Generator Expressions vs. List Comprehension


Question

When should you use generator expressions and when should you use list comprehensions in Python?

# Generator expression
(x*2 for x in range(256))

# List comprehension
[x*2 for x in range(256)]
1
381
4/8/2016 5:12:31 PM

Accepted Answer

John's answer is good (that list comprehensions are better when you want to iterate over something multiple times). However, it's also worth noting that you should use a list if you want to use any of the list methods. For example, the following code won't work:

def gen():
    return (something for something in get_some_stuff())

print gen()[:2]     # generators don't support indexing or slicing
print [5,6] + gen() # generators can't be added to lists

Basically, use a generator expression if all you're doing is iterating once. If you want to store and use the generated results, then you're probably better off with a list comprehension.

Since performance is the most common reason to choose one over the other, my advice is to not worry about it and just pick one; if you find that your program is running too slowly, then and only then should you go back and worry about tuning your code.

260
9/6/2008 8:54:08 PM

Iterating over the generator expression or the list comprehension will do the same thing. However, the list comprehension will create the entire list in memory first while the generator expression will create the items on the fly, so you are able to use it for very large (and also infinite!) sequences.


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