[Python-ideas] Python-ideas Digest, Vol 138, Issue 32

Angus Hollands goosey15 at gmail.com
Sat May 5 17:59:24 EDT 2018

Hi all!
Really interesting discussion on here.

Personally I feel that PEP 572, as it stands, undermines the readability of
the language, in particular for those new to the language, programming.
I have issue with both the in-expression assignment, and the current
proposed operator approach.

Below is a modified version of a comment I made on a Reddit thread about

I think the first point is that, beginners often read more code than they
write - to build a mental picture of how the language works, and to build
their solution from existing parts. Whether this is a good means of
learning, or not, it's quite commonplace (and I learned using such a

If this PEP passes, you will find people use the syntax. And it may well
end up being disproportionately used in the early stages because of "new
feature" semantics.

Here is an extract from the Wikipedia A* search

function reconstruct_path(cameFrom, current)
    total_path := [current]
    while current in cameFrom.Keys:
current := cameFrom[current]
    return total_path

In Python 3.7, that looks like this:

def reconstruct_path(cameFrom, current):
    total_path = [current]
    while current in cameFrom.keys():
current = cameFrom[current]
    return total_path

(of course it's not entirely Pythonic), but the point is - the pseudo code
is designed to be semantically readable, and the Python code is very similar

However with PEP572, now, the beginner will encounter both := assignments,
and = assignments. When to use which one? Now they need to learn the edge
cases / semantic differences between expression and statement explicitly,
rather than picking this up as they go. I am not making this argument
because I think that this is they best way to learn a programming language,
I'm simply arguing that there is more cognitive overhead when unfamiliar
with the language, in order to use the appropriate feature.

In terms of implementation, it's especially odd that the current proposal
(AFAICT) only binds to a name, rather than an assignment target. This feels
very wrong, despite the fact that I can understand why it is suggested. I
feel like the Python 3 series in particular has been making syntax more
uniform, so that there aren't quirks and edge cases of "this only works in
this context" (besides async, of course), which is one of the things that
makes Python so expressive.

Furthermore, with this PEP, assignment can now happen inside of expressions
- and so one of the most fundamental benefits of expressions being
effectively immutable in terms of local names is lost.

In terms of prevalence, I don't think that these situations do occur all
that often. I definitely agree that regex is the prime candidate for this
kind of syntax. However, in the examples given (matching 3+ regexes), I
would use a loop for simplicity anyway. When it comes to assigning to a
result that is only used in the conditional block, this is certainly a case
that benefits from the PEP.

If, however, the motivation for the PEP was deemed significant enough that
warrant its inclusion in a future release, then I would like to suggest
that the keyword approach is superior to the operator variant. In
particular, I prefer the `where` to the `given` or 'let' candidates, as I
think it is more descriptive and slightly shorter to type ;)

Angus Hollands
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://mail.python.org/pipermail/python-ideas/attachments/20180505/162a95e0/attachment.html>

More information about the Python-ideas mailing list