Stephane Rolland Stephane Rolland - 1 month ago 4
Python Question

Python: Find in list

I have come across this delightful:

item = someSortOfSelection()
if item in myList:

but sometimes it does not work with all my items, as if they weren't recognized in the list (when it's a list of string).

is it the most 'pythonic' way of finding an item in a list:
if x in l:


As for your first question: that code is perfectly fine and should work if item equals one of the elements inside myList. Maybe you try to find a string that does not exactly match one of the items or maybe you are using a float value which suffers from inaccuracy.

As for your second question: There's actually several possible ways if "finding" things in lists.

Checking if something is inside

This is the use case you describe: Checking whether something is inside a list or not. As you know, you can use the in operator for that:

3 in [1, 2, 3] # => True

Filtering a collection

That is, finding all elements in a sequence that meet a certain condition. You can use list comprehension or generator expressions for that:

matches = [x for x in lst if fulfills_some_condition(x)]
matches = (x for x in lst if x > 6)

The latter will return a generator which you can imagine as a sort of lazy list that will only be built as soon as you iterate through it. By the way, the first one is exactly equivalent to

matches = filter(fulfills_some_condition, lst)

in Python 2. Here you can see higher-order functions at work. In Python 3, filter doesn't return a list, but a generator-like object.

Finding the first occurrence

If you only want the first thing that matches a condition (but you don't know what it is yet), it's fine to use a for loop (possibly using the else clause as well, which is not really well-known). You can also use

next(x for x in lst if ...)

which will return the first match or raise a StopIteration if none is found. Alternatively, you can use

next((x for x in lst if ...), [default value])

Finding the location of an item

For lists, there's also the index method that can sometimes be useful if you want to know where a certain element is in the list:

[1,2,3].index(2) # => 1
[1,2,3].index(4) # => ValueError

However, note that if you have duplicates, .index always returns the lowest index:

[1,2,3,2].index(2) # => 1

If there are duplicates and you want all the indexes then you can use enumerate() instead:

[i for i,x in enumerate([1,2,3,2]) if x==2] # => [1, 3]