Python List Comprehensions: Everything You Need to Know

Python List Comprehensions: Everything You Need to Know

In mathematics, there’s a concept called set-builder notation, also called set comprehension. Inspired by this principle, Python offers comprehensions, too

In mathematics, there’s a concept called set-builder notation, also called set comprehension. Inspired by this principle, Python offers comprehensions, too. In fact, list comprehensions are one of the defining features of Python. They allow us to create concise, readable code that outperforms the uglier alternatives like for loops or using map().

We’ll first look at the most well-known type: list comprehensions. Once we’ve got a good grasp of how they work, you’ll also learn about set comprehensions and dictionary comprehensions.

Originally published in Python Land’s Python Tutorial on list comprehensions.

What Are List Comprehensions?

A list comprehension is a language construct. It’s used to create a list based on an existing list. Sounds a little vague, I know, but after a few examples, that ‘ah-ha!’ moment will follow — trust me.

The basic syntax of a list comprehension is:

[ <expression> for item in list if <conditional> ]

The ‘if’-part is optional, as you’ll discover soon. However, we do need a list to start from. Or, more specifically, anything that is an iterator. We’ll use Python’s range() function, which is a special type of iterator called a generator: It generates a new number on each iteration.

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