Conditions and Conditionals


Conditions are things that can be True or False. For instance, the expression x < 3 which is True if x is the name of a number less than 3 and False otherwise.

Conditionals are things that depend on conditions. The most important kind of conditional in Python is the if statement, which lets you do one thing or another depending on whether a condition is True.

This sheet tells you about conditions and conditionals.


Try typing these things in. We haven’t shown the answers, because you’ll learn better if you try them.

>>> 1 < 2   # 1 is less then 2, so this condition is True
>>> 1 > 2   # 1 is not greater than 2, so this condition is False

True and False (be sure to capitalize the first letter) represent the truth value of conditions. They are special Python values used for things that are either True or False.

You can actually use other things as truth values. We don’t recommend this, though; it’s just likely to be confusing.


Most conditions are comparisons of one object with another. Here’s a brief list of ways to compare things in Python.

a < b
True if a is less than b
a <= b
True if a is less than or equal to b
a > b
True if a is greater than b
a >= b
True if a is greater than or equal to b
a == b
True if a is equal to b
a != b
True if a is not equal to b

It’s pretty obvious what these things mean when a and b are numbers. But they make sense for other sorts of objects, too. For instance, strings are compared in something rather like alphabetical order. In fact, you can compare any two objects, though many of the possible comparisons are very silly. For instance, it turns out that Python thinks that 3 is less than 'silly'.

Be careful, by the way, to notice the difference between = and ==. You use = for setting a variable (i.e., giving a name to an object), and == for testing whether two things are equal.

Combining comparisons

You can say things like 1 < x < 2, meaning 1 is less than x, and x is less than 2 .

Other conditions

Here are some other useful conditions.

Always False
any non-zero number
Always True
x in y
True if x is equal to some element of y
x not in y
True if x is not equal to any element of y
an empty list, tuple, or dictionary ( [], (), or {})
Always False
a list, tuple, or dictionary that is not empty
Always True

(note: For in and not in, y should be a sequence: that is, a list or a tuple or a string.)

Combining conditions

You can join conditions together using the words and, or and not So, for instance, x < 3 and y > 6 is a condition.

The if statement

So, now we know about conditions. One very important thing we can do with them is to use them in an if statement. This is pretty straightforward:

if x < 3:
    print("x is less than 3. I'm setting it to 3.")
    x = 3

Often, you want to do one thing if a condition is True and another thing if the condition is False. To do this, use the magic word else:

if x < 3:
    print("x is less than 3.")
    print("x is not less than 3.")

And, less often, you want to test a whole bunch of conditions and do something according to the first one that comes out True. For this, you need the strange word elif, which is short for else if:

if x < 3:
    print("x is less than 3")
elif x < 4:
    print("x is not less than 3, but it's less than 4.")
    print("x isn't even less than 4.")

Other uses of conditions

Conditions are also used in while loops: to learn about those, see Sheet L (Loops).