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Invalid Syntax: Simplified Python Error Fix


Invalid Syntax in Python: Common Reasons for SyntaxError

Python is known for its simple syntax. However, when you’re learning Python for the first time or if you come from a background in another programming language, you may encounter some syntax errors. This guide will help you identify common examples of invalid syntax in Python and show you how to resolve these issues.

By the end of this tutorial, you’ll be able to:

  • Identify invalid syntax in Python
  • Understand SyntaxError tracebacks
  • Resolve or prevent invalid syntax errors

Invalid Syntax in Python

Before executing your Python code, the interpreter first parses it and converts it into Python bytecode. During this parsing stage, known as the “parsing stage,” the interpreter identifies any invalid syntax in Python. If the interpreter encounters invalid syntax, it means that you have used incorrect syntax in your code. The interpreter will try to pinpoint where the error occurred.

It can be frustrating to receive a SyntaxError when running your Python code, especially when you are learning Python for the first time. Python will attempt to help you locate the invalid syntax in your code by providing a traceback. However, the traceback can sometimes be confusing, and the code it points to may actually be correct.

Note: If your code is syntactically correct, you may encounter other exceptions that are not SyntaxError. To learn more about Python’s other exceptions and how to handle them, refer to the tutorial on Python Exceptions: An Introduction.

You cannot handle invalid syntax in Python using try-except blocks. Even if you try to wrap your code with invalid syntax in a try-except block, the interpreter will still raise a SyntaxError.

SyntaxError Exception and Traceback

When the interpreter encounters invalid syntax in Python code, it raises a SyntaxError exception and provides a traceback with useful information to help you debug the error. Let’s look at an example of code with invalid syntax:
ages = {
'pam': 24,
'jim': 24
'michael': 43
print(f'Michael is {ages["michael"]} years old.')

In this example, the invalid syntax can be found in the dictionary literal on line 4. The second entry, 'jim', is missing a comma. If you try to run this code as is, you will receive the following traceback:

Traceback (most recent call last):
File "", line 5, in <module>
'michael': 43
File "", line 5, in <dictcomp>
'michael': 43
SyntaxError: invalid syntax

The traceback indicates that the SyntaxError occurred on line 5 because of the missing comma. It helps you pinpoint the location of the error.

When you encounter a SyntaxError, it is important to carefully review the traceback provided by Python. It will assist you in identifying the source of the error and guide you in resolving it.

Common Syntax Problems

Here are some common examples of invalid syntax in Python and how to fix them:

Misusing the Assignment Operator (=)

One common mistake is mistakenly using the assignment operator (=) instead of the equality operator (==) in an if statement. For example:

x = 5
if x = 5:
print("x is equal to 5")

This will result in a SyntaxError because you should use == in the if statement condition:

x = 5
if x == 5:
print("x is equal to 5")

Misspelling, Missing, or Misusing Python Keywords

Misspelling Python keywords or using them incorrectly can cause SyntaxError. For example:

whiile True:
print("This will cause a SyntaxError")

Here, “whiile” is a misspelling of the keyword “while.” You should correct the spelling to fix the error:

while True:
print("No more SyntaxError!")

Missing Parentheses, Brackets, and Quotes

Missing parentheses, brackets, or quotes can also result in SyntaxError. For example:

print("This will cause a SyntaxError)

Here, the closing quote is missing, causing a SyntaxError. To fix it, add the missing quote:

print("No more SyntaxError!")

Mistaking Dictionary Syntax

Misusing dictionary syntax can lead to SyntaxError. For example:

my_dict = {key:value,key:value,key:value:}

The extra colon after the last key-value pair causes a SyntaxError. To resolve it, remove the extra colon:

my_dict = {key:value,key:value,key:value}

Using the Wrong Indentation

Python relies on proper indentation to define blocks of code. Using incorrect indentation can result in SyntaxError. For example:

def my_function():
print("This will cause a SyntaxError")

Here, the code inside the function should be indented. Properly indenting the code will fix the error:

def my_function():
print("No more SyntaxError!")

Defining and Calling Functions

Syntax errors can occur when defining or calling functions. For example:

def my_function()
print("This will cause a SyntaxError")

In the function definition, the parentheses are missing, and when calling the function, the parentheses are missing as well. Correcting the syntax will resolve the issue:

def my_function():
print("No more SyntaxError!")

Changing Python Versions

If you are running code written in a different version of Python, there may be syntax differences that cause SyntaxError. Check for any incompatible syntax and update it accordingly.


When writing Python code, understanding and resolving invalid syntax errors is crucial. By identifying common examples of invalid syntax in Python, reviewing SyntaxError tracebacks, and applying the appropriate fixes, you can write code that is free of syntax errors.