I would like to inactivate all occurrences of a symbol to prevent it from evaluating, regardless where in the evaluation process it appears. A minimal example:

g[x_] := foo;
f[x_] := x + g[x];
Inactivate[f[2] + g[3], g]
(*== output ==*)
2 + f00 + Inactive[g][3]

My desired output would be 2 + Inactive[g][2] + Inactive[g][3].

I understand that there would be thorny issues in general how to handle scoping constructs such as Block and Module but my naïve wish is "inactivate everywhere there is a head g and don't care about anything else".

(Additional comments: I don't want to write a temporary overwriting definition of g as the function of my actual interest has several down values which take quite some time to compute. Something like [the fictitious] SetAttributes[g,NeverEvaluates] could be something though.)


1 Answer 1


I believe that this works, your final paragraph notwithstanding as the downvalues of g are not lost by using Block.

Block[{g = Inactive[g]}, f[2] + g[3]]
2 + Inactive[g][2] + Inactive[g][3]

Since Inactive has HoldFirst infinite recursion does not occur.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This works as long as g is not redefined inside a Block inside another definition (like f[x_]:=Block[{g}, g[y_]:=bar; x + g[x]]), which is rather contrived indeed. It does work for my purposes so I accept and smile. Thanks! $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 19:51

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