Practice

Functions

Let’s try creating a basic function. Use tab to intent the second line, and press enter on an empty line to finish the function.

>>> def add_numbers(x, y):
...     return x + y
... # Press Enter

Now let’s try our new function. Type this into your REPL:

>>> add_numbers(1, 2)
# Let's use the string formatting we learned in the last chapter
>>> print(f"The sum of 1 and 2 is {add_numbers(1, 2)}")
Here's what you should have seen in your REPL:

The Importance of Whitespace

Here’s an error that you’ll become very familiar with during your career as a Pythonista, the IndentationError. Whitespace is important for defining function scope in python, so missing or extra indentations or spaces will cause the runtime to throw this error. Let’s redefine our add_numbers function, but we’ll forget to indent the second line, return x + y. Notice that the second line is directly under (at the same indentation level) as the def:

>>> def add_numbers(x, y):
... return x + y
  File "<stdin>", line 2
    return x + y
         ^
IndentationError: expected an indented block

Notice how the runtime tells us the line that failed (line 2), gives you a copy of the line with an arrow pointing to the offending error (return x + y), and then tells you the error (IndentationError) with additional information (expected an indented block).

Function Scope

As we saw earlier, scoping in Python happens with whitespace. Let’s see this in action:

>>> x = 1
>>> y = 2
>>> def add_numbers(x, y):
...     print(f"Inside the function, x = {x} and y = {y}")
...     return x + y
...
>>> print(f"Outside the function, x = {x} and y = {y}")
>>> print(f"The sum of 5 and 6 is {add_numbers(5, 6)}")
Here's what you should have seen in your REPL:

Positional Arguments vs Keyword Arguments

The x and y arguments for our add_numbers() function are called positional arguments. Python also lets us declare keyword arguments. Keyword arguments are great for setting default values, because passing them is optional. Just remember that keyword arguments must come after any positional arguments. Let’s make a more generic function for doing math:

>>> def calculate_numbers(x, y, operation="add"):
...     if operation == "add":
...         return x + y
...     elif operation == "subtract":
...         return x - y
...
# Let's try our new function. Remember, if we don't pass the operation keyword argument, the default is "add"
>>> calculate_numbers(2, 3)
# You can pass a keyword argument as a normal positional argument
>>> calculate_numbers(2, 3, "subtract")
# You can also use the argument's keyword. This helps with readability
>>> calculate_numbers(2, 3, operation="subtract")
Here's what you should have seen in your REPL: