Python Notes (0.14.0)

2. Variables, expressions, statements, types

2.1. Naming variables

2.1.1. Naming and naming conventions

  • Variable names are unlimited in length
  • Variable names start with a letter or underscore _ followed by letters, numbers or underscores.
  • Variable names are case-sensitive
  • Variable names cannot be keywords

Variable names conventionally have lower-case letters, with multiple words seprated by underscores. Classes use Camel style (words first letters are capitalised).

Variable names starting with underscore have a special meaning: when importing a module, variable that starts with underscore are not imported when typing:

from mymodule import *

2.1.2. keywords

Variable cannot be named after the keywords, which can be obtain easily using this code:

>>> import keyword
>>> keyword.kwlist

The list returned by this code is shown in the following table:

and as assert break
class continue def del
elif else except exec
finally for from global
if import in is
lambda not or pass
print raise return try
while with yield  

Most of them are familiar if you already know some computer science but some may be knew (e.g., yield, lambda, import). You should find information about all these keywords in this document (use the search in the RHS).

2.2. Assignment (and multiple assignments)

Assignment is done with the equal sign:

x = 1
y = 2

You can perform the same assignment on a single line with mulitple assignments:

x, y = 1, 2

There is no limit on the number of multiple assignments but the number of variables and targets must be identical. Note the following statement, which is valid:

>>> x, y, z = "ABC"
>>> x, y, z
('A', 'B', 'C')

The string on the left has been split into 3 elements because its length is indeed 3, like the number of targets on the left.

It is also possible to assign a single value to multiple variables:

>>> x, y, z = 0
>>> x, y, z
(0, 0, 0)


when typing several variables separated by a comma, the returned object is a tuple (note the brackets). Similarly when returning several variables fro, a function. See Tuples section.

2.3. Deleting variables

Let us suppose assign to a variable x a simple object(list):

>>> x = [1, 2]

You can delete the variable x with the del keyword:

>>> del x

Note, however that in python, you do not need to delete variables; it is done automatically. However, you can still do it for instance to delete a specific item in a list:

>>> del x[0]
>>> x


when you delete x, the object itself is not deleted since another variable may point to it. Python will delete the object itself once no variable refers to it anymore. This is done internally via reference counting

2.4. Determining an object’s identity

Every object has a unique identity that is constant over the lifetime of variable. Use the id() fu nction to

>>> x = "first"
>>> y = x
>>> id(x)
>>> id(y)

Since x and y refer to the same object, they have the same id.

2.5. type of a variable

You can obtain the type of an object/variable by using type() function:

>>> x = 1
>>> type(x)
<type 'int'>

In order to know the standard types provided by Python, use the types module and type:

>>> import types
>>> dir(types)

There are some aliases to the types in the module types. For instance when typing:

>>> type("abc")

you get the type of a string to be str:

>>> type("abc") == str

however, we can check that it is also the same type as StringType from the types module:

>>> type("abc") == types.StringType

Indeed, we can check that the two types are equivalent:

>>> str == types.StringType

2.6. Boolean operators

Python provides the boolean type that can be either set to False or True.

In short, 0, None and empty sequences are False whereas non-empty objects are True.

More about boolean operators in Notes about booleans and logical operators.

2.7. Manipulating attributes

Python provides built-in functions that manipulate attributes. Let us play with the math module again.

>>> import math
>>> hasattr(math, 'pi')
>>> getattr(math, 'pi') # equivalent to math.pi
>>> setattr(math, 'pi', 3.14)
>>> getattr(math, 'pi')
>>> delattr(math, 'pi')
>>> hasattr(math, 'pi')