Getting Started with Programming in Haskell

In this article, we will discuss the basics of programming with Haskell, a purely functional and statically-typed programming language. We will cover the fundamentals, syntax, and some essential features of Haskell. This guide is designed for beginners who want to explore the world of Haskell programming.

Introduction to Haskell

Haskell is a high-level, purely functional programming language with strong static typing and lazy evaluation. It was created in the late 1980s and early 1990s to provide a general-purpose language for functional programming research. Haskell has gained popularity for its expressive syntax, mathematical elegance, and powerful type system.

Some key features of Haskell include:

  • Purely functional: Functions have no side effects, and the output depends solely on the input.
  • Statically-typed: Haskell's type system allows for more safety and efficiency when compared to dynamically-typed languages.
  • Lazy evaluation: Expressions are not evaluated until their values are needed, allowing for more efficient code execution.

Setting up Haskell

To start programming in Haskell, you will need to install the Glasgow Haskell Compiler (GHC) and Haskell Stack. The easiest way to do this is by following the installation instructions on the official Haskell website.

Once you have installed Haskell, you can start exploring the language using the ghci interactive environment, which comes with the GHC installation.

Basic Syntax and Functions

Let's go through some of the basic syntax and features of Haskell.


In Haskell, functions are the building blocks of a program. They take one or more arguments and return a single output. Here's a simple function that adds two numbers:

add :: Int -> Int -> Int
add x y = x + y

The first line is the type signature, which defines the types of the input arguments and the return value. In this case, the add function takes two Int values and returns an Int value. The second line is the function definition, which describes the computation.

Expressions and Operators

Haskell has a range of built-in operators for working with numbers, including addition (+), subtraction (-), multiplication (*), and division (/). You can use these operators with numbers to create expressions:

expr1 = 5 + 3
expr2 = 2 * (3 - 1)

Variables and Declarations

In Haskell, you can declare variables using the let keyword or by simply assigning a value to a name:

x = 5
y = 2

area = x * y

Control Structures

Haskell has several control structures, such as if-then-else, case, and guards. The if-then-else syntax is straightforward:

absoluteValue :: Int -> Int
absoluteValue x = if x >= 0 then x else -x

Guards are another way to write conditional expressions, using a more concise syntax:

absoluteValue' :: Int -> Int
absoluteValue' x
  | x >= 0    = x
  | otherwise = -x


Lists are a fundamental data structure in Haskell, and they can be created using square brackets:

numbers = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

You can also use list comprehensions to generate lists:

squares = [x * x | x <- [1..5]]


Recursion is an essential aspect of Haskell, as it often replaces traditional loops in other languages. Here's an example of a recursive function that calculates the factorial of a number:

factorial :: Int -> Int
factorial 0 = 1
factorial n = n * factorial (n - 1)


This article provided a brief overview of the basics of programming with Haskell. As you continue to learn Haskell, you will discover more advanced features, such as higher-order functions, monads, and typeclasses. Keep practicing and exploring Haskell's functional programming concepts to gain a deeper understanding of this powerful language.

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