Q-bertsuit Q-bertsuit - 10 days ago 4x
Python Question

Difference between methods and functions

I'm doing Code Academy's tutorials on Python, and I'm a bit confused about the definition of method and function. From the tutorial:

You already know about some of the built-in functions we've used on (or to create) strings, such as
, and

Coming from C++, I would think
would be called methods and
functions. In the tutorial, the terms seem to be used interchangeably.

Does Python distinguish between methods and functions in the way C++ does?

Unlike Difference between a method and a function, I'm asking about the particulars of Python. The terms 'method' and 'function' do not seem to always follow the definition given in the accepted answer of the linked question.


A function is a callable object in Python, i.e. can be called using the call operator (though other objects can emulate a function by implementing __call__). For example:

>>> def a(): pass
>>> a
<function a at 0x107063aa0>
>>> type(a)
<type 'function'>

A method is a special class of function, one that can be bound or unbound.

>>> class A:
...   def a(self): pass
>>> A.a
<unbound method A.a>
>>> type(A.a)
<type 'instancemethod'>

>>> A().a
<bound method A.a of <__main__.A instance at 0x107070d88>>
>>> type(A().a)
<type 'instancemethod'>

Of course, an unbound method cannot be called (at least not directly without passing an instance as argument):

>>> A.a()
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
TypeError: unbound method a() must be called with A instance as first argument (got nothing instead)

In Python, in most cases you won't notice the difference between a bound method, a function or a callable object (i.e. an object that implements __call__), or a class constructor. They all look the same, they just have different naming conventions. Under the hood, the objects may look vastly different though.

This means that a bound method can be used as a function, this is one of the many small things that makes Python so powerful

>>> b = A().a
>>> b()

It also means that even though there is a fundamental difference between len(...) and str(...) (the latter is a type constructor), you won't notice the difference until you dig a little deeper:

>>> len
<built-in function len>
>>> str
<type 'str'>