Checking if a string can be converted to float in Python


Question

I've got some Python code that runs through a list of strings and converts them to integers or floating point numbers if possible. Doing this for integers is pretty easy

if element.isdigit():
  newelement = int(element)

Floating point numbers are more difficult. Right now I'm using partition('.') to split the string and checking to make sure that one or both sides are digits.

partition = element.partition('.')
if (partition[0].isdigit() and partition[1] == '.' and partition[2].isdigit()) 
    or (partition[0] == '' and partition[1] == '.' and partition[2].isdigit()) 
    or (partition[0].isdigit() and partition[1] == '.' and partition[2] == ''):
  newelement = float(element)

This works, but obviously the if statement for that is a bit of a bear. The other solution I considered is to just wrap the conversion in a try/catch block and see if it succeeds, as described in this question.

Anyone have any other ideas? Opinions on the relative merits of the partition and try/catch approaches?

1
150
9/15/2017 11:18:51 AM

Accepted Answer

I would just use..

try:
    float(element)
except ValueError:
    print "Not a float"

..it's simple, and it works

Another option would be a regular expression:

import re
if re.match("^\d+?\.\d+?$", element) is None:
    print "Not float"
247
4/9/2009 9:55:39 PM

Python method to check for float:

def isfloat(value):
  try:
    float(value)
    return True
  except ValueError:
    return False

Don't get bit by the goblins hiding in the float boat! DO UNIT TESTING!

What is, and is not a float may surprise you:

Command to parse                        Is it a float?  Comment
--------------------------------------  --------------- ------------
print(isfloat(""))                      False
print(isfloat("1234567"))               True 
print(isfloat("NaN"))                   True            nan is also float
print(isfloat("NaNananana BATMAN"))     False
print(isfloat("123.456"))               True
print(isfloat("123.E4"))                True
print(isfloat(".1"))                    True
print(isfloat("1,234"))                 False
print(isfloat("NULL"))                  False           case insensitive
print(isfloat(",1"))                    False           
print(isfloat("123.EE4"))               False           
print(isfloat("6.523537535629999e-07")) True
print(isfloat("6e777777"))              True            This is same as Inf
print(isfloat("-iNF"))                  True
print(isfloat("1.797693e+308"))         True
print(isfloat("infinity"))              True
print(isfloat("infinity and BEYOND"))   False
print(isfloat("12.34.56"))              False           Two dots not allowed.
print(isfloat("#56"))                   False
print(isfloat("56%"))                   False
print(isfloat("0E0"))                   True
print(isfloat("x86E0"))                 False
print(isfloat("86-5"))                  False
print(isfloat("True"))                  False           Boolean is not a float.   
print(isfloat(True))                    True            Boolean is a float
print(isfloat("+1e1^5"))                False
print(isfloat("+1e1"))                  True
print(isfloat("+1e1.3"))                False
print(isfloat("+1.3P1"))                False
print(isfloat("-+1"))                   False
print(isfloat("(1)"))                   False           brackets not interpreted

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