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1. *args and **kwargs

I have come to see that most new python programmers have a hard time figuring out the *args and **kwargs magic variables. So what are they ? First of all, let me tell you that it is not necessary to write *args or **kwargs. Only the * (asterisk) is necessary. You could have also written *var and **vars. Writing *args and **kwargs is just a convention. So now let’s take a look at *args first.

1.1. Usage of *args

*args and **kwargs are mostly used in function definitions. *args and **kwargs allow you to pass an unspecified number of arguments to a function, so when writing the function definition, you do not need to know how many arguments will be passed to your function. *args is used to send a non-keyworded variable length argument list to the function. Here’s an example to help you get a clear idea:

def test_var_args(f_arg, *argv):
    print("first normal arg:", f_arg)
    for arg in argv:
        print("another arg through *argv:", arg)

test_var_args('yasoob', 'python', 'eggs', 'test')

This produces the following result:

first normal arg: yasoob
another arg through *argv: python
another arg through *argv: eggs
another arg through *argv: test

I hope this cleared away any confusion that you had. So now let’s talk about **kwargs

1.2. Usage of **kwargs

**kwargs allows you to pass keyworded variable length of arguments to a function. You should use **kwargs if you want to handle named arguments in a function. Here is an example to get you going with it:

def greet_me(**kwargs):
    for key, value in kwargs.items():
        print("{0} = {1}".format(key, value))

>>> greet_me(name="yasoob")
name = yasoob

So you can see how we handled a keyworded argument list in our function. This is just the basics of **kwargs and you can see how useful it is. Now let’s talk about how you can use *args and **kwargs to call a function with a list or dictionary of arguments.

1.3. Using *args and **kwargs to call a function

So here we will see how to call a function using *args and **kwargs. Just consider that you have this little function:

def test_args_kwargs(arg1, arg2, arg3):
    print("arg1:", arg1)
    print("arg2:", arg2)
    print("arg3:", arg3)

Now you can use *args or **kwargs to pass arguments to this little function. Here’s how to do it:

# first with *args
>>> args = ("two", 3, 5)
>>> test_args_kwargs(*args)
arg1: two
arg2: 3
arg3: 5

# now with **kwargs:
>>> kwargs = {"arg3": 3, "arg2": "two", "arg1": 5}
>>> test_args_kwargs(**kwargs)
arg1: 5
arg2: two
arg3: 3

Order of using *args **kwargs and formal args

So if you want to use all three of these in functions then the order is

some_func(fargs, *args, **kwargs)

1.4. When to use them?

It really depends on what your requirements are. The most common use case is when making function decorators (discussed in another chapter). Moreover it can be used in monkey patching as well. Monkey patching means modifying some code at runtime. Consider that you have a class with a function called get_info which calls an API and returns the response data. If we want to test it we can replace the API call with some test data. For instance:

import someclass

def get_info(self, *args):
    return "Test data"

someclass.get_info = get_info

I am sure that you can think of some other use cases as well.