Surprised by the command "del"

Steve Holden steve at
Sat Mar 1 21:01:51 CET 2008

K Viltersten wrote:
> I'm reading the docs and at 5.2 the del
> statement is discussed. At first, i thought
> i've found a typo but as i tried that 
> myself, it turns it actually does work so.
>   a = ["alpha", "beta", "gamma"]
>   del a[2:2]
>   a
> Now, i expected the result to be that the
> "beta" element has been removed. Obviously, 
> Python thinks otherwise. Why?!
> Elaboration:
> I wonder why such an unintuitive effect has
> been implemented. I'm sure it's for a very
> good reason not clear to me due to my
> ignorance. Alternatively - my expectations
> are not so intuitive as i think.   :)
It deletes all the elements referred to by the slice. But since 2-2==0, 
there are zero elements in the slice, and the list is unchanged when all 
zero of them have been deleted:

 >>> a = ["alpha", "beta", "gamma"]
 >>> a[2:2]

You would have got the result you expected with

     del a[2]


    del a[2:3]


     del a[-1]

or ...

Remember that slices are specified as half-open intervals. So a[m:n] 
includes m-n elements, those indexed from m to n-1.

Steve Holden        +1 571 484 6266   +1 800 494 3119
Holden Web LLC    

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