Trey Hunner
4 minute read

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04:30

Let's talk about truthiness in Python.

We have a list of numbers:

```
>>> numbers = [2, 1, 3, 4, 7]
```

and we have an `if`

statement that either prints `yes`

or `no`

based on the condition "`numbers`

":

```
>>> if numbers:
... print("yes")
... else:
... print("no")
...
yes
```

Note that this condition isn't checking `len(numbers) == something`

or some other expression involving `numbers`

.
The condition is just "`numbers`

"; that's it!

We got `yes`

when we evaluated that `if`

statement, despite the fact that `numbers`

*is not* `True`

:

```
>>> numbers == True
False
```

The `numbers`

variable points to a list, but `True`

is a boolean.

But if we convert `numbers`

*to* a boolean we *will* get `True`

:

```
>>> bool(numbers)
True
```

Python is checking the **truthiness** of `numbers`

.
Truthiness is about asking the question: if we **converted this object to a boolean**, what would we get?

**Python's if statements are all about truthiness-checking**.
Whenever you execute an

`if`

statement, Python will check the result of the condition and In fact, **all boolean expressions check for truthiness**.

If we use the `not`

operator on `numbers`

:

```
>>> not numbers
```

This will implicitly convert `numbers`

to a boolean and then **negate whatever we get back** (as if we said `not bool(numbers)`

):

```
>>> not numbers
False
```

So `not numbers`

is really checking the **falsiness** of `numbers`

(where falsiness is the opposite of truthiness).

Truthiness and falsiness are **not mentioned anywhere in the Python documentation**.
Python calls this truth value testing.
But Python programmers in the wild rarely talk about "truth value testing".
Colloquially we always say **truthiness and falsiness** instead even though it's called "truth value testing" in the documentation.

This `numbers`

list is empty:

```
>>> numbers = []
```

If we use `numbers`

in our `if`

condition again, we'll see that it doesn't evaluate as truthy this time:

```
>>> if numbers:
... print("yes")
... else:
... print("no")
...
no
```

Converting an empty list to a boolean returns `False`

:

```
>>> bool(numbers)
False
```

Which means **empty lists are are falsey** in Python:

```
>>> not numbers
True
```

This is true of pretty much any "empty" object.

Empty strings are falsey:

```
>>> name = ""
>>> not name
True
>>> bool(name)
False
```

In Python, empty objects are falsey.
For objects that have a length, if their **length is greater than zero**, they're considered **truthy**.
And objects with a **length equal to zero** are **falsey**.

Truthiness isn't not just about "having a non-zero length".

We think of Python's `None`

as representing emptiness.
It's kind of the ultimate representation of emptiness in fact.

So we would expect that converting `None`

to a boolean would give us `False`

, and in fact it does:

```
>>> bool(None)
False
```

So `None`

is falsey.

```
>>> not None
True
```

Truthiness is about two things.
We've seen that **truthiness is about non-emptiness**.
But **truthiness is also about non-zeroness**.

So if we check the truthiness of a number, we're asking Python **is this number not equal to zero**.

```
>>> n = 0
>>> if n:
... print("yes")
... else:
... print("no")
...
no
```

That `if`

statements prints `no`

because `n`

*is* `0`

.

If you convert `0`

to a boolean you get `False`

, which means **zero is falsey**.

```
>>> bool(0)
False
```

Every other number (whether negative or positive) is truthy:

```
>>> bool(-5)
True
```

Every number other than `0`

is truthy.

So in Python **truthiness** is asking the question, **what happens if I convert an object to a boolean**.

Every Python object is **truthy by default**.
Any object that isn't a number, doesn't have a length, and doesn't represent emptiness in some other way is truthy.

If the object has a length which is zero, **it's falsey**.
If the object represents the number zero, **it's falsey**.
And if the object represents emptiness in some other way (like `None`

), **it's falsey**.

So truthiness in Python is about **non-emptiness** and **non-zeroness**.

The main place you'll see truthiness used is for checking non-emptiness.
For example the condition `not numbers`

is checking whether numbers is empty.

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