Question or problem about Python programming:
What is the use of the yield keyword in Python, and what does it do?
For example, I’m trying to understand this code1:
def _get_child_candidates(self, distance, min_dist, max_dist): if self._leftchild and distance - max_dist < self._median: yield self._leftchild if self._rightchild and distance + max_dist >= self._median: yield self._rightchild
And this is the caller:
result, candidates = , [self] while candidates: node = candidates.pop() distance = node._get_dist(obj) if distance <= max_dist and distance >= min_dist: result.extend(node._values) candidates.extend(node._get_child_candidates(distance, min_dist, max_dist)) return result
What happens when the method _get_child_candidates is called?
Is a list returned? A single element? Is it called again? When will subsequent calls stop?
1. This piece of code was written by Jochen Schulz (jrschulz), who made a great Python library for metric spaces. This is the link to the complete source: Module mspace.
How to solve the problem:
To understand what yield does, you must understand what generators are. And before you can understand generators, you must understand iterables.
When you create a list, you can read its items one by one. Reading its items one by one is called iteration:
>>> mylist = [1, 2, 3] >>> for i in mylist: ... print(i) 1 2 3
mylist is an iterable. When you use a list comprehension, you create a list, and so an iterable:
>>> mylist = [x*x for x in range(3)] >>> for i in mylist: ... print(i) 0 1 4
Everything you can use “for… in…” on is an iterable; lists, strings, files…
These iterables are handy because you can read them as much as you wish, but you store all the values in memory and this is not always what you want when you have a lot of values.
Generators are iterators, a kind of iterable you can only iterate over once. Generators do not store all the values in memory, they generate the values on the fly:
>>> mygenerator = (x*x for x in range(3)) >>> for i in mygenerator: ... print(i) 0 1 4
It is just the same except you used () instead of . BUT, you cannot perform for i in mygenerator a second time since generators can only be used once: they calculate 0, then forget about it and calculate 1, and end calculating 4, one by one.
yield is a keyword that is used like return, except the function will return a generator.
>>> def createGenerator(): ... mylist = range(3) ... for i in mylist: ... yield i*i ... >>> mygenerator = createGenerator() # create a generator >>> print(mygenerator) # mygenerator is an object! >>> for i in mygenerator: ... print(i) 0 1 4
Here it’s a useless example, but it’s handy when you know your function will return a huge set of values that you will only need to read once.
To master yield, you must understand that when you call the function, the code you have written in the function body does not run. The function only returns the generator object, this is a bit tricky 🙂
Then, your code will continue from where it left off each time for uses the generator.
Now the hard part:
The first time the for calls the generator object created from your function, it will run the code in your function from the beginning until it hits yield, then it’ll return the first value of the loop. Then, each subsequent call will run another iteration of the loop you have written in the function and return the next value. This will continue until the generator is considered empty, which happens when the function runs without hitting yield. That can be because the loop has come to an end, or because you no longer satisfy an “if/else”.
# Here you create the method of the node object that will return the generator def _get_child_candidates(self, distance, min_dist, max_dist): # Here is the code that will be called each time you use the generator object: # If there is still a child of the node object on its left # AND if the distance is ok, return the next child if self._leftchild and distance - max_dist < self._median: yield self._leftchild # If there is still a child of the node object on its right # AND if the distance is ok, return the next child if self._rightchild and distance + max_dist >= self._median: yield self._rightchild # If the function arrives here, the generator will be considered empty # there is no more than two values: the left and the right children
# Create an empty list and a list with the current object reference result, candidates = list(), [self] # Loop on candidates (they contain only one element at the beginning) while candidates: # Get the last candidate and remove it from the list node = candidates.pop() # Get the distance between obj and the candidate distance = node._get_dist(obj) # If distance is ok, then you can fill the result if distance <= max_dist and distance >= min_dist: result.extend(node._values) # Add the children of the candidate in the candidate's list # so the loop will keep running until it will have looked # at all the children of the children of the children, etc. of the candidate candidates.extend(node._get_child_candidates(distance, min_dist, max_dist)) return result
This code contains several smart parts:
Usually we pass a list to it:
>>> a = [1, 2] >>> b = [3, 4] >>> a.extend(b) >>> print(a) [1, 2, 3, 4]
But in your code, it gets a generator, which is good because:
And it works because Python does not care if the argument of a method is a list or not. Python expects iterables so it will work with strings, lists, tuples, and generators! This is called duck typing and is one of the reasons why Python is so cool. But this is another story, for another question…
You can stop here, or read a little bit to see an advanced use of a generator:
>>> class Bank(): # Let's create a bank, building ATMs ... crisis = False ... def create_atm(self): ... while not self.crisis: ... yield "$100" >>> hsbc = Bank() # When everything's ok the ATM gives you as much as you want >>> corner_street_atm = hsbc.create_atm() >>> print(corner_street_atm.next()) $100 >>> print(corner_street_atm.next()) $100 >>> print([corner_street_atm.next() for cash in range(5)]) ['$100', '$100', '$100', '$100', '$100'] >>> hsbc.crisis = True # Crisis is coming, no more money! >>> print(corner_street_atm.next()) <type 'exceptions.StopIteration'> >>> wall_street_atm = hsbc.create_atm() # It's even true for new ATMs >>> print(wall_street_atm.next()) <type 'exceptions.StopIteration'> >>> hsbc.crisis = False # The trouble is, even post-crisis the ATM remains empty >>> print(corner_street_atm.next()) <type 'exceptions.StopIteration'> >>> brand_new_atm = hsbc.create_atm() # Build a new one to get back in business >>> for cash in brand_new_atm: ... print cash $100 $100 $100 $100 $100 $100 $100 $100 $100 ...
Note: For Python 3, useprint(corner_street_atm.__next__()) or print(next(corner_street_atm))
It can be useful for various things like controlling access to a resource.
The itertools module contains special functions to manipulate iterables. Ever wish to duplicate a generator?
Chain two generators? Group values in a nested list with a one-liner? Map / Zip without creating another list?
Then just import itertools.
An example? Let’s see the possible orders of arrival for a four-horse race:
>>> horses = [1, 2, 3, 4] >>> races = itertools.permutations(horses) >>> print(races) >>> print(list(itertools.permutations(horses))) [(1, 2, 3, 4), (1, 2, 4, 3), (1, 3, 2, 4), (1, 3, 4, 2), (1, 4, 2, 3), (1, 4, 3, 2), (2, 1, 3, 4), (2, 1, 4, 3), (2, 3, 1, 4), (2, 3, 4, 1), (2, 4, 1, 3), (2, 4, 3, 1), (3, 1, 2, 4), (3, 1, 4, 2), (3, 2, 1, 4), (3, 2, 4, 1), (3, 4, 1, 2), (3, 4, 2, 1), (4, 1, 2, 3), (4, 1, 3, 2), (4, 2, 1, 3), (4, 2, 3, 1), (4, 3, 1, 2), (4, 3, 2, 1)]
Iteration is a process implying iterables (implementing the __iter__() method) and iterators (implementing the __next__() method).
Iterables are any objects you can get an iterator from. Iterators are objects that let you iterate on iterables.
There is more about it in this article about how for loops work.
When you see a function with yield statements, apply this easy trick to understand what will happen:
This trick may give you an idea of the logic behind the function, but what actually happens with yield is significantly different than what happens in the list based approach. In many cases, the yield approach will be a lot more memory efficient and faster too. In other cases, this trick will get you stuck in an infinite loop, even though the original function works just fine. Read on to learn more…
First, the iterator protocol – when you write
for x in mylist: ...loop body...
Python performs the following two steps:
The truth is Python performs the above two steps anytime it wants to loop over the contents of an object – so it could be a for loop, but it could also be code like otherlist.extend(mylist) (where otherlist is a Python list).
Here mylist is an iterable because it implements the iterator protocol. In a user-defined class, you can implement the __iter__() method to make instances of your class iterable. This method should return an iterator. An iterator is an object with a next() method. It is possible to implement both __iter__() and next() on the same class, and have __iter__() return self. This will work for simple cases, but not when you want two iterators looping over the same object at the same time.
So that’s the iterator protocol, many objects implement this protocol:
Note that a for loop doesn’t know what kind of object it’s dealing with – it just follows the iterator protocol, and is happy to get item after item as it calls next(). Built-in lists return their items one by one, dictionaries return the keys one by one, files return the lines one by one, etc. And generators return… well that’s where yield comes in:
def f123(): yield 1 yield 2 yield 3 for item in f123(): print item
Instead of yield statements, if you had three return statements in f123() only the first would get executed, and the function would exit. But f123() is no ordinary function. When f123() is called, it does not return any of the values in the yield statements! It returns a generator object. Also, the function does not really exit – it goes into a suspended state. When the for loop tries to loop over the generator object, the function resumes from its suspended state at the very next line after the yield it previously returned from, executes the next line of code, in this case, a yield statement, and returns that as the next item. This happens until the function exits, at which point the generator raises StopIteration, and the loop exits.
So the generator object is sort of like an adapter – at one end it exhibits the iterator protocol, by exposing __iter__() and next() methods to keep the for loop happy. At the other end, however, it runs the function just enough to get the next value out of it, and puts it back in suspended mode.
Usually, you can write code that doesn’t use generators but implements the same logic. One option is to use the temporary list ‘trick’ I mentioned before. That will not work in all cases, for e.g. if you have infinite loops, or it may make inefficient use of memory when you have a really long list. The other approach is to implement a new iterable class SomethingIter that keeps the state in instance members and performs the next logical step in it’s next() (or __next__() in Python 3) method. Depending on the logic, the code inside the next() method may end up looking very complex and be prone to bugs. Here generators provide a clean and easy solution.
Think of it this way:
An iterator is just a fancy sounding term for an object that has a next() method. So a yield-ed function ends up being something like this:
def some_function(): for i in xrange(4): yield i for i in some_function(): print i
This is basically what the Python interpreter does with the above code:
class it: def __init__(self): # Start at -1 so that we get 0 when we add 1 below. self.count = -1 # The __iter__ method will be called once by the 'for' loop. # The rest of the magic happens on the object returned by this method. # In this case it is the object itself. def __iter__(self): return self # The next method will be called repeatedly by the 'for' loop # until it raises StopIteration. def next(self): self.count += 1 if self.count < 4: return self.count else: # A StopIteration exception is raised # to signal that the iterator is done. # This is caught implicitly by the 'for' loop. raise StopIteration def some_func(): return it() for i in some_func(): print i
For more insight as to what’s happening behind the scenes, the for loop can be rewritten to this:
iterator = some_func() try: while 1: print iterator.next() except StopIteration: pass
Does that make more sense or just confuse you more? 🙂
I should note that this is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes. 🙂
The yield keyword is reduced to two simple facts:
In a nutshell: a generator is a lazy, incrementally-pending list, and yield statements allow you to use function notation to program the list values the generator should incrementally spit out.
generator = myYieldingFunction(...) x = list(generator) generator v [x, ..., ???] generator v [x, x, ..., ???] generator v [x, x, x, ..., ???] StopIteration exception [x, x, x] done list==[x, x, x]
Let’s define a function makeRange that’s just like Python’s range. Calling makeRange(n) RETURNS A GENERATOR:
def makeRange(n): # return 0,1,2,...,n-1 i = 0 while i < n: yield i i += 1 >>> makeRange(5)
To force the generator to immediately return its pending values, you can pass it into list() (just like you could any iterable):
>>> list(makeRange(5)) [0, 1, 2, 3, 4]
The above example can be thought of as merely creating a list which you append to and return:
# list-version # # generator-version def makeRange(n): # def makeRange(n): """return [0,1,2,...,n-1]""" #~ """return 0,1,2,...,n-1""" TO_RETURN =  #> i = 0 # i = 0 while i < n: # while i < n: TO_RETURN += [i] #~ yield i i += 1 # i += 1 ## indented return TO_RETURN #> >>> makeRange(5) [0, 1, 2, 3, 4]
There is one major difference, though; see the last section.
An iterable is the last part of a list comprehension, and all generators are iterable, so they’re often used like so:
# _ITERABLE_ >>> [x+10 for x in makeRange(5)] [10, 11, 12, 13, 14]
To get a better feel for generators, you can play around with the itertools module (be sure to use chain.from_iterable rather than chain when warranted). For example, you might even use generators to implement infinitely-long lazy lists like itertools.count(). You could implement your own def enumerate(iterable): zip(count(), iterable), or alternatively do so with the yield keyword in a while-loop.
Please note: generators can actually be used for many more things, such as implementing coroutines or non-deterministic programming or other elegant things. However, the “lazy lists” viewpoint I present here is the most common use you will find.
This is how the “Python iteration protocol” works. That is, what is going on when you do list(makeRange(5)). This is what I describe earlier as a “lazy, incremental list”.
>>> x=iter(range(5)) >>> next(x) 0 >>> next(x) 1 >>> next(x) 2 >>> next(x) 3 >>> next(x) 4 >>> next(x) Traceback (most recent call last): File "", line 1, in StopIteration
The built-in function next() just calls the objects .next() function, which is a part of the “iteration protocol” and is found on all iterators. You can manually use the next() function (and other parts of the iteration protocol) to implement fancy things, usually at the expense of readability, so try to avoid doing that…
Normally, most people would not care about the following distinctions and probably want to stop reading here.
In Python-speak, an iterable is any object which “understands the concept of a for-loop” like a list [1,2,3], and an iterator is a specific instance of the requested for-loop like [1,2,3].__iter__(). A generator is exactly the same as any iterator, except for the way it was written (with function syntax).
When you request an iterator from a list, it creates a new iterator. However, when you request an iterator from an iterator (which you would rarely do), it just gives you a copy of itself.
Thus, in the unlikely event that you are failing to do something like this…
> x = myRange(5) > list(x) [0, 1, 2, 3, 4] > list(x) 
… then remember that a generator is an iterator; that is, it is one-time-use. If you want to reuse it, you should call myRange(…) again. If you need to use the result twice, convert the result to a list and store it in a variable x = list(myRange(5)). Those who absolutely need to clone a generator (for example, who are doing terrifyingly hackish metaprogramming) can use itertools.tee if absolutely necessary, since the copyable iterator Python PEP standards proposal has been deferred.
yield is only legal inside of a function definition, and the inclusion of yield in a function definition makes it return a generator.
The idea for generators comes from other languages (see footnote 1) with varying implementations. In Python’s Generators, the execution of the code is frozen at the point of the yield. When the generator is called (methods are discussed below) execution resumes and then freezes at the next yield.
yield provides an
easy way of implementing the iterator protocol, defined by the following two methods:
__iter__ and next (Python 2) or __next__ (Python 3). Both of those methods
make an object an iterator that you could type-check with the Iterator Abstract Base
Class from the collections module.
>>> def func(): ... yield 'I am' ... yield 'a generator!' ... >>> type(func) # A function with yield is still a function <type 'function'> >>> gen = func() >>> type(gen) # but it returns a generator <type 'generator'> >>> hasattr(gen, '__iter__') # that's an iterable True >>> hasattr(gen, 'next') # and with .next (.__next__ in Python 3) True # implements the iterator protocol.
The generator type is a sub-type of iterator:
>>> import collections, types >>> issubclass(types.GeneratorType, collections.Iterator) True
And if necessary, we can type-check like this:
>>> isinstance(gen, types.GeneratorType) True >>> isinstance(gen, collections.Iterator) True
A feature of an Iterator is that once exhausted, you can’t reuse or reset it:
>>> list(gen) ['I am', 'a generator!'] >>> list(gen) 
You’ll have to make another if you want to use its functionality again (see footnote 2):
>>> list(func()) ['I am', 'a generator!']
One can yield data programmatically, for example:
def func(an_iterable): for item in an_iterable: yield item
The above simple generator is also equivalent to the below – as of Python 3.3 (and not available in Python 2), you can use yield from:
def func(an_iterable): yield from an_iterable
However, yield from also allows for delegation to subgenerators,
which will be explained in the following section on cooperative delegation with sub-coroutines.
yield forms an expression that allows data to be sent into the generator (see footnote 3)
Here is an example, take note of the received variable, which will point to the data that is sent to the generator:
def bank_account(deposited, interest_rate): while True: calculated_interest = interest_rate * deposited received = yield calculated_interest if received: deposited += received >>> my_account = bank_account(1000, .05)
First, we must queue up the generator with the builtin function, next. It will
call the appropriate next or __next__ method, depending on the version of
Python you are using:
>>> first_year_interest = next(my_account) >>> first_year_interest 50.0
And now we can send data into the generator. (Sending None is
the same as calling next.) :
>>> next_year_interest = my_account.send(first_year_interest + 1000) >>> next_year_interest 102.5
Now, recall that yield from is available in Python 3. This allows us to delegate coroutines to a subcoroutine:
def money_manager(expected_rate): # must receive deposited value from .send(): under_management = yield # yield None to start. while True: try: additional_investment = yield expected_rate * under_management if additional_investment: under_management += additional_investment except GeneratorExit: '''TODO: write function to send unclaimed funds to state''' raise finally: '''TODO: write function to mail tax info to client''' def investment_account(deposited, manager): '''very simple model of an investment account that delegates to a manager''' # must queue up manager: next(manager) # <- same as manager.send(None) # This is where we send the initial deposit to the manager: manager.send(deposited) try: yield from manager except GeneratorExit: return manager.close() # delegate?
And now we can delegate functionality to a sub-generator and it can be used
by a generator just as above:
my_manager = money_manager(.06) my_account = investment_account(1000, my_manager) first_year_return = next(my_account) # -> 60.0
Now simulate adding another 1,000 to the account plus the return on the account (60.0):
next_year_return = my_account.send(first_year_return + 1000) next_year_return # 123.6
You can read more about the precise semantics of yield from in PEP 380.
The close method raises GeneratorExit at the point the function
execution was frozen. This will also be called by __del__ so you
can put any cleanup code where you handle the GeneratorExit:
You can also throw an exception which can be handled in the generator
or propagated back to the user:
import sys try: raise ValueError except: my_manager.throw(*sys.exc_info())
Traceback (most recent call last): File "", line 4, in File "", line 6, in money_manager File "", line 2, in ValueError
I believe I have covered all aspects of the following question:
It turns out that yield does a lot. I’m sure I could add even more
thorough examples to this. If you want more or have some constructive criticism, let me know by commenting
The grammar currently allows any expression in a list comprehension.
expr_stmt: testlist_star_expr (annassign | augassign (yield_expr|testlist) | ('=' (yield_expr|testlist_star_expr))*) ... yield_expr: 'yield' [yield_arg] yield_arg: 'from' test | testlist
Since yield is an expression, it has been touted by some as interesting to use it in comprehensions or generator expression – in spite of citing no particularly good use-case.
The CPython core developers are discussing deprecating its allowance.
Here’s a relevant post from the mailing list:
Further, there is an outstanding issue (10544) which seems to be pointing in the direction of this never being a good idea (PyPy, a Python implementation written in Python, is already raising syntax warnings.)
Bottom line, until the developers of CPython tell us otherwise: Don’t put yield in a generator expression or comprehension.
In Python 2:
An expression_list is basically any number of expressions separated by commas – essentially, in Python 2, you can stop the generator with return, but you can’t return a value.
In Python 3: