Quick Tip: Four Use Cases for Assignment Expressions (aka. the Walrus Operator) in Python
Python 3.8, controversially, introduced a new way of assigning values to variables — assignment expressions, otherwise known as the “walrus operator” (
:=) due to it slightly resembling walrus tusks.
This new feature (and syntax) (see PEP 572 for details) allows us to assign and return a value in the same expression.
The simplest case would be this:
print(var := 'value')
var to ‘value’ and also prints the value at the same time.
Use Cases for Assignment Expressions
We are now going to have a look at four use cases for the walrus operator that hopefully also demonstrate how it is used. Please remember: All of these things could be easily achieved without the new functionality.
1. Reusing Values from If-Statements
Let’s assume that we want to check the length of a list. If the list is longer than a given value, we want to print a warning and the length of the list.
Using the new syntax saves us from calling
len() twice or from memorizing its output.
Similarly, we can use this to work with regular expressions very elegantly:
2. Filtering in List Comprehensions
List comprehensions are fantastic and, especially in data science, extremely useful. In the past, if we wanted to quickly apply a filter during the construction of a list, we had to use a rather complicated lambda expression using
Now, using assignment expressions, we can easily drop in a filter function:
This expression, for each value, will use
greater_10 as a filter and only append the value if the function does not return
3. Reading Within While-Loops
If we want to read a file (or stream), we usually utilize some conditional logic to break out of the while-loop if, for example, there is no more data to read. Using the walrus operator, we can streamline this process quite a bit:
We can even make the condition more explit:
This will only print as long as we are not reading ‘c’.
4. Reusing (Expensive) Values
Let’s go back to list comprehensions and assume that we have a function
calculate(), which is computationally expensive and takes one value. Using the walrus operator syntax, we can easily reuse computed values in a list comprehension:
This, at least to me, is a cleaner solution than to store the value before reusing it.
P.S. Despite the fact that there has been controversy, I like the new feature. I believe that the walrus operator allows for some convenient solutions and actually is quite readable. However, maybe it’s just me being nostalgic given that my first language, Object Pascal (Delphi), used the