The following expression:

(car input-method-function)

Give the following message:

Wrong type argument: listp, list

Why? input-method-function is list.

  • The value of input-method-function is the symbol list. A symbol is not a list: try evaluating (symbolp input-method-function) - it returns t; OTOH, evaluating (listp input-method-function) returns nil. IOW, it is a symbol, not a list - and you cannot take the car of a symbol.
    – NickD
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 0:47
  • 1
    @NickD -- I beat you by 3+ minutes :) ... Please feel free to edit my answer to incorproate your comments and any additional information that may be helpful to the O.P. or future users.
    – lawlist
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 0:49

1 Answer 1


When describing the variable input-method-function with C-h v aka M-x describe-variable, the *Help* buffer contains the following preamble:

input-method-function is a variable defined in ‘C source code’.
Its value is ‘list’

If non-nil, the function that implements the current input method.

Although the value is list, it is not actually a list - in the same way that if my name were Martian, that does not mean that I am a Martian. Instead, it is the function named list. As such, the symbol list cannot be treated as a list and car cannot be used in this situation.

Lisp provides predicates that can test whether something is a symbol or a list or a string or a number etc: (symbolp input-method-function) ==> t - this says that the value of input-method-function (i.e. list) is indeed a symbol. But (listp input-method-function) ==> nil - this says that the value of input-method-function (i.e. 'list') is not a list.

  • See what you think of the edit.
    – NickD
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 2:31
  • @NickD -- looks good -- thank you!
    – lawlist
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 2:41

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