More Sequence Types


  • A tuple is similar to a list except that once a tuple has been created its value cannot be changed, only a new tuple created in its place. In this manner it can be thought of as a read-only list.

  • They are created by enclosing the required sequence by parentheses (),

lottery_numbers = (1,2,3,4,5,6)
  • Most list operations are still supported; index lookup, slicing, etc. However, these operations can only be used in a read-only sense, e.g.

print(lottery_numbers[0])     # prints 1
print(lottery_numbers[1:3])   # prints (2,3)
# Assignment not allowed
lottery_numbers[3] = 42      # gives error "TypeError: 'tuple' object does not support item assignment"
  • Tuples are most useful when returning values from functions as they allow returns of more than 1 item as will be shown later.

  • A meaning can be assigned to each position of the tuples through the use of the namedtuple type. This leads to unambiguous tuple assignment and creates self-documenting code. For instance, consider a tuple representing a geometric point:

from collections import namedtuple
Point = namedtuple('Point', ['x', 'y', 'z'])
p = Point(x=2, y=3, z=4)
print(p.x, p[0]) # elements can be accessed using the field name or by index
  • The meaning of the import from collections import nametuple will be outlined further on in this tutorial.


  • Python contains a mapping type known as a dictionary.

  • The order of items in a dictionary is not user-defined (out of the box), i.e you cannot access a dictionary by index.

  • Instead a dictionary maps a key to a value so that look up is by key, which may be a number but it is not limited to this, and not an index position.

  • A dictionary is created using braces {} and can be created empty or initialized with elements. If initial elements are required then each key/value pair should be specified using key:value syntax and then each separated with a comma, e.g.

  • Accessing a value is done by using square brackets where the argument is the key, e.g.

empty_dict = {}      # Empty dictionary
my_lookup = {'a' : 1, 'b' : 2} # A dictionary with two keys, each
                               # mapped to the respective value

Gives the output:

  • Trying to retrieve a key that does not exist results in a KeyError and the program will halt,

empty_dict['a']   # Results in "KeyError: 'a'"
  • Unlike tuples, dictionaries can be updated with new values, simply use the square brackets on the left-hand side of a assignment

  • This syntax can also be used to replace a value that is already in the dictionary since every key has to be unique,

empty_dict = {}      # Empty dictionary
my_lookup = {'a' : 1, 'b' : 2} # A dictionary with two keys
empty_dict['a'] = 1
my_lookup['b'] = 3   # Replaces the value that was referenced by the key 'b' with the new value 3
print(empty_dict['a'], my_lookup['b'])
  • To remove a key/value from the dictionary, use the del command

del my_lookup['b']   # Removes the key/value pair with the specified key
my_lookup.clear()   # Empties the dictionary
  • As a dictionary’s order is undefined it is not possible to use slicing syntax as with lists and tuples.


  • Sets are another unordered sequence of elements but unlike dictionaries, sets do not map keys to values instead they simply store a unique group of values.

  • Unlike the other sequence types there is no special syntax for creating a set, there is instead the set() or frozenset() function. The difference simply corresponding to whether the structure is marked read-only after creation, where the frozenset is the read-only structure.

  • To create a set simply pass a list or tuple to the set() function,

  • Changing elements in a set is accomplished with the add() or remove() functions,

values = set([1,1,3])

Gives the output:

set([1, 3])
set([3, 4])
  • As with dictionaries, sets are unordered so it is not possible to access a set with a square bracket operators and they do not support slicing

Common Operations

  • All sequence types support a number of common operations: len(), x in s and x not in s.

  • len() gives the length of the sequence passed as its argument.

  • x in s returns True if x is a member of the sequence s.

  • x not in s returns True if x is not a member of the sequence s.

  • Examples:

s = [1,2,3,4,5,6]      # Also works with all other sequence types

test = 3 in s
test = 7 not in s

Gives the output: