python syntax for conditional is unfortunate

Aaron "Castironpi" Brady castironpi at
Wed Sep 24 03:21:29 CEST 2008

On Sep 23, 6:52 pm, Neal Becker <ndbeck... at> wrote:
> In hindsight, I am disappointed with the choice of conditional syntax.  I know it's too late to change.  The problem is
> y = some thing or other if x else something_else
> When scanning this my eye tends to see the first phrase and only later notice that it's conditioned on x (or maybe not notice at all!).  Particularly if 'some thing or other' is long or complicated.

You're talking strictly about readability, which among other things is
in the eye of the beholder, of course.  Temporary variables can clean
up some code, even if choosing names can be a hassle and it's more
things to keep track of.  Long lines and extra variables form a trade-
off.  You are writing a line with a conditional expression the value
of which depends on something.  What does it depend on, what is its
value if that's true, and what is it if it's false?  '...if...else...'
only takes 6 characters... maybe you want more!

If you're looking for a strictly syntactic construct, you can always
"fire blanks", or tracers, if the analogy's more accurate.

z= conditionally( x ) if b else y

This could serve as a gentle reminder, even where 'conditionally'
returns its argument, i.e. is the identity function.  You can always
roll your own ternary with extra parameters too:

z= condition( b, x, y )

Just don't confuse it with threading.Condition.

Otherwise, you're stuck with old syntax markers, and unless you

z= if b then x else y

You're out of options.  You have to express it somehow.  Did you want
the condition first?  Was there an alternative proposal you
preferred?  IINM if I'm not mistaken,

z= b and x or y

works just the same so long as x evaluates to True, as it will be

Feel free to write your own from scratch, and we'll see how close
Python can come to resembling it.

I suppose you can compare it to someone who stops listening before the
word 'if', and completely misunderstands your statement.  "Feed the
dog if he's standing near the food dish" != "Feed the dog", which can
of course lead to errors of both omission and commission (doing too
little -or- too much).  There's no way to fix that in a guaranteed
way, except to say, "listen to the whole statement".

And strictly sarcastically, what did you want to do with reading the
program?  Why were you reading it?  <snicker, ducks>

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