fallback syntax is no longer supported; there is no longer a way to directly invoke the fallback method. You can work around this limitation by writing a parametric rule and filtering on f.isFallback. See Changes to the fallback function.


The invoke_whole keyword is no longer supported.

Havocing local variables

In CVL 1, you could write the following:

calldataarg args; env e;
f(e, args);

havoc args;
g(e, args);

In CVL 2, you can only havoc ghost variables and ghost functions. Instead of havocing a local variable, replace the havoced variable with a new variable. For example, you should replace the above with

calldataarg args; env e;

calldataarg args2;

Destructuring syntax for struct returns

In CVL 1, if a contract function returned a struct, you could use a destructuring syntax to get the return value in your spec. For example, consider the following contract:

contract Example {
    struct S {
        uint firstField;
        uint secondField;
        bool thirdField;

    function f() returns(S) { ... }
    function g() returns(uint, uint) { ... }

To access the return value of f in CVL 1, you could write the following:

uint x; uint y; bool z;
x, y, z = f();

This syntax is no longer supported. Instead, you should declare a variable with the struct type:

Example.S result = f();
uint x = result.firstField;

Destructuring assignments are still allowed for functions that return multiple values; the following is valid:

uint x; uint y;
x, y = g();

bytes[] and string[]

In CVL 1, you could declare variables of type string[] and bytes[]. You can no longer use these types in CVL.

You can still declare contract methods that use these types in the methods block. However, you can only call methods that take one of these types as an argument by passing a calldataarg variable, and you cannot access the return value of a method that returns one of these types.


CVL 1 had a pragma command for specifying the CVL version, but this feature was not used and has been removed in CVL 2.


CVL 1 had syntax for an events block, but it did nothing and has been removed.

Changes to the Command Line Interface (CLI)

As part of the transition to CVL 2 changes were made to enhanced clarity, uniformity, and readability on the Command-Line Interface (CLI). The complete CLI specification can be found here


The changes will take effect starting v4.3.1 of certora-cli.


To opt-out of the new CLI, one can set an environment variable CERTORA_OLD_API to 1, e.g.: export CERTORA_OLD_API=1. The old CLI will not be available in versions released after August 31st, 2023

Flags Renaming

In CVL 2 some flags were renamed:

  1. flags with names that are generic or wrong

  2. flags that do not match their corresponding key in the conf file

  3. flags that do not follow the snake case format

This is the list of the flags that were renamed:























Prover Args

Prover args are CLI flags that are sent to the Prover. Prover args can be set in one of two ways:

  1. Using specific CLI flags (e.g. --loop_iter)

  2. As parameters to the --prover_args (--settings in CVL 1)

Unlike CVL 1, if a prover arg is set using a specific CLI flag it cannot be set using --prover_args. In addition, the value commas and equal signs separators that were used in --settings were replaced with white-spaces in --prover_args.


Consider this call to certoraRun using CVL 1 syntax

certoraRun Compound.sol \
    --verify Compound:Compound.spec  \
    --solc solc8.13 \
    --settings -smt_bitVectorTheory=true,-smt_hashingScheme=plainInjectivity,-assumeUnwindCond

In order to convert this call to CVL 2 we:

  1. renamed --settings to --prover_args

  2. replaced -assumeUnwindCond with the flag --optimistic_loop

  3. removed the comma and equal sign separators

certoraRun Compound.sol \
    --verify Compound:Compound.spec  \
    --solc solc8.13 \
    --optimistic_loop \
    --prover_args '-smt_bitVectorTheory true -smt_hashingScheme plainInjectivity'

Solidity Compiler Args

The Solidity Compiler Args are CLI flags that are sent to the Solidity compiler. The behavior of the Solidity Args is similar to Prover Args. The flag --solc_args can only be used if there is no CLI flag that sets the Solidity flag and the value of --solc_args is a string that is sent as is to the Solidity compiler.


Consider this call to certoraRun using CVL 1 syntax

certoraRun Compound.sol \
    --verify Compound:Compound.spec  \
    --solc solc8.13 \
    --solc_args "['--optimize', '--optimize-runs', '200', '--experimental-via-ir']"

In CVL 2 calling optimize is using --solc_optimize

certoraRun Compound.sol \
    --verify Compound:Compound.spec  \
    --solc solc8.13 \
    --solc_optimize 200 \
    --solc_args "--experimental-via-ir"

Enhanced server support

In CVL 1, two server platforms were supported:

  1. staging was set using the flag --staging [Branch/hotfix]

  2. production was set using the flag --cloud [Branch/hotfix]

In CVL 2 the flag --server was added to replace --staging --cloud and to allow adding additional server platforms. --server gets as a parameter the platform name. --prover_version is a new flag in CVL 2 For setting the Branch/hot-fix