Passport: Improving Automated Formal Verification Using Identifiers

Alex Sanchez-Stern, Emily First, Timothy Zhou, Zhanna Kaufman, Yuriy Brun, Talia Ringer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Formally verifying system properties is one of the most effective ways of improving system quality, but its high manual effort requirements often render it prohibitively expensive. Tools that automate formal verification by learning from proof corpora to synthesize proofs have just begun to show their promise. These tools are effective because of the richness of the data the proof corpora contain. This richness comes from the stylistic conventions followed by communities of proof developers, together with the powerful logical systems beneath proof assistants. However, this richness remains underexploited, with most work thus far focusing on architecture rather than on how to make the most of the proof data. This article systematically explores how to most effectively exploit one aspect of that proof data: identifiers.We develop the Passport approach, a method for enriching the predictive Coq model used by an existing proof-synthesis tool with three new encoding mechanisms for identifiers: category vocabulary indexing, subword sequence modeling, and path elaboration. We evaluate our approach's enrichment effect on three existing base tools: ASTactic, Tac, and Tok. In head-to-head comparisons, Passport automatically proves 29% more theorems than the best-performing of these base tools. Combining the three tools enhanced by the Passport approach automatically proves 38% more theorems than combining the three base tools. Finally, together, these base tools and their enhanced versions prove 45% more theorems than the combined base tools. Overall, our findings suggest that modeling identifiers can play a significant role in improving proof synthesis, leading to higher-quality software.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 26 2023


  • Proof assistants
  • machine learning
  • proof engineering
  • proof synthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software


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