Difference between fold and reduce


Trying to learn F# but got confused when trying to distinguish between fold and reduce. Fold seems to do the same thing but takes an extra parameter. Is there a legitimate reason for these two functions to exist or they are there to accommodate people with different backgrounds? (E.g.: String and string in C#)

Here is code snippet copied from sample:

let sumAList list =
    List.reduce (fun acc elem -> acc + elem) list

let sumAFoldingList list =
    List.fold (fun acc elem -> acc + elem) 0 list

printfn "Are these two the same? %A " 
             (sumAList [2; 4; 10] = sumAFoldingList [2; 4; 10])

Best Solution

In addition to what Lee said, you can define reduce in terms of fold, but not (easily) the other way round:

let reduce f list = 
  match list with
  | head::tail -> List.fold f head tail
  | [] -> failwith "The list was empty!"

The fact that fold takes an explicit initial value for the accumulator also means that the result of the fold function can have a different type than the type of values in the list. For example, you can use accumulator of type string to concatenate all numbers in a list into a textual representation:

[1 .. 10] |> List.fold (fun str n -> str + "," + (string n)) ""

When using reduce, the type of accumulator is the same as the type of values in the list - this means that if you have a list of numbers, the result will have to be a number. To implement the previous sample, you'd have to convert the numbers to string first and then accumulate:

[1 .. 10] |> List.map string
          |> List.reduce (fun s1 s2 -> s1 + "," + s2)