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Mastering Python's Conditional Operator


Python Conditional Operator

Introduction to the if Statement

The if statement is a fundamental control structure in Python that allows for conditional execution of statements or groups of statements based on the value of an expression. In its simplest form, the if statement looks like this:

if <expr>:

In this form:

  • <expr> is an expression evaluated in a Boolean context.
  • <statement> is a valid Python statement, which must be indented.

If <expr> evaluates to True (or any truthy value), then <statement> is executed. If <expr> evaluates to False (or any falsy value), then <statement> is skipped over and not executed.

Here are some examples of the if statement:

x = 0
y = 5
if x < y: # Truthy
if y < x: # Falsy

In the first example, since x is less than y, the expression x < y evaluates to True, so the print statement is executed and “yes” is printed. In the second example, since y is not less than x, the expression y < x evaluates to False, so the print statement is skipped.

Grouping Statements: Indentation and Blocks

In Python, grouping statements together into compound statements or blocks is done using indentation. This is a distinctive feature of the Python language.

Python: It’s All About the Indentation

In most programming languages, blocks of code are usually enclosed within curly braces {} or some other symbols. However, in Python, indents are used to define the beginning and end of a block.

For example, in the following code snippet, the block of code inside the if statement is indented:

if x < y:
print('x is less than y')
print('doing something else')

The code inside the if statement will only be executed if the condition is true. All the statements indented under the if statement are part of the block.

What Do Other Languages Do?

In contrast, many other popular programming languages use curly braces to denote blocks. For example, here is how the same code would look in C++:

if (x < y) {
cout << "x is less than y" << endl;
cout << "doing something else" << endl;

The opening and closing curly braces {} serve as the delimiters for the block. The advantage of this syntax is that it makes the block more visually distinct.

Which Is Better?

The choice between indentation-based block delimiters and curly braces is largely a matter of personal preference. Some developers prefer the clear visual structure provided by curly braces, while others appreciate the simplicity and readability of Python’s indentation-based approach.

The else and elif Clauses

In addition to the if statement, Python also provides the else and elif clauses to handle alternative cases.

  • The else clause allows you to specify statements to be executed when the if condition is False.
  • The elif clause (short for “else if”) allows you to specify additional conditions to check if the previous if or elif conditions are False. You can have multiple elif statements.

Here’s an example that demonstrates the use of else and elif:

x = 10
y = 5
if x > y:
print('x is greater than y')
elif x < y:
print('x is less than y')
print('x is equal to y')

In this example, the first if condition is true (x > y), so the corresponding print statement is executed. If the first if condition were False, the program would check the next elif condition (x < y). If that condition were true, its corresponding print statement would be executed. If none of the conditions were true, the else block would be executed.

One-Line if Statements

Python also allows for one-line if statements, where the entire if statement is written on a single line. This can be useful for simple, concise checks.

The syntax is as follows:

if <expr>: <statement>

Here’s an example:

x = 5
if x > 0: print('x is positive')

In this example, if x is greater than 0, the print statement is executed.

Conditional Expressions (Python’s Ternary Operator)

Python provides a conditional expression, also known as the ternary operator, that allows you to write a shorter version of an if statement in a single line.

The syntax is as follows:

<expr1> if <condition> else <expr2>

Here’s an example:

x = 5
result = 'positive' if x > 0 else 'negative'

In this example, if x is greater than 0, the value of result will be set to 'positive'. Otherwise, it will be set to 'negative'. The value of result is then printed.

The Python pass Statement

Sometimes, you may need to include an empty block in your code. Python’s pass statement is a placeholder statement that does nothing. It is used when a statement is required syntactically but you don’t want to perform any actions.

Here’s an example:

x = 5
if x > 0:

In this example, the pass statement serves as a placeholder for future code that will be added to the block if the condition is true.


In this tutorial, you learned about the if statement and its various features in Python. You saw how control structures allow for conditional execution of code based on the value of an expression. You also learned about the use of indentation to define blocks and the optional else and elif clauses for handling alternative cases. Additionally, you explored one-line if statements, conditional expressions, and the pass statement.

By mastering the if statement and its related concepts, you now have a powerful tool for making decisions and controlling the flow of your Python programs.