Conditions: if, then, else - Learn Python 3 - Snakify

Lesson 2. Conditions: if, then, else

1. Syntax

All the programs in the first lesson were executed sequentially, line by line. No line could be skipped.

Let's consider the following problems: for the given integer X determine its absolute value. If X>0 then the program should print the value X, otherwise it should print -X. This behavior can't be reached using the sequential program. The program should conditionally select the next step. That's where the conditions help:

x = int(input())
if x > 0:

This program uses a conditional statement if. After the if we put a condition (x > 0) following by a colon. After that we put a block of instructions which will be executed only if the condition is true (i.e. evaluates to True). This block may be followed by the word else, colon and another block of instructions which will be executed only if the condition is false (i.e. evaluates to False). Is the case above, the condition if false, so the else-block is executed. Each block should be indented using spaces.

To sum up, the conditional statement in Python has the following syntax:

if condition:
    several instructions that are executed
    if the condition evaluates to True
    several instructions that are executed
    if the condition evaluates to False

The else keyword with the false-block may be omitted in case nothing should be done if the condition is false. For example, we can replace the variable x with its absolute value like this:

x = int(input())
if x < 0:
    x = -x

In this example the variable x is assigned to -x only if x < 0. In contrast, the instruction print(x) is executed every time, because it's not indented, so it doesn't belong to the true-block.

Indentation is a general way in Python to separate blocks of code. All instructions within the same block should be indented in the same way, i.e. they should have the same number of spaces at the beginning of the line. It's recommended to use 4 spaces for indentation.

The indentation is what makes Python different from the most of other language, in which the curly braces { and } are used to form the blocks.

By the way, there's a builtin-function for absolute value in Python:

x = int(input())

2. Nested conditions

Any Python instruction may be put into true-blocks and false-block, including another conditional statement. This way we get nested conditions. The blocks of inner conditions are indented using twice more spaces (eg. 8 spaces). Let's see an example. Given the coordinates of the point on the plane, print its quadrant.

x = int(input())
y = int(input())
if x > 0:
    if y > 0:
        # x > 0, y > 0
        print("Quadrant I")
        # x > 0, y < 0
        print("Quadrant IV")
    if y > 0:
        # x < 0, y > 0
        print("Quadrant II")
        # x < 0, y < 0
        print("Quadrant III")

In this example we use the comments: the explanatory text that has no effect on program execution. This text starts with the hash # and lasts till the end of the line.

3. Comparison operators

Usually the condition after if has one or more of the following operators:

less — the condition is true if left side is less than right side.
greater — the condition is true if left side is greater than right side.
less or equal.
greater or equal.
not equal.

For example, the condition x * x < 1000 means “the value of the expression x * x is less than 1000”, and the condition 2 * x != y means “the doubled value of the variable x is not equal to the value of the variable y”.

The comparison operators in Python may be chained like this: a == b == c or x <= y >= 10. It's a rare thing among programming languages.

4. Bool objects

When we sum two integer objects using the + operator, like 2 + 5, we get a new object: 7. In the same way, when we compare two integers using the < operator, like 2 < 5, we get a new object: True.

print(2 < 5)
print(2 > 5)
The True and False objects have a special type called bool. As every type name can be used to cast objects into that type, let's see what this cast gives for numbers:
print(bool(-10))    # True
print(bool(0))      # False - zero is the only false number
print(bool(10))     # True

print(bool(''))     # False - empty string is the only false string
print(bool('abc'))  # True

4.1. Logical operators

Sometimes you need to check several conditions at once. For example, you can check if a number n is even using the condition n % 2 == 0 (n gives a remainder 0 when dividing by 2). If you need to check that two numbers n and m are both even, you should check both n % 2 == 0 and m % 2 == 0. To do that, you join them using an operator and (logical AND): n % 2 == 0 and m % 2 == 0.

Python has logical AND, logical OR and negation.

Operator and is a binary operator which evaluates to True if and only if both its left-hand side and right-hand side are True.

Operator or is a binary operator which evaluates to True if at least one of its sides is True.

Operator not is a unary negation, it's followed by some value. It's evaluated to True if that value is False and vice versa.

Let's check that at least one of the two numbers ends with 0:

a = int(input())
b = int(input())
if a % 10 == 0 or b % 10 == 0:

Let's check that the number a is positive and the number b is non-negative:

if a > 0 and not (b < 0):

Instead of not (b < 0) we can write (b >= 0).

5. if-elif-else

If you have more than two options to tell apart using the conditional operator, you can use if... elif... else statement.

Let's show how it works by rewriting the example with point (x,y) on the plane and quadrants from above:

x = int(input())
y = int(input())
if x > 0 and y > 0:
    print("Quadrant I")
elif x > 0 and y < 0:
    print("Quadrant IV")
elif y > 0:
    print("Quadrant II")
    print("Quadrant III")

In this case the conditions in if and elifs are checked one after another until the first true condition is found. Then only the true-block for that condition is being executed. If all the conditions are false, the else-block is being executed, if it's present.