Get one quick Python tip each week
**Weekly Python advice**: one quick Python tip every week

Watch as video

03:45

Sign in to your Python Morsels account to save your screencast settings.

Don't have an account yet? Sign up here.

Python's ** functools module** has a function called

`reduce`

`functools.reduce`

function?The `functools.reduce`

function looks a little bit like this:

```
not_seen = object()
def reduce(function, iterable, default=not_seen):
"""An approximation of the code for functools.reduce."""
value = default
for item in iterable:
if value is not_seen:
value = item
continue
value = function(value, item)
return value
```

The `reduce`

function is a bit complex.
It's best understood with an example.

```
>>> from functools import reduce
>>> numbers = [2, 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 18]
>>> reduce(lambda x, y: x + y, numbers)
```

In the above example, we're calling `reduce`

with two arguments:

- a function that adds two numbers together
- a list of numbers:

When we call `reduce`

with those arguments it doesn't just add the first two numbers together.
Instead it adds **all the numbers** together:

```
>>> reduce(lambda x, y: x + y, numbers)
46
```

That first function is called *repeatedly* to add up *all* of the numbers in this list.
The `reduce`

function first calls the given function on the first two items in `numbers`

, then it takes the result it got back and uses that along with the third number as the new two arguments, and so on.

This is a bit of a silly example, because we have a function built into Python that can do this for us.
The built-in `sum`

function is both **easier to understand** and **faster** than using `reduce`

:

```
>>> numbers = [2, 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 18]
>>> sum(numbers)
46
```

Even multiplying numbers isn't a great example of `reduce`

:

```
>>> from functools import reduce
>>> numbers = [2, 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 18]
>>> reduce(lambda x, y: x * y, numbers)
33264
```

When multiplying it's better to use the `prod`

function in Python's `math`

module (added in Python 3.8) because it's again faster and more readable that `reduce`

:

```
>>> from math import prod
>>> numbers = [2, 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 18]
>>> prod(numbers)
33264
```

Those two examples are silly uses of `reduce`

, but not all `reduce`

calls can be summarized in just a single line of code though.

This `deep_get`

function allows us to deeply query a nested dictionary of dictionaries:

```
from functools import reduce
def deep_get(mapping, key_tuple):
"""Deeply query dict-of-dicts from given key tuple."""
return reduce(lambda acc, val: acc[val], key_tuple, mapping)
```

For example, here's a dictionary of dictionaries:

```
>>> webhook_data = {
... "event_type": "subscription_created",
... "content": {
... "customer": {
... "created_at": 1575397900,
... "card_status": "card",
... "subscription": {
... "status": "active",
... "created_at": 1575397900,
... "next_billing_at": 1577817100
... }
... }
... }
... }
```

We might wanna look up a key in this dictionary, and then look up a key in the dictionary we get back, and a key in the dictionary we get back there, and a key in it to finally get a value that we're looking for:

```
>>> webhook_data["content"]["customer"]["subscription"]["status"]
'active'
```

Instead of doing this querying *manually*, we could make a tuple of strings representing these keys, and pass that tuple to our `deep_get`

function so it can **do the querying for us**:

```
>>> status_key = ("content", "customer", "subscription", "status")
>>> deep_get(webhook_data, status_key)
'active'
```

This `deep_get`

function works, and it *is* powerful.
But it's also **pretty complex**.

```
from functools import reduce
def deep_get(mapping, key_tuple):
"""Deeply query dict-of-dicts from given key tuple."""
return reduce(lambda acc, val: acc[val], key_tuple, mapping)
```

Personally, I find this `deep_get`

function **hard to understand**.
We've condensed quite a bit of logic into just one line of code.

I would much rather see this `deep_get`

function implemented **using a for loop**:

```
def deep_get(mapping, key_tuple):
"""Deeply query dict-of-dicts from given key tuple."""
value = mapping
for key in key_tuple:
value = value[key]
return value
```

I find that `for`

loop **easier to understand** than the equivalent `reduce`

call.

Even if you're familiar with functional programming techniques and you *really* like `reduce`

, you might want to ask yourself:

Is the`reduce`

call I'm about to usemore efficientorless efficientthan either a`for`

loop or another tool included in Python?

For example, years ago, I saw this use of `reduce`

in an answer to a programming question online:

```
>>> from functools import reduce
>>> numbers = [2, 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 18]
>>> reduce(lambda accum, n: accum and n > 0, numbers, True)
True
```

This code checks whether all the numbers in a given list are greater than zero.

This code works but there's a *better* way to accomplish this task in Python.

The built-in `all`

function in Python can accept a generator expression that performs the same task for us:

```
>>> numbers = [2, 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 18]
>>> all(n > 0 for n in numbers)
True
```

I find that `all`

call **easier to read**, but it's also **more efficient** than the `reduce`

call.

If we had *many* numbers and one of them was less than or equal to zero, **the all function would return early** (as soon as it found the number that doesn't match our condition).
Whereas

`reduce`

will always loop all the way to the endTry to **avoid reinventing the wheel with reduce**.
Your code will often be more readable (and sometimes even more efficient) without

`functools.reduce`

.`reduce`

operations in PythonHere are some common reduction operations in Python as well as some tools **included in Python** that are often **more efficient** and **more readable** than an equivalent `reduce`

call:

Operation | With `functools.reduce` |
Without `reduce` |
---|---|---|

Sum all | `reduce(lambda x, y: x+y, nums)` |
`sum(nums)` |

Multiply all | `reduce(lambda x, y: x*y, nums)` |
`math.prod(nums)` |

Join strings | `reduce(lambda s, t: s+t, strs)` |
`"".join(strs)` |

Merge dictionaries | `reduce(lambda g, h: g|h, cfgs)` |
`ChainMap(*reversed(cfgs))` |

Set union | `reduce(lambda s, t: s|t, sets)` |
`set.union(*sets)` |

Set intersection | `reduce(lambda s, t: s&t, sets)` |
`set.intersect(*sets)` |

Some of these are built-in functions, some are methods on built-in objects, and some are in the standard library.

`functools.reduce`

Python's `reduce`

function (in the `functools`

module) can implement **a complex reduction operation** with **just a single line of code**.
But that single line of code is sometimes **more confusing** and **less efficient** than **an equivalent for loop** or

`functools.reduce`

.
Need to **fill-in gaps** in your Python skills?

Sign up for my Python newsletter where **I share one of my favorite Python tips every week**.

✕

↑

A Python Tip Every Week

Need to **fill-in gaps** in your **Python skills**? I send weekly emails designed to do just that.