What's the difference between lists enclosed by square brackets and parentheses in Python?

184

>>> x=[1,2]
>>> x[1]
2
>>> x=(1,2)
>>> x[1]
2

Are they both valid? Is one preferred for some reason?

This question is tagged with python list tuples

~ Asked on 2012-01-17 19:02:34

The Best Answer is


289

Square brackets are lists while parentheses are tuples.

A list is mutable, meaning you can change its contents:

>>> x = [1,2]
>>> x.append(3)
>>> x
[1, 2, 3]

while tuples are not:

>>> x = (1,2)
>>> x
(1, 2)
>>> x.append(3)
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
AttributeError: 'tuple' object has no attribute 'append'

The other main difference is that a tuple is hashable, meaning that you can use it as a key to a dictionary, among other things. For example:

>>> x = (1,2)
>>> y = [1,2]
>>> z = {}
>>> z[x] = 3
>>> z
{(1, 2): 3}
>>> z[y] = 4
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
TypeError: unhashable type: 'list'

Note that, as many people have pointed out, you can add tuples together. For example:

>>> x = (1,2)
>>> x += (3,)
>>> x
(1, 2, 3)

However, this does not mean tuples are mutable. In the example above, a new tuple is constructed by adding together the two tuples as arguments. The original tuple is not modified. To demonstrate this, consider the following:

>>> x = (1,2)
>>> y = x
>>> x += (3,)
>>> x
(1, 2, 3)
>>> y
(1, 2)

Whereas, if you were to construct this same example with a list, y would also be updated:

>>> x = [1, 2]
>>> y = x
>>> x += [3]
>>> x
[1, 2, 3]
>>> y
[1, 2, 3]

~ Answered on 2012-01-17 19:04:21


9

One interesting difference :

lst=[1]
print lst          // prints [1]
print type(lst)    // prints <type 'list'>

notATuple=(1)
print notATuple        // prints 1
print type(notATuple)  // prints <type 'int'>
                                         ^^ instead of tuple(expected)

A comma must be included in a tuple even if it contains only a single value. e.g. (1,) instead of (1).

~ Answered on 2018-02-16 11:12:26


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