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Lua supports an almost conventional set of statements, similar to those in other conventional languages. This set includes blocks, assignments, control structures, function calls, and variable declarations.


A block is a list of statements, which are executed sequentially:

    block ::= {stat}

Lua has empty statements that allow you to separate statements with semicolons, start a block with a semicolon or write two semicolons in sequence:

    stat ::= ‘;’

Both function calls and assignments can start with an open parenthesis. This possibility leads to an ambiguity in Lua's grammar. Consider the following fragment:

     a = b + c
     (print or io.write)('done')

The grammar could see this fragment in two ways:

     a = b + c(print or io.write)('done')
     a = b + c; (print or io.write)('done')

The current parser always sees such constructions in the first way, interpreting the open parenthesis as the start of the arguments to a call. To avoid this ambiguity, it is a good practice to always precede with a semicolon statements that start with a parenthesis:

     ;(print or io.write)('done')

A block can be explicitly delimited to produce a single statement:

    stat ::= do block end

Explicit blocks are useful to control the scope of variable declarations. Explicit blocks are also sometimes used to add a return statement in the middle of another block (see Control Structures).


The unit of compilation of Lua is called a chunk. Syntactically, a chunk is simply a block:

    chunk ::= block

Lua handles a chunk as the body of an anonymous function with a variable number of arguments (see Function Definitions). As such, chunks can define local variables, receive arguments, and return values. Moreover, such anonymous function is compiled as in the scope of an external local variable called _ENV (see Environments and the Global Environment). The resulting function always has _ENV as its only external variable, even if it does not use that variable.

A chunk can be stored in a file or in a string inside the host program. To execute a chunk, Lua first loads it, precompiling the chunk's code into instructions for a virtual machine, and then Lua executes the compiled code with an interpreter for the virtual machine.

Chunks can also be precompiled into binary form; see the program luac and the function string.dump for details. Programs in source and compiled forms are interchangeable; Lua automatically detects the file type and acts accordingly (see load).


Lua allows multiple assignments. Therefore, the syntax for assignment defines a list of variables on the left side and a list of expressions on the right side. The elements in both lists are separated by commas:

    stat ::= varlist ‘=’ explist
    varlist ::= var {‘,’ var}
    explist ::= exp {‘,’ exp}

Expressions are discussed in Expressions.

Before the assignment, the list of values is adjusted to the length of the list of variables. If there are more values than needed, the excess values are thrown away. If there are fewer values than needed, the list is extended with nil's. If the list of expressions ends with a function call, then all values returned by that call enter the list of values, before the adjustment (except when the call is enclosed in parentheses; see Expressions).

If a variable is both assigned and read inside a multiple assignment, Lua ensures all reads get the value of the variable before the assignment. Thus the code

     i = 3
     i, a[i] = i+1, 20

sets a[3] to 20, without affecting a[4] because the i in a[i] is evaluated (to 3) before it is assigned 4. Similarly, the line

     x, y = y, x

exchanges the values of x and y, and

     x, y, z = y, z, x

cyclically permutes the values of x, y, and z.

Note that this guarantee covers only accesses syntactically inside the assignment statement. If a function or a metamethod called during the assignment changes the value of a variable, Lua gives no guarantees about the order of that access.

An assignment to a global name x = val is equivalent to the assignment _ENV.x = val (see Environments and the Global Environment).

The meaning of assignments to table fields and global variables (which are actually table fields, too) can be changed via metatables (see Metatables and Metamethods).

Control Structures

The control structures if, while, and repeat have the usual meaning and familiar syntax:

    stat ::= while exp do block end
    stat ::= repeat block until exp
    stat ::= if exp then block {elseif exp then block} [else block] end

Lua also has a for statement, in two flavors (see For Statement).

The condition expression of a control structure can return any value. Both false and nil test false. All values different from nil and false test true. In particular, the number 0 and the empty string also test true.

In the repeat--until loop, the inner block does not end at the until keyword, but only after the condition. So, the condition can refer to local variables declared inside the loop block.

The goto statement transfers the program control to a label. For syntactical reasons, labels in Lua are considered statements too:

    stat ::= goto Name
    stat ::= label
    label ::= ‘::’ Name ‘::’

A label is visible in the entire block where it is defined, except inside nested functions. A goto may jump to any visible label as long as it does not enter into the scope of a local variable. A label should not be declared where a label with the same name is visible, even if this other label has been declared in an enclosing block.

Labels and empty statements are called void statements, as they perform no actions.

The break statement terminates the execution of a while, repeat, or for loop, skipping to the next statement after the loop:

    stat ::= break

A break ends the innermost enclosing loop.

The return statement is used to return values from a function or a chunk (which is handled as an anonymous function). Functions can return more than one value, so the syntax for the return statement is

    stat ::= return [explist] [‘;’]

The return statement can only be written as the last statement of a block. If it is necessary to return in the middle of a block, then an explicit inner block can be used, as in the idiom do return end, because now return is the last statement in its (inner) block.

For Statement

The for statement has two forms: one numerical and one generic.

The numerical for loop

The numerical for loop repeats a block of code while a control variable goes through an arithmetic progression. It has the following syntax:

    stat ::= for Name ‘=’ exp ‘,’ exp [‘,’ exp] do block end

The given identifier (Name) defines the control variable, which is a new variable local to the loop body (block).

The loop starts by evaluating once the three control expressions. Their values are called respectively the initial value, the limit, and the step. If the step is absent, it defaults to 1.

If both the initial value and the step are integers, the loop is done with integers; note that the limit may not be an integer. Otherwise, the three values are converted to floats and the loop is done with floats. Beware of floating-point accuracy in this case.

After that initialization, the loop body is repeated with the value of the control variable going through an arithmetic progression, starting at the initial value, with a common difference given by the step. A negative step makes a decreasing sequence; a step equal to zero raises an error. The loop continues while the value is less than or equal to the limit (greater than or equal to for a negative step). If the initial value is already greater than the limit (or less than, if the step is negative), the body is not executed.

For integer loops, the control variable never wraps around; instead, the loop ends in case of an overflow.

You should not change the value of the control variable during the loop. If you need its value after the loop, assign it to another variable before exiting the loop.

The generic for loop

The generic for statement works over functions, called iterators. On each iteration, the iterator function is called to produce a new value, stopping when this new value is nil. The generic for loop has the following syntax:

    stat ::= for namelist in explist do block end
    namelist ::= Name {‘,’ Name}

A for statement like

     for var_1, ···, var_n in explist do body end

works as follows.

The names var_i declare loop variables local to the loop body. The first of these variables is the control variable.

The loop starts by evaluating explist to produce four values: an iterator function, a state, an initial value for the control variable, and a closing value.

Then, at each iteration, Lua calls the iterator function with two arguments: the state and the control variable. The results from this call are then assigned to the loop variables, following the rules of multiple assignments (see Assignment). If the control variable becomes nil, the loop terminates. Otherwise, the body is executed and the loop goes to the next iteration.

The closing value behaves like a to-be-closed variable (see To-be-closed Variables), which can be used to release resources when the loop ends. Otherwise, it does not interfere with the loop.

You should not change the value of the control variable during the loop.

Function Calls as Statements

To allow possible side-effects, function calls can be executed as statements:

    stat ::= functioncall

In this case, all returned values are thrown away. Function calls are explained in Function Calls.

Local Declarations

Local variables can be declared anywhere inside a block. The declaration can include an initialization:

    stat ::= local attnamelist [‘=’ explist]
    attnamelist ::=  Name attrib {‘,’ Name attrib}

If present, an initial assignment has the same semantics of a multiple assignment (see Assignment). Otherwise, all variables are initialized with nil.

Each variable name may be postfixed by an attribute (a name between angle brackets):

    attrib ::= [‘<’ Name ‘>’]

There are two possible attributes: const, which declares a constant variable, that is, a variable that cannot be assigned to after its initialization; and close, which declares a to-be-closed variable (see To-be-closed Variables). A list of variables can contain at most one to-be-closed variable.

A chunk is also a block (see Chunks), and so local variables can be declared in a chunk outside any explicit block.

The visibility rules for local variables are explained in Visibility Rules.

To-be-closed Variables

A to-be-closed variable behaves like a constant local variable, except that its value is closed whenever the variable goes out of scope, including normal block termination, exiting its block by break/goto/return, or exiting by an error.

Here, to close a value means to call its __close metamethod. When calling the metamethod, the value itself is passed as the first argument and the error object that caused the exit (if any) is passed as a second argument; if there was no error, the second argument is nil.

The value assigned to a to-be-closed variable must have a __close metamethod or be a false value. (nil and false are ignored as to-be-closed values.)

If several to-be-closed variables go out of scope at the same event, they are closed in the reverse order that they were declared.

If there is any error while running a closing method, that error is handled like an error in the regular code where the variable was defined. After an error, the other pending closing methods will still be called.

If a coroutine yields and is never resumed again, some variables may never go out of scope, and therefore they will never be closed. (These variables are the ones created inside the coroutine and in scope at the point where the coroutine yielded.) Similarly, if a coroutine ends with an error, it does not unwind its stack, so it does not close any variable. In both cases, you can either use finalizers or call coroutine.close to close the variables. However, if the coroutine was created through coroutine.wrap, then its corresponding function will close the coroutine in case of errors.