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Identity in Python

There's a differece between "the same", "equal" and "identical". I can have two identical 5p coins, but they're not the same coin. And I can have two coins which are not identical, but are equal in value. And when you're checking for equality in a program, you should know which you're looking at. Take a look at this in Python:

  >>> a = [10]
  >>> b = [10]
  >>> c = a
  >>> a == b
  True
  >>> a is b
  False
  >>> a is c
  True
  >>>


a and b are different lists, but they contain identical information. c is another name for the list which is also called a.

The == operator tells you whether two variables (or expressions) contain equal values, whether or not they're the same actual object.

The is operator tells you whether two variable names point to the same object.

A list (as used above) is a mutable object - something that can be changed within itself. Integers, floats, strings and tuples are immutable - in other words if you want to change something, you need to create a new replacement object. And in Python, identical immutable objects are stored only once for efficiency - so you'll find a different set of results from using is ... if two immutable objects are identical, they'll be the same object. Thus:

  >>> a = 10
  >>> b = 10
  >>> c = a
  >>> a == b
  True
  >>> a is b
  True
  >>> a is c
  True
  >>>

(written 2013-05-17, updated 2013-05-18)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Y103 - Python - Conditionals and Loops
  [4723] Conditional operators in Python - (2016-11-05)
  [4713] Equality (in Python) - (2016-10-30)
  [4545] Method, Class, Module, Package - how to they relate in Python? - (2015-10-17)
  [4541] Setting up and tearing down with the Python with keyword - (2015-10-16)
  [4402] Finding sum, minimum, maximum and average in Python (and Ruby) - (2015-01-19)
  [4323] Learning to program - Loop statements such as while - (2014-11-22)
  [4322] Learning to Program - the conditional statement (if) - (2014-11-21)
  [4210] If elif elif elif - multiway selection in Python - (2013-11-16)
  [3895] Flowchart to program - learning to program with Well House - (2012-10-14)
  [3762] Learning to program - the if statement. Python. - (2012-06-12)
  [3620] Finding the total, average, minimum and maximum in a program - (2012-02-22)
  [3558] Python or Lua - which should I use / learn? - (2011-12-21)
  [3439] Python for loops - applying a temporary second name to the same object - (2011-09-14)
  [3397] Does a for loop evaluate its end condition once, or on every iteration? - (2011-08-18)
  [3200] How a for loop works Java, Perl and other languages - (2011-03-12)
  [3083] Python - fresh examples from recent courses - (2010-12-11)
  [2899] Groupsave tickets - 3 or 4 train tickets for the price of 2 - (2010-08-02)
  [2778] Learning to program in Python 2 ... and / or in Python 3 - (2010-05-24)
  [1696] Saying NOT in Perl, PHP, Python, Lua ... - (2008-07-04)
  [1661] Equality, sameness and identity - Python - (2008-05-31)
  [1477] Decisions - small ones, or big ones? - (2007-12-18)
  [1201] No switch in Python - (2007-05-23)
  [909] Python is like a narrowboat - (2006-10-30)
  [835] Python - when to use the in operator - (2006-08-16)
  [788] New - Conditional expressions in Python 2.5 - (2006-07-01)
  [668] Python - block insets help with documentation - (2006-04-04)
  [657] The ternary operator in Python - (2006-03-25)
  [353] Wimbledon Neck - (2005-06-20)
  [299] What - no switch or case statement? - (2005-05-03)


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Identity in Python
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Some tips and techniques for huge data handling in Python
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