# Built-in functions on iterables

Martin McBride, 2018-07-18

Tags built-in function iterator all any min max sum list tuple set enumerate zip iter next itertools chain

Categories functional programming

Python includes a number of built-in functions that work on iterables.

These functions generally work with any iterable, either a lazy iterable (as returned by a **generator** or a **range** function), or a data structure such as a list or tuple. There are a few exceptions, noted in the descriptions below.

Most of these functions are described below. The exceptions are:

`map`

and`filter`

are described in the section on higher order functions.`reversed`

and`sorted`

don't work with every type of iterator. They are covered in the section on Changing the loop order.

## Reducing iterables

These functions "reduce" the contents of an iterable to a single value.

### all

Checks each value of an iterable, and returns `True`

if all the elements evaluate to true, `False`

otherwise:

k = [1, 5, 0, 3] x = all(k) #False

In this case, the result will be `False`

because `k[2]`

is zero, which evaluates to `False`

. As soon as `all`

encounters a `False`

value, it stops evaluating the iterable - the result is already known, there is no need to continue.

### any

Checks each value of an iterable, and returns `True`

if any of the elements evaluate to true, `False`

otherwise:

k = [1, 5, 0, 3] x = any(k) #True

In this case, the result will be `True`

because `k[1]`

is 1, which evaluates to `True`

(any non-zero integer counts as `True`

). As soon as `any`

, encounters a `True`

value, it stops evaluating the iterable.

### max

Returns the maximum of all the values in the iterable:

k = [1, 5, 0, 3] x = max(k) #5

This will return the value 5, as it is the largest value in the list.

`max`

doesn't just work with numbers. For example, if you had a list of strings, it would return the "greatest" string, using normal Python string comparison:

colors = ['red', 'green', 'blue'] x = max(colors) #red

In a similar way, you can compare a sequence of lists or tuples.

You can also apply `max`

to a single string. Python will treat the string as a sequence of characters, and find the greatest character (in Unicode terms):

s= 'xyzabc' x = max(s) #'z'

### min

`min`

behaves in exactly the same way as `max`

, except that it finds the minimum value of the iterable.

### sum

Returns the sum of all the values in the iterable:

k = [1, 5, 0, 3] x = sum(k)

This will return the value 9 (1 + 5 + 0 + 3).

It is possible to use `sum`

with other objects (for example, a list of lists rather than a list of numbers). However, it is usually best to use the `itertools.chain`

function to join iterables, as it works equally well with sequences or lazy iterables. For joining strings, it is best to use the `string.join`

function, as it is optimised for strings.

## Converting iterables

These functions convert any iterable into a list, tuple or set.

### list

The `list`

function will convert any iterable to a list. It does this by creating a new list and adding the elements of the iterable.

Here are some examples:

k = [1, 2, 3, 4] a = list(k) #[1, 2, 3, 4] t = (10, 20, 30) b = list(t) #[10, 20, 30] c = list(range(4)) #[0, 1, 2, 3]

In the first case, `k`

is a list. The `list`

function makes a new list `a`

that is a copy of `k`

.

In the second case, `t`

is a tuple. The `list`

function creates a new list whose elements are the same as the tuple.

In the final case, `range`

creates a lazy iterable. The `list`

function evaluates the iterable and creates a list of the values.

### tuple

The `tuple`

function is similar to the `list`

function, except that it creates a tuple from any iterable.

### set

The `set`

function is similar to the `list`

function, except that it creates a set from any iterable. Since the same value cannot appear more than once in a set, this is a good we to remove duplicates from a sequence:

k = [5, 7, 5, 3, 3, 2] s = set(k) #{2, 3, 5, 7}

However, a set does not guarantee to preserve the original order of the list.

## Transforming iterables

This set of functions transform one iterable into another. Most of these functions operate lazily - only obtaining the next result as it is needed. The exceptions are `reversed`

and `sorted`

, as described below.

### enumerate

`enumerate`

transforms an iterable by adding a count value, like this:

k = ['a', 'b', 'c'] e = enumerate(k)

`e`

now contains the sequence:

(0, 'a'), (1, 'b'), (2, 'c')

That is, each new element is a tuple containing a count, and the original value. This is often used in a loop where you might need to loop index, for example:

k = ['a', 'b', 'c'] for i, s in enumerate(k): print(i, s)

Prints:

0 a 1 b 2 c

For more details on how to use this function in a loop, see Looping over multiple items.

You can also use `enumerate`

with a second optional `start`

parameter (and int), which specifies the initial count value (which is zero by default):

k = ['a', 'b', 'c'] e = enumerate(k, 2)

`e`

now contains the sequence:

(2, 'a'), (3, 'b'), (4, 'c')

### zip

`zip`

transforms two or more iterables into a single iterator, like this:

p = ['a', 'b', 'c', 'd'] q = [1, 2, 3, 4] r = ['W', 'X', 'Y', 'Z'] z = zip(p, q, r)

The iterable `z`

now contains the following elements:

('a', 1, 'W'), ('b', 2, 'X'), ('c', 3, 'Y'), ('d', 4, 'Z')

This is a sequence of tuples. The first tuple contains the first element of each of the original iterables. The second tuple contains the second element of each of the original iterables, etc.

In this case, since there are 3 input iterables, `p`

, `q`

and `r`

, each output tuple has 3 elements.

`zip`

is often used to loop over several sequences together. See the example in looping over multiple items.

## Primitives

Most of the time you will process iterables using **for** loops, generators, or using predefined Python functions like the ones above. For other cases, sometimes these primitive functions can be useful.

### iter

`iter`

accepts an `iterable`

and returns a corresponding `iterator`

. It is described in detail in iterators vs iterables.

### next

`next`

returns the next value from an `iterator`

. It is also described in iterators vs iterables.