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Effortlessly Mastering the Return Function in Python

The Python return Statement: Usage and Best Practices

The Python return statement is a fundamental component of functions and methods. It allows you to send objects back to the caller code, known as the function’s return value. In this tutorial, you will learn how to effectively use the return statement in your Python functions, including returning single or multiple values, and best practices to observe.

Getting Started With Python Functions

In Python, you can define your own named code blocks called functions. Functions allow you to perform a specific computation and reuse that code block in different parts of your program. They can be referred to as subroutines, routines, procedures, or functions in other programming languages.

To define a function in Python, you use the def keyword followed by the function name, a pair of parentheses, and a colon. Here’s an example:

def my_function():
# your code here

You can then call the function by using its name followed by parentheses. For example:


Understanding the Python return Statement

The return statement is used within a function to indicate that the function should stop executing and return a value. It allows you to send the specified object or objects back to the caller code. The return statement can be used in different ways based on your specific needs.

Explicit return Statements

An explicit return statement is used to specify the object that should be returned from the function. It is written with the return keyword followed by the object or expression you want to return. Here’s an example:

def add_numbers(a, b):
return a + b

In this example, the function add_numbers takes two parameters a and b. The return statement adds the two parameters together and returns the result.

Implicit return Statements

An implicit return statement happens when there is no explicit return statement in the function. In this case, the function automatically returns None. Here’s an example:

def say_hello():
print("Hello, world!")

In this example, the function say_hello prints the greeting message but does not have an explicit return statement. Therefore, calling say_hello() will return None.

Returning vs Printing

It’s important to understand the difference between returning a value from a function and printing a value within a function. Returning a value allows you to use that value in further computations or assignments outside of the function. On the other hand, printing a value within a function only displays the value on the console but does not make it available outside of the function.

Here’s an example that demonstrates the difference:

def get_square(num):
return num ** 2
def print_square(num):
print(num ** 2)
result = get_square(3)
print(result) # Output: 9
print_square(3) # Output: 9

In this example, the function get_square returns the square of a number, while the function print_square only prints the square of a number. The returned value from get_square can be assigned to a variable and used in further computations, while the printed value from print_square is simply displayed on the console.

Returning Multiple Values

Python allows you to return multiple values from a function using tuples or other iterable objects. You can specify multiple objects separated by commas after the return keyword. Here’s an example:

def get_dimensions(length, width, height):
volume = length * width * height
surface_area = 2 * (length * width + length * height + width * height)
return volume, surface_area
dimensions = get_dimensions(2, 3, 4)
print(dimensions) # Output: (24, 52)

In this example, the function get_dimensions calculates the volume and surface area of a rectangular prism based on its length, width, and height. It returns both values as a tuple, and the caller code can then access each value by indexing the tuple.

Using the Python return Statement: Best Practices

When using the return statement in your functions, it is important to follow some best practices to write clean and maintainable code.

Returning None Explicitly

If a function does not explicitly return a value, it automatically returns None. However, it is considered good practice to include an explicit return None statement at the end of such functions to make the code more readable and self-explanatory.

Remembering the Return Value

When calling a function that returns a value, it’s important to assign that returned value to a variable or use it in further computations. By capturing the returned value, you can make your code more expressive and avoid losing important data.

Avoiding Complex Expressions

It is generally recommended to keep the expressions used in return statements simple and easy to understand. Avoid complex computations or nested function calls in a single return statement. Instead, break down the logic into smaller steps or helper functions to improve code readability and maintainability.

Returning Values vs Modifying Globals

In general, it is considered better practice to return values from functions instead of modifying global variables. Modifying global variables can make the code harder to understand and debug, as it introduces dependencies on external state. Returning values from functions makes your code more modular and easier to test and reuse.

Using return With Conditionals

You can use conditional statements, such as if and else, to control the flow of your function and determine what should be returned based on different conditions. This allows you to handle different scenarios and return specific values or perform different computations as needed.

Returning True or False

In many cases, it can be useful to return a boolean value from a function. This allows you to indicate whether a condition is true or false based on certain criteria. For example, a function that checks if a number is prime can return True if the number is prime, and False otherwise.

Short-Circuiting Loops

Loops can be used within functions to iterate over a sequence of values or perform a certain operation multiple times. If a desired condition is met during the loop, you can use the return statement to immediately exit the function and return a value. This is known as short-circuiting the loop.

Recognizing Dead Code

Dead code is any code that is never executed because it lies after a return statement. It can occur when a return statement is placed within a loop or conditional statement. You should be aware of dead code in your functions and ensure that it does not affect the functionality or efficiency of your code.

Returning Multiple Named-Objects

Python allows you to return multiple values from a function by specifying multiple objects separated by commas. You can also assign names to these objects using multiple assignment. This makes the returned values more readable and allows the caller code to access each value by its assigned name.


The Python return statement is a powerful tool that allows you to send objects back to the caller code from your functions. It enables you to write more expressive and modular code by returning single or multiple values, controlling the flow of your functions, and following best practices. By understanding how to use the return statement effectively, you can write more Pythonic and robust code.