List

Posted on October 16, 2020



Contents

Introduction

A list is used to group numbers, strings, or objects together. It is written as a pair of square brackets containing comma-separated items. A list typically contains items of similar type but it can contain items of different types too. Unlike tuples, lists are mutable therefore the content of a list can be modified.

# create a list of integers
>>> mylist = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
>>> mylist
[1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

# create a list of different types
>>> mixlist = [4.5, 'hello', 9, {'apples': 2, 'oranges': 1}]
>>> mixlist[0]
4.5
>>> mixlist[3]['apples']
2

# modify the contents of a list
>>> modlist = ['one', 'two', 'three']
>>> modlist[2] = 'five'
>>> modlist
['one', 'two', 'five']

Indexing

Indexing returns an item from a list.

# create a list
>>> mylist = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

# return the first item
>>> mylist[0]
1

# return the second item
>>> mylist[1]
2

# return the last item
>>> mylist[-1]
5

# return the second to last item
>>> mylist[-2]
4

Slicing

Slicing returns a new list from items in the original list.

>>> mylist[1:]
[2, 3, 4, 5]

>>> mylist[1:3]
[2, 3]

Combining lists

Lists can be combined into a new list using the addition + operator.

>>> alist = [1, 2, 3]
>>> blist = [4, 5, 6]
>>> clist = alist + blist
>>> clist
[1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]

You can also upack lists to create a new list using the * expression.

>>> alist = [1, 2, 3]
>>> blist = [4, 5, 6]
>>> clist = [*alist, *blist]
>>> clist
[1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]

Another approach is to use the extend() method to add a list to the end of an existing list.

>>> alist = [1, 2, 3]
>>> blist = [4, 5, 6]
>>> alist.extend(blist)
>>> alist
[1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]

Methods

A list object has several methods for interacting with its items. Below are examples of using these methods.

append()

New items can be added to the end of a list using the append method.

>>> mylist = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
>>> mylist.append(9)
>>> mylist
[1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9]

extend()

The extend method appends all items from an iterable.

>>> mylist = [1, 2, 3, 4]
>>> nums = (5, 6, 7)
>>> mylist.extend(nums)
>>> mylist
[1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]

insert()

Insert an item at a given index using the insert method.

>>> mylist = [1, 2, 3, 4]
>>> mylist.insert(0, 'zero')
>>> mylist
['zero', 1, 2, 3, 4]

remove()

Remove the first matching item in a list. This will throw an error if there is no matching item in the list.

>>> thelist = ['apple', 'apple', 'orange', 'grape']
>>> thelist.remove('apple')
>>> thelist
['apple', 'orange', 'grape']

Unpacking

Items in a list can be unpacked using comma separated variables. An * allows several variables to be unpacked into a single variable.

# unpack items in a list
>>> a, b, c, = [8, 9, 10]
>>> a
8
>>> b
9
>>> a, b, c
(8, 9, 10)

# unpack several items into a single variable
>>> first, *rest = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]
>>> first
1
>>> rest
[2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]

# unpack middle items into a variable
>>> first, *mid, last = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]
>>> first
1
>>> mid
[2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
>>> last
7

Functions

The enumerate function returns the index and the associated item from a list.

>>> letters = ['a', 'b', 'c', 'd', 'e']
>>> for i, x in enumerate(letters):
...     print(f'index = {i} and letter = {x}')
...
index = 0 and letter = a
index = 1 and letter = b
index = 2 and letter = c
index = 3 and letter = d
index = 4 and letter = e

The zip function can be used to iterate over two or more lists.

>>> one = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
>>> two = [2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
>>> three = [3, 4, 5, 6, 7]
>>> for i, j, k in zip(one, two, three)
...     print('i', i, 'j', j, 'k', k)
...
i 1 j 2 k 3
i 2 j 3 k 4
i 3 j 4 k 5
i 4 j 5 k 6
i 5 j 6 k 7

# or use index to get each item from multiple lists
>>> n = len(one)
>>> for i in range(n):
...     print('i', one[i], 'j', two[i], 'k', three[i])
...
i 1 j 2 k 3
i 2 j 3 k 4
i 3 j 4 k 5
i 4 j 5 k 6
i 5 j 6 k 7

Reverse a list

There are several ways to reverse items in a list. The first approach is to reverse the list in-place. This is fast and does not take up extra memory but it modifies the original list.

# reverse a list in-place
>>> list_one = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
>>> list_one.reverse()
>>> list_one
[5, 4, 3, 2, 1]

Slicing creates a reversed copy of the list. This takes up memory but doesn’t modify the original list.

# create a reversed copy of a list
>>> list_two = [6, 7, 8, 9, 10]
>>> list_three = list_two[::-1]
>>> list_three
[10, 9, 8, 7, 6]

The reversed function returns an iterator that returns elements in reverse order. This does not modify the original list but the result needs to be converted into a new list object.

# return elements in reverse order then convert to a new list
>>> list_four = [11, 12, 13, 14, 15]
>>> list_five = list(reversed(list_four))
>>> list_five
[15, 14, 13, 12, 11]

Further reading



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Gavin Wiggins © 2020