The attributes are divided into two groups: synthesized attributes and inherited attributes. The synthesized attributes are the result of the attribute evaluation rules, and may also use the values of the inherited attributes. The inherited attributes are passed down from parent nodes.
In some approaches, synthesized attributes are used to pass semantic information up the parse tree, while inherited attributes help pass semantic information down it. For instance, when constructing a language translation tool, such as a compiler, it may be used to assign semantic values to syntax constructions. Also, it is possible to validate semantic checks associated with a grammar, representing the rules of a language not explicitly imparted by the syntax.
Attribute grammars can also be used to translate the syntax tree directly into code for some specific machine, or into some intermediate language.
One strength of attribute grammars is that they can transport information from anywhere in the abstract syntax tree to anywhere else, in a controlled and formal way.