Looping Conditions and Comparing

Looping Techniques

When looping through dictionaries, the key and corresponding value can be retrieved at the same time using the items() method.

>>> knights = {'gallahad': 'the pure', 'robin': 'the brave'}
>>> for k, v in knights.items():
... print(k, v)
...
gallahad the pure
robin the brave

When looping through a sequence, the position index and corresponding value can be retrieved at the same time using the enumerate() function.

>>> for i, v in enumerate(['tic', 'tac', 'toe']):
... print(i, v)
...
0 tic
1 tac
2 toe)

To loop over two or more sequences at the same time, the entries can be paired with the zip() function.

>>> questions = ['name', 'quest', 'favorite color']
>>> answers = ['lancelot', 'the holy grail', 'blue']
>>> for q, a in zip(questions, answers):
... print('What is your {0}? It is {1}.'.format(q, a))
...
What is your name? It is lancelot.
What is your quest? It is the holy grail.
What is your favorite color? It is blue.

To loop over a sequence in reverse, first specify the sequence in a forward direction and then call the reversed() function.

>>> for i in reversed(range(1, 10, 2)):
... print(i)
...
9
7
5
3
1

To loop over a sequence in sorted order, use the sorted() function which returns a new sorted list while leaving the source unaltered.

>>> basket = ['apple', 'orange', 'apple', 'pear', 'orange', 'banana']
>>> for f in sorted(set(basket)):
... print(f)
...
apple
banana
orange
pear

To change a sequence you are iterating over while inside the loop (for example to duplicate certain items), it is recommended that you first make a copy. Looping over a sequence does not implicitly make a copy. The slice notation makes this especially convenient:

>>> words = ['cat', 'window', 'defenestrate']
>>> for w in words[:]: # Loop over a slice copy of the entire list.
... if len(w) > 6:
... words.insert(0, w)
...
>>> words
['defenestrate', 'cat', 'window', 'defenestrate']

More on Conditions

The comparison operators in and not in check whether a value occurs (does not occur) in a sequence. The operators is and is not compare whether two objects are really the same object; this only matters for mutable objects like lists. All comparison operators have the same priority, which is lower than that of all numerical operators.

Comparisons can be chained. For example, a < b == c tests whether a is less than b and moreover b equals c.

Comparisons may be combined using the Boolean operators and and or, and the outcome of a comparison (or of any other Boolean expression) may be negated with not. These have lower priorities than comparison operators; between them, not has the highest priority and or the lowest, so that A and not B or C is equivalent to (A and (not B)) or C. As always, parentheses can be used to express the desired composition.

The Boolean operators and and or are so-called short-circuit operators: their arguments are evaluated from left to right, and evaluation stops as soon as the outcome is determined. For example, if A and C are true but B is false, A and B and C does not evaluate the expression C. When used as a general value and not as a Boolean, the return value of a short-circuit operator is the last evaluated argument.

Note that in Python, unlike C, assignment cannot occur inside expressions. C programmers may grumble about this, but it avoids a common class of problems encountered in C programs: typing = in an expression when == was intended.

Comparing Sequences and Other Types

Sequence objects may be compared to other objects with the same sequence type. The comparison uses lexicographical ordering: first the first two items are compared, and if they differ this determines the outcome of the comparison; if they are equal, the next two items are compared, and so on, until either sequence is exhausted. If two items to be compared are themselves sequences of the same type, the lexicographical comparison is carried out recursively. If all items of two sequences compare equal, the sequences are considered equal. If one sequence is an initial sub-sequence of the other, the shorter sequence is the smaller (lesser) one. Lexicographical ordering for strings uses the Unicode codepoint number to order individual characters. Some examples of comparisons between sequences of the same type:

(1, 2, 3)              < (1, 2, 4)
[1, 2, 3] < [1, 2, 4]
'ABC' < 'C' < 'Pascal' < 'Python'
(1, 2, 3, 4) < (1, 2, 4)
(1, 2) < (1, 2, -1)
(1, 2, 3) == (1.0, 2.0, 3.0)
(1, 2, ('aa', 'ab')) < (1, 2, ('abc', 'a'), 4)

Note that comparing objects of different types with < or > is legal provided that the objects have appropriate comparison methods. For example, mixed numeric types are compared according to their numeric value, so 0 equals 0.0, etc. Otherwise, rather than providing an arbitrary ordering, the interpreter will raise a TypeError exception.