Justin Ethier Justin Ethier - 2 months ago 6
Python Question

Determine the type of a Python object

Is there a simple way to determine if a variable is a list, dictionary, or something else? I am getting an object back that may be either type and I need to be able to tell the difference.

Answer

To get the type of an object, you can use the built-in type() function. Passing an object as the only parameter will return the type object of that object:

>>> type([]) is list
True
>>> type({}) is dict
True
>>> type('') is str
True
>>> type(0) is int
True
>>> type({})
<type 'dict'>
>>> type([])
<type 'list'>

This of course also works for custom types:

>>> class Test1 (object):
        pass
>>> class Test2 (Test1):
        pass
>>> a = Test1()
>>> b = Test2()
>>> type(a) is Test1
True
>>> type(b) is Test2
True

Note that type() will only return the immediate type of the object, but won’t be able to tell you about type inheritance.

>>> type(b) is Test1
False

To cover that, you should use the isinstance function. This of course also works for built-in types:

>>> isinstance(b, Test1)
True
>>> isinstance(b, Test2)
True
>>> isinstance(a, Test1)
True
>>> isinstance(a, Test2)
False
>>> isinstance([], list)
True
>>> isinstance({}, dict)
True

isinstance() is usually the preferred way to ensure the type of an object because it will also accept derived types. So unless you actually need the type object (for whatever reason), using isinstance() is preferred over type().

The second parameter of isinstance() also accepts a tuple of types, so it’s possible to check for multiple types at once. isinstance will then return true, if the object is of any of those types:

>>> isinstance([], (tuple, list, set))
True