newbie : removing recurring element from lists

Alex Martelli aleax at
Fri Oct 11 12:08:31 CEST 2002

<posted & mailed>

CARbomboniere spa wrote:

> Hi,
> How can I remove all occurences of a given value from a list ?
> E.g. : I have a list like :
> a = [1,4,5,1,3,1,5,1,1,6]
> And I want to remove all the 1 values; so the output should be :
> a = [4,5,3,5,6]

Simplest is a list-comprehension:

  a[:] = [item for item in a if item != 1]

> I tried the following two ways, neither of which works as expected :
> -----------------------------------
> # first way
> a = [1,4,5,1,3,1,5,1,1,6]
> x = 0
> for t in a :
>     if t == 1 :
>         del a[x]
>     x = x + 1
> print a

Don't alter the list you're looping on -- the results are often
confusing when you do.  If you DO want to use this complicated
approach, you need to loop on a COPY of the list, e.g. use:

for t in a[:]:

as the for-statement.  But the list-comprehension is better.

> # second way
> a = [1,4,5,1,3,1,5,1,1,6]
> for t in a :
>     if t == 1 :
>         a.pop(t)
> print a

Method pop takes as its argument an INDEX, not the value of
an item -- this snippet is therefore quite a bit buggier
than the previous one.  But again, the list comprehension
is simpler than fixing this.

The difference between a.pop(x) and del a[x] is that the
former is a function and returns the original value of
a[x], while the latter is a statement.  Here, you use
neither of these characteristics, so a working snippet
using pop rather than del would be basically identical to
the one I fixed above, just a wee bit slower (not enough
to make a difference anyway).

If you DO want to alter the original list element by element
AND can't use a list comprehension (or an equivalent loop
building a new list to replace the contents of the original
one), best might be to loop on indices -- either in reverse,
or with some care:

for x in range(len(a), -1, -1)
    if a[x] == 1: del a[x]


x = 0
while x<len(a):
    if a[x] == 1: del a[x]
    else: x = x+1

but I would NOT recommend this anyway -- the list comprehension
is going to work in a time roughly proportional to the number
of items in list a, while these approaches may take up to a
time proportional to the SQUARE of the number of items, if the
value you're trying to remove occurs often enough, particularly
towards the beginning of the list.


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