The When and Unless methods can be used to specify conditions that control when the rule should execute. For example, this rule on the CustomerDiscount property will only execute when IsPreferredCustomer is true:

RuleFor(customer => customer.CustomerDiscount).GreaterThan(0).When(customer => customer.IsPreferredCustomer);

The Unless method is simply the opposite of When.

If you need to specify the same condition for multiple rules then you can call the top-level When method instead of chaining the When call at the end of the rule:

When(customer => customer.IsPreferred, () => {
   RuleFor(customer => customer.CustomerDiscount).GreaterThan(0);
   RuleFor(customer => customer.CreditCardNumber).NotNull();

This time, the condition will be applied to both rules. You can also chain a call to Otherwise which will invoke rules that don’t match the condition:

When(customer => customer.IsPreferred, () => {
   RuleFor(customer => customer.CustomerDiscount).GreaterThan(0);
   RuleFor(customer => customer.CreditCardNumber).NotNull();
}).Otherwise(() => {
  RuleFor(customer => customer.CustomerDiscount).Equal(0);

By default FluentValidation will apply the condition to all preceding validators in the same call to RuleFor. If you only want the condition to apply to the validator that immediately precedes the condition, you must explicitly specify this:

RuleFor(customer => customer.CustomerDiscount)
    .GreaterThan(0).When(customer => customer.IsPreferredCustomer, ApplyConditionTo.CurrentValidator)
    .EqualTo(0).When(customer => ! customer.IsPreferredCustomer, ApplyConditionTo.CurrentValidator);

If the second parameter is not specified, then it defaults to ApplyConditionTo.AllValidators, meaning that the condition will apply to all preceding validators in the same chain.

If you need this behaviour, be aware that you must specify ApplyConditionTo.CurrentValidator as part of every condition. In the following example the first call to When applies to only the call to Matches, but not the call to NotEmpty. The second call to When applies only to the call to Empty.

RuleFor(customer => customer.Photo)
    .When(customer => customer.IsPreferredCustomer, ApplyConditionTo.CurrentValidator)
    .When(customer => ! customer.IsPreferredCustomer, ApplyConditionTo.CurrentValidator);

Setting the Cascade mode

You can set the cascade mode to customise how FluentValidation executes chained validators when a particular validator in the chain fails.

Imagine you have two validators defined as part of a single rule definition, a NotNull validator and a NotEqual validator:

RuleFor(x => x.Surname).NotNull().NotEqual("foo");

This will first check whether the Surname property is not null and then will check if it’s not equal to the string “foo”. If the first validator (NotNull) fails, then the call to NotEqual will still be invoked. This can be changed by specifying a cascade mode of Stop:

RuleFor(x => x.Surname).Cascade(CascadeMode.Stop).NotNull().NotEqual("foo");

Now, if the NotNull validator fails then the NotEqual validator will not be executed. This is particularly useful if you have a complex chain where each validator depends on the previous validator to succeed.

The two cascade modes are:

  • Continue (the default) - always invokes all validators in a rule definition
  • Stop - stops executing a rule as soon as a validator fails


The Stop option is only available in FluentValidation 9.1 and newer. In older versions, you can use StopOnFirstFailure instead (see below).

As well as being set at the rule level, the cascade mode can also be set globally for all validators, or for all the rules in a particular validator class. When set to Stop, this will ensure that the entire validator will stop executing when the first rule fails. When set to the legacy StopOnFirstFailure, this is the equivalent of setting the cascade mode on every rule within the validator (see the difference between Stop and StopOnFirstFailure below).

To set the cascade mode globally, you can set the CascadeMode property on the static ValidatorOptions class during your application’s startup routine:

ValidatorOptions.Global.CascadeMode = CascadeMode.Stop;

This can then be overridden by individual validator classes or by individual rules.

To set the cascade mode for all rules inside a single validator class, set the CascadeMode property on AbstractValidator:

public class PersonValidator : AbstractValidator<Person> {
  public PersonValidator() {
    // First set the cascade mode
    CascadeMode = CascadeMode.Stop;

    RuleFor(x => x.Surname).NotNull().NotEqual("foo");
    RuleFor(x => x.Forename).NotNull().NotEqual("foo");

Stop vs StopOnFirstFailure

In FluentValidation 9.0 and older, the CascadeMode.StopOnFirstFailure option provided control over the cascade at the rule-level, but did not behave in an intuitive way when set at the validator-level. To illustrate the difference, examine the following example:

public PersonValidator() {
  CascadeMode = CascadeMode.StopOnFirstFailure;

  RuleFor(x => x.Surname).NotNull().NotEqual("foo");
  RuleFor(x => x.Forename).NotNull().NotEqual("foo");

Using the StopOnFirstFailure applies only to individual rules, so by setting this on the whole validator, it is the equivalent of doing the following:

RuleFor(x => x.Surname).Cascade(CascadeMode.StopOnFirstFailure).NotNull().NotEqual("foo");
RuleFor(x => x.Forename).Cascade(CascadeMode.StopOnFirstFailure).NotNull().NotEqual("foo");

That is, both of these rules will execute. If the NotNull fails on the first rule for Surname, the NotEqual will not be run. However, as the second rule for Forename is independent, it will also run with the same behaviour (if its NotNull fails, then its NotEqual will not run either), so by setting the validator’s cascade to StopOnFirstFailure, you will still receive 2 validation failures (one from each rule).

This behaviour has caused a lot of confusion over the years, so the Stop option was introduced in FluentValidation 9.1. With Stop, only the first failure for any rule will be returned. This is a true “fail-fast” behaviour.

The Stop option was introduced rather than changing the behaviour of StopOnFirstFailure as this would’ve been a very subtle breaking change in behaviour, so we thought it was best to maintain the existing behaviour while adding a new option. StopOnFirstFailure has been marked as Obsolete as of FluentValidation 9.1, and will generate compiler warnings.

Dependent Rules

By default, all rules in FluentValidation are separate and cannot influence one another. This is intentional and necessary for asynchronous validation to work. However, there may be some cases where you want to ensure that some rules are only executed after another has completed. You can use DependentRules to do this.

To use dependent rules, call the DependentRules method at the end of the rule that you want others to depend on. This method accepts a lambda expression inside which you can define other rules that will be executed only if the first rule passes:

RuleFor(x => x.Surname).NotNull().DependentRules(() => {
  RuleFor(x => x.Forename).NotNull();

Here the rule against Forename will only be run if the Surname rule passes.

Author’s note: Personally I do not particularly like using dependent rules as I feel it’s fairly hard to read, especially with a complex set of rules. In many cases, it can be simpler to use When conditions combined with CascadeMode to prevent rules from running in certain situations. Even though this can sometimes mean more duplication, it is often easier to read.