a classy little scripting language


Wren’s syntax is designed to be familiar to people coming from C-like languages while being a bit simpler and more streamlined.

Scripts are stored in plain text files with a .wren file extension. Wren does not compile ahead of time: programs are run directly from source, from top to bottom like a typical scripting language. (Internally, programs are compiled to bytecode for efficiency, but that’s an implementation detail.)

Comments #

Line comments start with // and end at the end of the line:

// This is a comment.

Block comments start with /* and end with */. They can span multiple lines:

/* This
   comment. */

Unlike C, block comments can nest in Wren:

/* This is /* a nested */ comment. */

This is handy because it lets you easily comment out an entire block of code, even if the code already contains block comments.

Reserved words #

One way to get a quick feel for a language’s style is to see what words it reserves. Here’s what Wren has:

as break class construct continue else false for foreign if import
in is null return static super this true var while

Identifiers #

Naming rules are similar to other programming languages. Identifiers start with a letter or underscore and may contain letters, digits, and underscores. Case is sensitive.


Identifiers that start with underscore (_) are special in Wren. They are used to indicate fields in classes.

Newlines #

Newlines (\n) are meaningful in Wren. They are used to separate statements:

// Two statements:
System.print("hi") // Newline.

Sometimes, though, a statement doesn’t fit on a single line and jamming a newline in the middle would trip it up. To handle that, Wren has a very simple rule: It ignores a newline following any token that can’t end a statement.

System.print( // Newline here is ignored.

In practice, this means you can put each statement on its own line and wrap them across lines as needed without too much trouble.

Blocks #

Wren uses curly braces to define blocks. You can use a block anywhere a statement is allowed, like in control flow statements. Method and function bodies are also blocks. For example, here we have a block for the then case, and a single statement for the else:

if (happy && knowIt) {
} else System.print("sad")

Blocks have two similar but not identical forms. Typically, blocks contain a series of statements like:


Blocks of this form when used for method and function bodies automatically return null after the block has completed. If you want to return a different value, you need an explicit return statement.

However, it’s pretty common to have a method or function that just evaluates and returns the result of a single expression. Some other languages use => to define these. Wren uses:

{ "single expression" }

If there is no newline after the { (or after the parameter list in a function), then the block may only contain a single expression, and it automatically returns the result of it. It’s exactly the same as doing:

  return "single expression"

Statements are not allowed in this form (since they don’t produce values), which means nothing starting with class, for, if, import, return, var, or while. If you want a block that contains a single statement, put a newline in there:

  if (happy) {
    System.print("I'm feelin' it!")

Using an initial newline after the { does feel a little weird or magical, but newlines are already significant in Wren, so it’s not totally unreasonable. The nice thing about this syntax as opposed to something like => is that the end of the block has an explicit delimiter. That helps when chaining:

numbers.map {|n| n * 2 }.where {|n| n < 100 }

Precedence and Associativity #

We’ll talk about Wren’s different expression forms and what they mean in the next few pages. But if you want to see how they interact with each other grammatically, here’s the whole table.

It shows which expressions have higher precedence—which ones bind more tightly than others—and their associativity—how a series of the same kind of expression is ordered. Wren mostly follows C, except that it fixes the bitwise operator mistake. The full precedence table, from tightest to loosest, is:

Prec Operator Description Associates
1 () [] . Grouping, Subscript, Method call Left
2 - ! ~ Negate, Not, Complement Right
3 * / % Multiply, Divide, Modulo Left
4 + - Add, Subtract Left
5 .. ... Inclusive range, Exclusive range Left
6 << >> Left shift, Right shift Left
7 & Bitwise and Left
8 ^ Bitwise xor Left
9 | Bitwise or Left
10 < <= > >= Comparison Left
11 is Type test Left
12 == != Equals, Not equal Left
13 && Logical and Left
14 || Logical or Left
15 ?: Conditional Right
16 = Assignment, Setter Right

Values → ← Getting Started