Monad extends the Applicative type class with a new function flatten. Flatten takes a value in a nested context (eg. F[F[A]] where F is the context) and "joins" the contexts together so that we have a single context (ie. F[A]).

The name flatten should remind you of the functions of the same name on many classes in the standard library.

Option(Option(1)).flatten should be(res0)
Option(None).flatten should be(res1)
List(List(1), List(2, 3)).flatten should be(res2)

Monad instances

If Applicative is already present and flatten is well-behaved, extending the Applicative to a Monad is trivial. To provide evidence that a type belongs in the Monad type class, cats' implementation requires us to provide an implementation of pure (which can be reused from Applicative) and flatMap.

We can use flatten to define flatMap: flatMap is just map followed by flatten. Conversely, flatten is just flatMap using the identity function x => x (i.e. flatMap(_)(x => x)).

import cats._

implicit def optionMonad(implicit app: Applicative[Option]) =
  new Monad[Option] {
    // Define flatMap using Option's flatten method
    override def flatMap[A, B](fa: Option[A])(f: A => Option[B]): Option[B] =
    // Reuse this definition from Applicative.
    override def pure[A](a: A): Option[A] = app.pure(a)

Cats already provides a Monad instance of Option.

import cats._
import cats.implicits._

Monad[Option].pure(42) should be(res0)


flatMap is often considered to be the core function of Monad, and cats follows this tradition by providing implementations of flatten and map derived from flatMap and pure.

implicit val listMonad = new Monad[List] {
  def flatMap[A, B](fa: List[A])(f: A => List[B]): List[B] = fa.flatMap(f)
  def pure[A](a: A): List[A] = List(a)

Part of the reason for this is that name flatMap has special significance in scala, as for-comprehensions rely on this method to chain together operations in a monadic context.

import cats._
import cats.implicits._

Monad[List].flatMap(List(1, 2, 3))(x => List(x, x)) should be(res0)


Monad provides the ability to choose later operations in a sequence based on the results of earlier ones. This is embodied in ifM, which lifts an if statement into the monadic context.

import cats._
import cats.implicits._

Monad[Option].ifM(Option(true))(Option("truthy"), Option("falsy")) should be(res0)
Monad[List].ifM(List(true, false, true))(List(1, 2), List(3, 4)) should be(res1)


Unlike Functors and Applicatives, you cannot derive a monad instance for a generic M[N[_]] where both M[_] and N[_] have an instance of a monad.

However, it is common to want to compose the effects of both M[_] and N[_]. One way of expressing this is to provide instructions on how to compose any outer monad (F in the following example) with a specific inner monad (Option in the following example).

case class OptionT[F[_], A](value: F[Option[A]])

implicit def optionTMonad[F[_]](implicit F: Monad[F]) = {
  new Monad[OptionT[F, *]] {
    def pure[A](a: A): OptionT[F, A] = OptionT(F.pure(Some(a)))
    def flatMap[A, B](fa: OptionT[F, A])(f: A => OptionT[F, B]): OptionT[F, B] =
      OptionT {
        F.flatMap(fa.value) {
          case None => F.pure(None)
          case Some(a) => f(a).value
    def tailRecM[A, B](a: A)(f: A => OptionT[F, Either[A, B]]): OptionT[F, B] =

This sort of construction is called a monad transformer. Cats already provides a monad transformer for Option called OptionT.

import cats.implicits._

optionTMonad[List].pure(42) should be(OptionT(res0))