The Methods Block

The methods block contains additional information about contract methods. Although you can call contract functions from CVL even if they are not declared in the methods block, the methods block allows users to specify additional information about contract methods, and can help document the expected interface of the contract.

There are two kinds of declarations:

  • Non-summary declarations document the interface between the specification and the contracts used during verification (see envfree annotations). Non-summary declarations also support spec reuse by allowing specs written against a complete interface to be checked against a contract that only implements part of the interface (see optional annotations).

  • Summary declarations are used to replace calls to certain contract methods. Summaries allow the Prover to reason about external contracts whose code is unavailable. They can also be useful to simplify the code being verified to circumvent timeouts. See Summaries.


Summary declarations change the way that some function calls are interpreted, and are therefore unsound (with the exception of HAVOC_ALL summaries which are always sound, and NONDET summaries which are sound for view functions).


Changed in version 4.0: The syntax for methods block entries changed in CVL 2.

The syntax for the methods block is given by the following EBNF grammar:

methods          ::= "methods" "{" { method_spec } "}"

method_spec      ::= "function"
                     ( exact_pattern | wildcard_pattern | catch_all_pattern)
                     [ "returns" "(" evm_types ")" ]
                     [ "envfree" |  "with" "(" "env" id ")" ]
                     [ "=>" method_summary [ "UNRESOLVED" | "ALL" ] ]

exact_pattern    ::= [ id "." ] id "(" evm_params ")" visibility [ "returns" "(" evm_types ")" ]
wildcard_pattern ::= "_" "." id "(" evm_params ")" visibility
catch_all_pattern :: id "." "_" "external"

visibility ::= "internal" | "external"

evm_param ::= evm_type [ id ]

method_summary   ::= "ALWAYS" "(" value ")"
                   | "CONSTANT"
                   | "PER_CALLEE_CONSTANT"
                   | "NONDET"
                   | "HAVOC_ECF"
                   | "HAVOC_ALL"
                   | "DISPATCHER" [ "(" ( "true" | "false" ) ")" ]
                   | "AUTO"
                   | id "(" [ id { "," id } ] ")"

See Types for the evm_type production. See Basic Syntax for the id production. See Expressions for the expression production.

Methods entry patterns

Each entry in the methods block contains a pattern that matches some set of contract functions.

Exact entries

An exact methods block entry matches a single method of a single contract. If the contract name is omitted, the default is currentContract. For example,

methods {
    function C.f(uint x) external returns(uint);

will match the external function f of the contract C.

Exact methods block entries must include a return type; the Prover will check that the declared return type matches the return type of the contract function.

Exact entries may contain summaries, envfree annotations, optional annotations, and with(env e) clauses.

It is possible for an exact entry to overlap with another entry; see Summary resolution for information on how summaries are resolved.

Wildcard entries

New in version 4.0: Wildcard entries were introduced with CVL 2.

A wildcard entry matches any function in any contract with the indicated name, argument types, and visibility. For example,

methods {
    function _.f(uint x) external => NONDET;

will match any external function called f(uint) in any contract.

Wildcard entries must not declare a return type, since different matched methods may return different types.

Wildcard entries may not have envfree annotations or optional annotations; their only purpose is summarization. Therefore, wildcard entries must have a summary.

It is possible for a wildcard entry to overlap with another entry; see Summary resolution for information on how summaries are resolved.

Catch-all entries

Sometimes the behavior of a contract in the scene is irrelevant to the properties being verified. For example, the exact behavior of an external library contract may be unimportant for a particular verification project.

So-called “catch-all” entries are useful in these situations. A catch-all entry is used to apply a single summary to all functions that are declared in a given contract. For example:

methods {
   function SomeLibrary._ external => NONDET;

Will apply the NONDET havoc summary in place of every call to a function in the SomeLibrary contract. Note that there are no parameter types or return types for this entry: it refers to all methods in a contract, and cannot be further refined with parameter type information. Catch-all summaries apply only to external methods, and therefore the external visibility modifier is required. Further, the only purpose of catch-all entries is to apply a summary to all external methods in a contract, so a summary is required. However, only havocing summaries are allowed for these entries. Finally, envfree annotations and optional annotations keywords are not allowed for catch-all entries.

It is possible for a catch-all summary to overlap with another entry; see Summary resolution for information on how summaries are resolved.


Catch-all summaries are only applied when the Prover can definitively show that the target of a call resolves to the contract mentioned in the catch-all summary. For library contracts (a common use case for these catch-all summaries) the Prover is almost always able to resolve the target contract.

For example, if you have an entry function Token._ external => NONDET;, where the contract Token has a burn() method, the Prover will not apply the NONDET summary for the call t.burn(), unless it can prove that t must hold the address of the Token contract. The “Rule Call Resolution” panel shown in the web report can indicate whether a summary was applied.

Location annotations

New in version 4.0: Location annotations were introduced with 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).

Entries for external functions may have storage annotations for argument references (in Solidity, external library functions may have storage arguments). If a reference-type argument does not have a storage annotation, the entry will apply to a function that has either a calldata or a memory annotation on the argument.

Visibility modifiers

New in version 4.0: Visibility modifiers were introduced with CVL 2.

Entries in the methods block must be marked either internal or external; the entry will only match a function with the indicated visibility.

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. An internal methods block entry will apply to the generated implementation method, while an external entry will apply to the generated external wrapper method.

This summarization behavior can be confusing, especially because functions called directly from CVL are not summarized.

Consider a public function f. Suppose we provide an internal summary for f:

  • Calls from CVL to f will effectively be summarized, because CVL will call the external function, which will then call the internal implementation, and the internal implementation will be summarized.

  • Calls from another contract to f (or calls to this.f from f’s contract) will effectively be summarized, again because the external function immediately calls the summarized internal implementation.

  • Internal calls to f will be summarized.

On the other hand, suppose we provide an external summary for f. In this case:

  • Calls from CVL to f will not be summarized, because direct calls from CVL to contract functions do not use summaries.

  • Internal calls to f will not be summarized - they will use the original implementation.

  • External calls to f (from Solidity code that calls this.f or c.f) will be summarized

In most cases, public functions should use an internal summary, since this effectively summarizes both internal and external calls to the function.

envfree annotations

Following the returns clause of an exact methods entry is an optional envfree tag. Marking a method with envfree has two effects. First, calls to the method from CVL do not need to explicitly pass an environment value as the first argument. Second, the Prover will verify that the method implementation in the contract being verified does not depend on any of the environment variables. The results of this check are displayed on the verification report as separate rules called envfreeFuncsStaticCheck and envfreeFuncsAreNonpayable1.

optional annotations

New in version 4.0: Prior to CVL 2, all methods entries used the optional behavior, and there was no optional annotation.

When multiple contracts implement a shared interface, it is convenient to write a generic spec of generic rules. Some interfaces specify optional methods that some implementations provide and others don’t. For example, some ERC20 implementations contain a mint method, but others don’t.

In this situation, you might like to write rules that are checked if the contract contains the mint method and are skipped otherwise.

To do so, you can add the optional annotation to the exact methods block entry for the function. Any rules that reference an optional method will be skipped if the method does not exist in the contract. For example:

methods {
    function mint(address _to, uint256 _amount, bytes calldata _data) external;

with(env e) clauses

After the optional annotation, an entry may contain a with(env e) clause. The with clause introduces a new variable (e for with(env e)) to represent the environment that is passed to a summarized function; the variable can be used in function summaries. with clauses may only be used if the entry has a function summary. See Function summaries below for more information about the environment provided by the with clause.


Summary declarations are used to replace calls to methods having the given signature with something that is simpler for the Prover to reason about. Summaries allow the Prover to reason about external contracts whose code is unavailable. They can also be useful to simplify the code being verified to circumvent timeouts.

A summary is indicated by adding => followed by the summary to the end of the entry in the methods block. For example,

function f(uint) external returns(uint) => ALWAYS(0);

will replace calls to f with an ALWAYS summary, while

function f(uint x) external returns(uint) => cvl_function(x);

will replace calls to f with the CVL function cvl_function.

There are several kinds of summaries available:

Summary application

To decide whether to summarize a given internal or external function call, the Prover first determines whether it matches any of the declarations in the methods block, and then uses the declaration and the calling context to determine whether the call should be replaced by an approximation.2

To determine whether a function call is replaced by an approximation, the Prover considers the context in which the function is called in addition to the application policy for its signature. If present, the application policy must be either ALL or UNRESOLVED; the default policy is ALL with the exception of DISPATCHER summaries, which have a default of UNRESOLVED. The decision to replace a call by an approximation is made as follows:

  • If the function is called from CVL rather than from contract code then it is never replaced by a summary.

  • If the code for the function is known at verification time, either because it is a method of currentContract or because the receiver contract is linked, then the function is only summarized if the resolution type is ALL.

  • If the code for the function is not known at verification time, then the function call must be summarized. If no summary is given, the default summary type is AUTO, whose behavior is determined by the type of function call. In this case, the verification report will contain a contract call resolution warning.

Summary resolution

With wildcard entries, catch-all entries, and exact entries, multiple entries could apply to a method.

For example, given a call to Token.burn() with a methods block that contains the following entries:

methods {
   function Token.burn() external => HAVOC_ECF;
   function _.burn() external => HAVOC_ALL;
   function Token._ external => NONDET;

which summary will apply? In CVL, precedence is given to the summary attached to the most specific signature. Exact entries are considered more exact than wildcard entries, which are themselves more exact than catch-all entries. In other words, the order of precedence for summaries are:

  1. Summaries given for exact entries

  2. Summaries given for wildcard entries

  3. Summaries given for catch-all entries

Thus, in this example, the HAVOC_ECF summary would apply.


An entry that does not have a summary attached does not factor into the precedence of summary application. For example, if the first entry in the above was instead function Token.burn() external envfree; without a summary, the HAVOC_ALL of the wildcard entry will apply.

Summary types


These four summary types treat the summarized methods as view methods: the summarized methods are replaced by approximations that do not update the state of any contract (aside from any balances transferred with the method call itself). They differ in the assumptions made about the return value:

  • The ALWAYS(v) approximation assumes that the method always returns v. The value v must be a literal boolean or integer.

  • The CONSTANT approximation assumes that all calls to methods with the given signature always return the same result. If the summarized method is expected to return multiple results, the approximation returns the correct number of values.

  • The PER_CALLEE_CONSTANT approximation assumes that all calls to the method on a given receiver contract must return the same result, but that the returned value may be different for different receiver contracts. If the summarized method is expected to return multiple results, the approximation returns the correct number of values.

  • The NONDET approximation makes no assumptions about the return values; each call to the summarized method may return a different result. The number of returned values is not assumed to match the requested number, unless --prover_args '-optimisticReturnsize' is specified.


Using CONSTANT and PER_CALLEE_CONSTANT summaries for functions that have variable-sized outputs is a potential source of vacuity and should be avoided. Prefer a NONDET summary where possible.

Havoc summaries: HAVOC_ALL and HAVOC_ECF

The most conservative summary type is HAVOC_ALL. This summary makes no assumptions at all about the called function: it is allowed to have arbitrary side effects on the state of any contract (including the calling contract), and may return any value. It can also change any contract’s ETH balance in an arbitrary way. In effect, calling a method that is summarized by HAVOC_ALL obliterates all knowledge that the Prover has about the state of the contract before the call.

The HAVOC_ALL approximation is sound, but it can be overly restrictive in practice. In reality, a contract’s state cannot be changed in arbitrary ways, but only according to the contract’s methods. However, the Prover does not currently have support for more fine-grained reasoning about the side effects of unknown methods.

A useful middle ground is the HAVOC_ECF summary type. A HAVOC_ECF summarization for a method encodes the assumption that the called method is not reentrant. This summarization approximates a method call by assuming it can have arbitrary effects on contracts other than the contract being verified, but that it can neither change the current contract’s state nor decrease its ETH balance (aside from value transferred by the method call itself).

The Prover makes no assumptions about the return value of a havoc summary. For methods that return multiple values, the approximations are allowed to return the incorrect number of results. In most cases, this will cause the calling method to revert. If you want to ignore this particular revert condition, you can pass the --prover_args '-optimisticReturnsize' option.

DISPATCHER summaries

The DISPATCHER summary type provides a useful approximation for methods of interfaces that are implemented by multiple contracts. For example, the methods defined by the ERC20 specification are often summarized using the DISPATCHER summary type.

If a function with a DISPATCHER summary is called, the Prover will assume that the receiver of the call is one of the known contract implementations containing the given signature; the call will then behave the same way that a normal method call on the receiver would. The Prover will consider examples with every possible implementing contract, but multiple DISPATCHER method calls on the same receiver address in the same example will use the same receiver contract.

The set of contract implementations that the Prover chooses from contains the set of contracts passed as arguments to the CLI. In addition, the Prover may consider an unknown target contract whose methods are all interpreted using the AUTO summary. The presence of the unknown contract is determined by the optional boolean argument to the DISPATCHER summary:

  • With DISPATCHER(false) or just DISPATCHER, the unknown contract is considered as a possibility

  • With DISPATCHER(true), only the known contract instances are considered


The most commonly used dispatcher mode is DISPATCHER(true), because in almost all cases DISPATCHER(false) and AUTO report the same set of violations.


DISPATCHER summaries cannot be used to summarize library calls.

AUTO summaries

The behavior of the AUTO summary depends on the type of call3:

  • Calls to non-library view and pure methods use the NONDET approximation: they keep all state unchanged.

  • Normal calls and constructors use the HAVOC_ECF approximation: they are assumed to change the state of external contracts arbitrarily but to leave the caller’s state unchanged.

  • Calls to library methods and delegatecalls are assumed to change the caller’s storage in an arbitrary way, but are assumed to leave ETH balances and the storage of other contracts unchanged.

Function summaries

Contract methods can also be summarized using CVL Functions or Ghost functions as approximations. Contract calls to the summarized method are replaced by calls to the specified CVL functions.

To use a CVL function or ghost as a summary, use a call to the function in place of the summary type. The function call can only refer directly to the variables defined as arguments in the summary declarations; expressions that combine those variables are not supported.

The function call may also use the special variable calledContract, which gives the address of the contract on which the summarized method was called. This is useful for identifying the called contract in wildcard summaries. The calledContract keyword is only defined in the methods block.

For example, a wildcard summary for a transferFrom method may apply to multiple ERC20 contracts; the summary can update the correct ghost variables as follows:

methods {
    function _.transferFrom(address from, address to, uint256 amount) external
        => cvlTransferFrom(calledContract, from, to, amount);

ghost mapping(address => mapping(address => mathint)) tokenBalances;

function cvlTransferFrom(address token, address from, address to, uint amount) {
    if (...) {
        tokenBalances[token][from] -= amount;
        tokenBalances[token][to]   += amount;

The call can also refer to a variable of type env introduced by a with(env) clause. Here e may be replaced with any valid identifier.

The variable defined by the with clause contains an env type giving the context for the summarized function. This context may be different from the env passed to the original call from the spec. In particular:

  • e.msg.sender and e.msg.value refer to the sender and value from the most recent call to a non-library4 external function (as in Solidity)

  • The variables e.tx.origin, e.block.number, and e.block.timestamp will be the same as the the environment for the outermost function call.

Continuing the above example, one can use the env to summarize the transfer method:

methods {
    function _.transfer(address to, uint256 amount) external with(env e)
        => cvlTransfer(calledContract, e, to, amount);

function cvlTransfer(address token, env passedEnv, address to, uint amount) {

rule example {
    env e;
    address sender;
    require e.msg.sender == sender;

In this example, if the process method calls t.transfer(...), then in the cvlTransfer function, token will be t, passedEnv.msg.sender will be c, and passedEnv.tx.origin will be sender.

There is a restriction on the functions that can be used as approximations. Namely, the types of any arguments passed to or values returned from the summary must be convertible between CVL and Solidity types. Arguments that are not accessed in the summary may have any type.

Function summaries for internal methods have a few additional restrictions on their arguments and return types:

  • arrays (including static arrays, bytes, and string) are not supported

  • struct fields must have value types

  • storage and calldata structs are not supported, only memory

You can still summarize functions that take unconvertible types as arguments, but you cannot access those arguments in your summary.

In case of recursive calls due to the summarization, the recursion limit can be set with --prover_args '-contractRecursionLimit N' where N is the number of recursive calls allowed (default 0). If --optimistic_loop is set, the recursion limit is assumed, i.e. one will never get a counterexample going above the recursion limit. Otherwise, if it is possible to go above the recursion limit, an assert will fire, producing a counterexample to the rule.


The effect of payable functions on the contract’s balance depends on the message value, so payable functions also require an env.


The @dontsummarize tag on method calls affects the summarization behavior. See Calling contract functions.


The behavior of AUTO summaries is actually determined by the EVM opcode used to make the call: calls made using the STATICCALL opcode use the NONDET summary, calls using CALL or CREATE opcode use the HAVOC_ECF summary, and calls using the DELEGATECALL and CALLCODE opcodes havoc the current contract only. Modern Solidity versions output opcodes that are consistent with the above description, but older versions behave differently. See State Mutability in the Solidity manual for details.


As in solidity, msg.sender and msg.value do not change for delegatecalls or library calls.