Python: Find in list

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I use the following to check if item is in my_list:

if item in my_list:
    print("Desired item is in list")

But sometimes, it doesn’t find the item. Why is this?


Is "if item in my_list:" the most "pythonic" way of finding an item in a list?


Solution

As for your first question: "if item is in my_list:" is perfectly fine and should work if item equals one of the elements inside my_list. The item must exactly match an item in the list. For instance, "abc" and "ABC" do not match. Floating point values in particular may suffer from inaccuracy. For instance, 1 - 1/3 != 2/3.

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]

Source: StackOverflow.com

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