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wantarray

Returns true if the context of the currently executing subroutine is looking for a list value. Returns false if the context is looking for a scalar. Returns the undefined value if the context is looking for no value (void context).

return unless defined wantarray;    # don't bother doing more
my @a = complex_calculation();
return wantarray ? @a : "@a";

This function should have been named wantlist() instead.