Python Variables and Keywords

Python Tutorial – Variables and Keywords

This article serves as a tutorial for Python beginners to gain the essential knowledge to start coding in Python. By complete this tutorial, you shall be able to know how to correctly use Python variables as well as the Python keywords.

Python Variable

Variable is a name that refers to some value. Like any other programming languages, Python allows to define variables and manipulate it in your code logic.

Name convention

Python allows to use letter, number, or underscore [_] in a variable name, but it has to start with a letter or an underscore (_) followed by zero or more letters, underscores and digits (0 to 9).

There is no limit on the length of your variable name, so you can choose anything meaningful to you in your code. but Python provided some guidelines to use lowercase as much as possible for the variables and function name.

Below are some examples of valid variable names:

a = "a"
#Python variable name is case sensitive
A = "a"
module_name = "Python Tutorial for Variables & Keywords"
speed_of_gravity = 299792458
pi = 3.14159265359
is_matched = True

And some invalid variable names as per below, if you use them in your code, Python throws “SyntaxError: invalid syntax” error.

1st_name = "John"
#invalid as variable cannot start with digits
first name = "John"
right/wrong = True
#invalid as variable cannot has special characters like /, whitespace, @, &, * etc., except _

Use of underscore

Take note of the _, although it is allowed to use in your variable name, it has some special meaning if you use it at the beginning. e.g. if you use _salary in your class, Python will protect it from accessing from outside of the class. This is out of scope for this topic, but do bear in mind on this.

Also if you use _ as your available name, there will be a conflict in the Python interactive mode, as in interactive mode, _ is interpreted as the result of the last executed expression, check more from this article.

You may also noticed that variables can hold different sorts of values, e.g. single character, multiple characters, numbers, and True or False etc. This is the different data type in Python, we will come to this topic in the later article.

Reserved Keywords

There are some other words we cannot directly use as variable, these words are so called Python reserved keywords, as Python uses these words to recognize the structure of the program.

Below are all the keywords reserved by Python3, and it is not allowed to use them directly as variable name.

False      await      else       import     pass
None       break      except     in         raise
True       class      finally    is         return
and        continue   for        lambda     try
as         def        from       nonlocal   while
assert     del        global     not        with
async      elif       if         or         yield

For Python beginners, if you use some IDE like PyCharm or Jupyter Notebook, these keywords will be automatically highlighted in different color, so you don’t worry about you mistakenly used them as variable name.

Python variables and keywords

Besides these reserved keywords, there are a few more words you shall try to avoid using them when defining your variable. For instance the below:


These are the Python built-in data types which will be covered in the next tutorial. And there won’t be any error prompted immediately when you assign a value to them, but you will face some issues when you want to call the default behavior of the built-in data type later. Below is an example:

python built-in data type

The str() will throw error if you assigned “Test” to it, and it only works again if you delete the “str” as a variable. Hence the best practice is not to use these words as variable name in your code to prevent some unexpected errors and confusions.


Python tuple

Python built-in types – Tuples

Tuple is a python built-in data structure which holds a sequence of values, and the values can be in any data type. If you write a hundred lines of python code, it is almost impossible to avoid it in your code, as it comes in implicitly or explicitly from your variable assignment and iteration to return values of your method. In this article, I will be sharing with you where and how the tuples will be possibly used in your code.

Variable assignment with Tuple

You may have written the code in the below way to assign the values to variables in one line. The left side is the tuple of variables, and the right side is the tuple of values/expressions.

sort_by_name, sort_by_date = True, False
#output : sort_by_name True, sort_by_date False
key, val = "20200601" , "Mon"
#output : key '20200601', val 'Mon'

Sometimes if you want to swap the values of two variables, you do not need to create a temp variable for swapping. The below will do a perfect job to swap the value for key, val variables.

key, val = val, key
#output: key 'Mon', val '20200601'

Traverse the elements of a sequence

If you want to iterate through each of the elements in a sequence and meanwhile get the index of the element, you can do it by below code:

for idx, label in enumerate('ABCDEFG'):
    print(idx, label)

#output: 0, A
#1, B

When iterating a dictionary, the iterms method returns a list of tuples, and each tuple is the key and value pair, e.g.:

company_info = {"name" : "Alibaba", "headquarter" : "Hangzhou, China", "founded" : "4 April 1999"}
for key, val in company_info.items():
    print(f"{key} : {val}")

If you have checked my another post – How to swap the key and value in a python dictionary, it is just an extension to the above.

Iterate multiple sequences at one time with zip

If you use the built-in zip function to iterate multiple sequences at one time, it actually returns an iterator of tuples. See the below example:

names = ["Alibaba", "Amazon", "Google"]
countries = ["China", "USA", "USA"]
years = ["1999", "1996", "1998"]
for rec in zip(names, countries, years):

#('Alibaba', 'China', '1999')
#('Amazon', 'USA', '1996')
#('Google', 'USA', '1998')

Return multiple values from function

Normally a function can only returns 1 value, but with tuple, you can return multiple values even in different data types. (technically speaking, it is still 1 value but tuple type)

e.g. The python built-in method divmod:

quotient, remainder = divmod(10, 3)
print(quotient, remainder)
#output: 3 1

You can also define your own function to return multiple values like below:

def split_email(email):
    user_name, company_site = email.split("@")
    return user_name, company_site

#output: ('contact', 'codeforests.com')

With this example, I am going to wrap up my article for this topic. If you have any questions or comments, please share in the below.


python regular expression match, search and findall

Python regular expression match, search and findall

Python beginners may sometimes get confused by this match and search functions in the regular expression module, since they are accepting the same parameters and return the same result in most of the simple use cases.  In this article, let’s discuss about the difference between these two functions.

match vs search in Python regular expression

Let’s start from an example. Let’s say if we want to get the words which ending with “ese” in the languages, both of the below match and search return the same result in match objects.

import re
languages = "Japanese,English"
m = re.match("\w+(?=ese)",languages)
#m returns : <re.Match object; span=(0, 5), match='Japan'>

m = re.search("\w+(?=ese)",languages)
#m returns : <re.Match object; span=(0, 5), match='Japan'>

But if the sequence of your languages changed, e.g. languages = “English, Japanese”, then you will see some different results:

languages = "English,Japanese" 
m = re.match("\w+(?=ese)",languages) 
#m returns empty
m = re.search("\w+(?=ese)",languages) 
#m returns : <re.Match object; span=(8, 13), match='Japan'>

The reason is that match function only starts the matching from the beginning of your string, while search function will start matching from anywhere in your string. Hence if the pattern you want to match may not start from the beginning, you shall always use search function.

In this case, if you want to restrict the matching only start from the beginning, you can also achieve it with search function by specifying “^” in your pattern:

languages = "English,Japanese,Chinese" 
m = re.search("^\w+(?=ese)",languages) 
#m returns empty
m = re.search("\w+(?=ese)",languages)
#m returns: <re.Match object; span=(8, 13), match='Japan'>

findall in Python regular expression

You may also notice when there are multiple occurrences of the pattern, search function only returns the first matched. This sometimes may not be desired when you actually want to see the full list of matched patterns. To return all the occurrences, you can use the findall function:

languages = "English,Japanese,Chinese,Burmese"
m = re.findall("\w+(?=ese)", languages)
#m returns: ['Japan', 'Chin', 'Burm']



python read and write json file

Read and write json file in python

Json file format is commonly used in most of the programming languages to store data or exchange the data between back end and front end, or between different applications and systems. In this article, I will be explaining how to read and write json file in python programming language.

Read from a JSON file

Python has a json module which makes the read and write json pretty easy. First, let’s assume we have the below example.json file to be read.

"link": "www.codeforests.com",
"name": "ken", 
"member": true, 
"hobbies": ["jogging", "watching movie"]

To read the file, we can simply use the load method and pass in the file descriptor.

example = json.load(open("example.json"))

Now you can access the example dictionary for the data, e.g.


The output would be :

['jogging', 'watching movie']

Write into JSON file

Let’s continue to use the previous example, and try to add one more hobby into the hobbies. Then save the json object into a file.

This time, you can use the json.dump and pass in the file descriptor to be written to:

with open("example.json", "w") as f:
    json.dump(example, f)

If you look at the json documentation, there are two more methods : json.loads and json.dumps. The main difference of this two methods vs json.load & json.dumps is that the loads and dumps take the str representation of the json object. e.g.:

obj = json.loads('{"json":"obj"}')


How to read and write configuration (.ini) file in python

There are several file formats you can use for your configuration file, the most commonly used format are .ini, .json and .yaml. In this article, I will sharing with you how to read/write your configurations in the .ini file formats.

Read .ini file

Below is a example of the ini file, you can define the sections (e.g. [LOGIN]) as much as you want to separate the different configuration info.

user = admin
#Please change to your real password
password = admin

host =
port = 8088

In python, there is already a module configparser to read an parse the information from the ini file int dictionary objects. Assume you have saved above as config.ini file into your current folder, you can use the below lines of code to read.

import configparser

config = configparser.ConfigParser()		
login = config['LOGIN']
server = config['SERVER']

You can assign each of the sections into a separate dictionary for easier accessing the values. The output should be same as below:

codeforests read ini file

Note that the line starting with # symbol (or ; ) will be taken as comment line and omitted when parsing the keys and values.

Also all the values are taken as string, so you will need to do your own data type conversion after you read it.

Write .ini file

Now let’s see how we can write to an ini file.

You will still need this configparser library, and the idea is that you need to set the keys and values into the configparser object and then save it into a file.

config = configparser.ConfigParser()
if not config.has_section("INFO"):
    config.set("INFO", "link", "www.codeforests.com")
    config.set("INFO", "name", "ken")

with open("example.ini", 'w') as configfile:

And this would create the example.ini file with below content:

link = www.codeforests.com
name = ken

I have created another two separate articles to cover the .json and .yaml format, please have a look if you are interested.

As per always, welcome any comments or questions.