I tried to use the sledgehammer command in Isabelle/HOL (2021) after the proof command, and got an error:

Illegal application of proof command in "state" mode

If I use it before the Isar proof command, then sledgehammer works. My question is:

Suppose a proof generates several sub-goals, having proved the first sub-goal somehow, is there a way to use sledgehammer in the middle of the proof process to try to prove the other sub-goals?

The more general question is:

Is sledgehammer designed for the old tactics and not suitable for use inside Isar proofs.

(I first asked this in SO; but did not get a definitive answer. Therefore, I am posting the question here, and deleting it there).


1 Answer 1


It will work in an Isar proof, however you will want to pull a subgoal into focus. Unless your most recent tactic is something like induction, you will find goal_cases handy. As an example

lemma A B C
proof goal_cases

will output a clickable (like with induction):

  case 1
  then show ?case sorry  (* goal: A *)
  case 2
  then show ?case sorry  (* goal: B *)
  case 3
  then show ?case sorry (* goal: C *)

(obviously, the comments are not part of the output)

Then you can use sledgehammer after a show ?case statement.

Is sledgehammer designed for the old tactics and not suitable for use inside Isar proofs.

I would not say that apply-scripts are old/outdated, but indeed sledgehammer only works where you could also write an apply-style tactic (ignoring the fact that proof can take a tactic to open the Isar proof).

Of course, you could also write something like this:

   ... (* proved subgoal somehow *)
   show B
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It might be convenient to highlight that a proof in Isabelle/Isar cycles through different modes (Isar Reference p. 131). This was very misleading to me at first. Commands like lemma put a goal in a prove mode, which is preserved after an apply command. On the other hand, the proof command leaves you in a state mode, in which there are no active goals, so to speak--you have to state them using have or show; this will put you in prove mode again (that's why the answer works). Finally, commands like from and then set the mode to chain (1/2) $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2022 at 0:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ (cont'd) which is similar to state, but with the addition of previous facts to the active goal. A detailed example is in the Isar Reference Manual, p. 37. (2/2) $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2022 at 0:07

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