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# question about what lamda does

 P: n/a Hey there, i have been learning python for the past few months, but i can seem to get what exactly a lamda is for. What would i use a lamda for that i could not or would not use a def for ? Is there a notable difference ? I only ask because i see it in code samples on the internet and in books. thanks for any clarity sk Jul 18 '06 #1
16 Replies

 P: n/a ne*****@xit.net wrote: Hey there, i have been learning python for the past few months, but i can seem to get what exactly a lamda is for. It defines a function. f = lambda x, y: expression is equivalent to def f(x, y): return expression Note that lambda is an expression while def is a statement. What would i use a lamda for that i could not or would not use a def for ? Is there a notable difference ? I only ask because i see it in code samples on the internet and in books. Lambdas are typically used as parameters to functions that take functions as arguments, like property() and reduce(). You never *need* to use one, but sometimes it's convenient. Jul 18 '06 #2

 P: n/a ok, i think i get it. pretty cool. thanks -sk Dan Bishop wrote: ne*****@xit.net wrote: Hey there, i have been learning python for the past few months, but i can seem to get what exactly a lamda is for. It defines a function. f = lambda x, y: expression is equivalent to def f(x, y): return expression Note that lambda is an expression while def is a statement. What would i use a lamda for that i could not or would not use a def for ? Is there a notable difference ? I only ask because i see it in code samples on the internet and in books. Lambdas are typically used as parameters to functions that take functions as arguments, like property() and reduce(). You never *need* to use one, but sometimes it's convenient. Jul 18 '06 #3

 P: n/a Use it anywhere a quick definition of a function is needed that can be written as an expression. For example when a callback function is needed you could say: def callback(x,y): return x*y some_function(when_done_call_this=callback) But with lambda you could just write some_function(when_done_call_this=lambda x,y:x*y) Note: because it is an _expression_ you cannot do stuff like 'if..else' inside of lambda. -Nick V. ne*****@xit.net wrote: Hey there, i have been learning python for the past few months, but i can seem to get what exactly a lamda is for. What would i use a lamda for that i could not or would not use a def for ? Is there a notable difference ? I only ask because i see it in code samples on the internet and in books. thanks for any clarity sk Jul 18 '06 #4

 P: n/a so a lamda needs to stay at one expression, and use more than one lamda for more expressions ? i think i get it. sk Nick Vatamaniuc wrote: Use it anywhere a quick definition of a function is needed that can be written as an expression. For example when a callback function is needed you could say: def callback(x,y): return x*y some_function(when_done_call_this=callback) But with lambda you could just write some_function(when_done_call_this=lambda x,y:x*y) Note: because it is an _expression_ you cannot do stuff like 'if..else' inside of lambda. -Nick V. ne*****@xit.net wrote: Hey there, i have been learning python for the past few months, but i can seem to get what exactly a lamda is for. What would i use a lamda for that i could not or would not use a def for ? Is there a notable difference ? I only ask because i see it in code samples on the internet and in books. thanks for any clarity sk Jul 18 '06 #5

 P: n/a The two primary differences between using def and using lambda is that lambda is limited to a single expression and def cannot be used within another function. Basically, use lambda when you need to define a small function within another function. I've also used it to create 'shortcut' functions as: bar = lambda a, b: object1.object2.function1( a ).function2( b ) foo = bar( somevalue1, somevalue2 ) It can save you a lot of typing if used wisely, and makes your code smaller and neater too :) On a real world example: import random roll_die = lambda sides=6: random.choice( range(1,sides+1) ) # roll dies with 4, 6, and 20 sides print roll_die(4), roll_die(), roll_die(20) Have fun with your lambdas. greb ne*****@xit.net wrote: Hey there, i have been learning python for the past few months, but i can seem to get what exactly a lamda is for. What would i use a lamda for that i could not or would not use a def for ? Is there a notable difference ? I only ask because i see it in code samples on the internet and in books. thanks for any clarity sk Jul 18 '06 #6

 P: n/a gr******@gmail.com wrote: The two primary differences between using def and using lambda is that lambda is limited to a single expression and def cannot be used within another function. 'def' can certainly be used within another function : def make_adder( delta ) : def adder( x ) : return x + delta return adder [sreeram;] -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE----- Version: GnuPG v1.4.2.2 (MingW32) Comment: Using GnuPG with Mozilla - http://enigmail.mozdev.org iD8DBQFEvQNjrgn0plK5qqURAjQxAKCMz0WV/0ZAfW/en4IVHGMztxzWdQCgrYWH rOS510r1w1GTDB+5Nqj1cFQ= =ISgg -----END PGP SIGNATURE----- Jul 18 '06 #7

 P: n/a gr******@gmail.com wrote: The two primary differences between using def and using lambda is that lambda is limited to a single expression and def cannot be used within another function. Where on earth did you get that from? I presume you mean "You can't use a def statement as an argument to a function"? There is nothing wrong with def adder(x): def func(y): return x+y return func for example. Then adder(5) returns a function that returns 5 more than its argument. regards Steve -- Steve Holden +44 150 684 7255 +1 800 494 3119 Holden Web LLC/Ltd http://www.holdenweb.com Skype: holdenweb http://holdenweb.blogspot.com Recent Ramblings http://del.icio.us/steve.holden Jul 18 '06 #8

 P: n/a ne*****@xit.net wrote: Hey there, i have been learning python for the past few months, but i can seem to get what exactly a lamda is for. What would i use a lamda for that i could not or would not use a def for ? Is there a notable difference ? I only ask because i see it in code samples on the internet and in books. Lambda is just as powerful as a function, but totally useless =-P Lambda used to be handy before the introduction of list comprehensions. Now, though, there primary use is obfuscating your code. Jul 18 '06 #9

 P: n/a I stand corrected. Not sure where I got that from, improper defragmentation due to sleep depravation perhaps... K.S.Sreeram wrote: gr******@gmail.com wrote: The two primary differences between using def and using lambda is that lambda is limited to a single expression and def cannot be used within another function. 'def' can certainly be used within another function : def make_adder( delta ) : def adder( x ) : return x + delta return adder [sreeram;] --------------enigFDB411206B54B101CC680F5A Content-Type: application/pgp-signature Content-Disposition: inline; filename="signature.asc" Content-Description: OpenPGP digital signature X-Google-AttachSize: 253 Jul 18 '06 #10

 P: n/a tac-tics wrote: ne*****@xit.net wrote: >>Hey there,i have been learning python for the past few months, but i can seem toget what exactly a lamda is for. What would i use a lamda for that icould not or would not use a def for ? Is there a notable difference ?I only ask because i see it in code samples on the internet and inbooks. Lambda is just as powerful as a function, but totally useless =-P Lambda used to be handy before the introduction of list comprehensions. Now, though, there primary use is obfuscating your code. I do wish you could hold yourself back and stop muddying the waters. Lambdas and list comprehensions have little or nothing to do with each other. Unless you know something I don't ... regards Steve -- Steve Holden +44 150 684 7255 +1 800 494 3119 Holden Web LLC/Ltd http://www.holdenweb.com Skype: holdenweb http://holdenweb.blogspot.com Recent Ramblings http://del.icio.us/steve.holden Jul 19 '06 #11

 P: n/a Steve Holden wrote: tac-tics wrote: ne*****@xit.net wrote: >Hey there,i have been learning python for the past few months, but i can seem toget what exactly a lamda is for. What would i use a lamda for that icould not or would not use a def for ? Is there a notable difference ?I only ask because i see it in code samples on the internet and inbooks. Lambda is just as powerful as a function, but totally useless =-P Lambda used to be handy before the introduction of list comprehensions. Now, though, there primary use is obfuscating your code. I do wish you could hold yourself back and stop muddying the waters. Lambdas and list comprehensions have little or nothing to do with each other. Unless you know something I don't ... I think he meant that lambda's main use before was inside map and filter; as stated earlier in the thread, lambda's main use was for passing simple functions as arguments, and of these map and filter must have made up a majority (and then I'd guess TKinter would be next). List comprehensions replace map and filter, so... I wouldn't put it as explosively as he has, but I find a lambda less clear than a def too. Iain regards Steve -- Steve Holden +44 150 684 7255 +1 800 494 3119 Holden Web LLC/Ltd http://www.holdenweb.com Skype: holdenweb http://holdenweb.blogspot.com Recent Ramblings http://del.icio.us/steve.holden Jul 19 '06 #12

 P: n/a ne*****@xit.net wrote: Hey there, i have been learning python for the past few months, but i can seem to get what exactly a lamda is for. What would i use a lamda for that i could not or would not use a def for ? Is there a notable difference ? I only ask because i see it in code samples on the internet and in books. thanks for any clarity sk hehe. Lambda's are kind of a sensative subject for pythoners who come from Lisp. Guido being more of a C guy doesn't really like them, and thought they should be removed in py3k. Last time I checked, he was reconsidering because of public outcry, presumably from the Lisp crowd. The standard reason for getting rid of it is "anywhere you need a lambda, you can use a def". In addition to what has been said here, there is another one small difference between lambda's and functions, which is that when you use def, the object gets a name: >>def foo(): pass .... >>foo # ^ foo knows its own name >>bar # ^ see ;) >>> Whereas, a lambda has no name; it's "anonymous": >>spam = lambda: 1spam # ^ spam has an identity crisis ;) >>> Many people who do not come from Lisp do not understand what the use of a lambda is (and I have no idea what the purpose of having a name is). Even people who do question whether it belongs in Python. In Lisp, lambda's are the way things get done, because you can calculate anything using just defines and expressions. This style does not fit Python very well, since we do things using statements. Python's lambda really can't be as powerful as Lisp's because Python does not have expressions that do case analysis (this is not lambda's fault, of course ;). The reason is that you really want to put each case on its own set of lines. This enhances readability at the expense of terseness. Since Python's statements are terminated by a newline, it would be rather awkward to have a kind of expression where good style calls for it to be spread out accross multiple lines. You can try to simulate these kinds expressions using into a list or dictionary, but this becomes rather messy. I think the only way to get this done properly is to use eval. For example: def recursiveFunction(args): ... # do stuff... choices = { True:"0", False:"recurisveFunction(newArgs)" } return eval( choices[predicate] ) The reason that you need eval is that you want to prevent any cases from being executed until you decide which one you want. This stay of execution is accomplished by wrapping quotes around our expressions. This example illustrates why we really need this kind of behavior, because without it, we would fall into an infinite loop. Even if it were safe to evaluate all cases, it's a big waste of time to do so. Lastly, I think there is also a performance concern for certain uses of lambda (correct me if I'm wrong). Say you have an expression with a lambda in it where you could have used a def. Every time you evaluate that expression, you have to construct a new lambda object, which takes time. If you had used a def instead, you could hav avoided having to construct multiple times. Jul 20 '06 #13

 P: n/a hey thanks for that last post, although some of it was a bit over my head. i think i am getting more of the differences here. thanks again, sk danielx wrote: ne*****@xit.net wrote: Hey there, i have been learning python for the past few months, but i can seem to get what exactly a lamda is for. What would i use a lamda for that i could not or would not use a def for ? Is there a notable difference ? I only ask because i see it in code samples on the internet and in books. thanks for any clarity sk hehe. Lambda's are kind of a sensative subject for pythoners who come from Lisp. Guido being more of a C guy doesn't really like them, and thought they should be removed in py3k. Last time I checked, he was reconsidering because of public outcry, presumably from the Lisp crowd. The standard reason for getting rid of it is "anywhere you need a lambda, you can use a def". In addition to what has been said here, there is another one small difference between lambda's and functions, which is that when you use def, the object gets a name: >def foo(): pass ... >foo # ^ foo knows its own name >bar # ^ see ;) >> Whereas, a lambda has no name; it's "anonymous": >spam = lambda: 1spam # ^ spam has an identity crisis ;) >> Many people who do not come from Lisp do not understand what the use of a lambda is (and I have no idea what the purpose of having a name is). Even people who do question whether it belongs in Python. In Lisp, lambda's are the way things get done, because you can calculate anything using just defines and expressions. This style does not fit Python very well, since we do things using statements. Python's lambda really can't be as powerful as Lisp's because Python does not have expressions that do case analysis (this is not lambda's fault, of course ;). The reason is that you really want to put each case on its own set of lines. This enhances readability at the expense of terseness. Since Python's statements are terminated by a newline, it would be rather awkward to have a kind of expression where good style calls for it to be spread out accross multiple lines. You can try to simulate these kinds expressions using into a list or dictionary, but this becomes rather messy. I think the only way to get this done properly is to use eval. For example: def recursiveFunction(args): ... # do stuff... choices = { True:"0", False:"recurisveFunction(newArgs)" } return eval( choices[predicate] ) The reason that you need eval is that you want to prevent any cases from being executed until you decide which one you want. This stay of execution is accomplished by wrapping quotes around our expressions. This example illustrates why we really need this kind of behavior, because without it, we would fall into an infinite loop. Even if it were safe to evaluate all cases, it's a big waste of time to do so. Lastly, I think there is also a performance concern for certain uses of lambda (correct me if I'm wrong). Say you have an expression with a lambda in it where you could have used a def. Every time you evaluate that expression, you have to construct a new lambda object, which takes time. If you had used a def instead, you could hav avoided having to construct multiple times. Jul 20 '06 #14

 P: n/a danielx wrote: (snip) Python's lambda really can't be as powerful as Lisp's because Python does not have expressions that do case analysis (this is not lambda's fault, of course ;). The reason is that you really want to put each case on its own set of lines. This enhances readability at the expense of terseness. Since Python's statements are terminated by a newline, it would be rather awkward to have a kind of expression where good style calls for it to be spread out accross multiple lines. You can try to simulate these kinds expressions using into a list or dictionary, but this becomes rather messy. I think the only way to get this done properly is to use eval. For example: def recursiveFunction(args): ... # do stuff... choices = { True:"0", False:"recurisveFunction(newArgs)" } return eval( choices[predicate] ) Why do you want to use eval here ? The reason that you need eval is that you want to prevent any cases from being executed until you decide which one you want. What about: def recursiveFunction(args): ... # do stuff... ... # that defines 'newArgs' and 'predicate' of course ... return (recursiveFunction, lambda x: 0)[predicate](newArgs) -- bruno desthuilliers python -c "print '@'.join(['.'.join([w[::-1] for w in p.split('.')]) for p in 'o****@xiludom.gro'.split('@')])" Jul 20 '06 #15

 P: n/a Bruno Desthuilliers wrote: danielx wrote: (snip) Python's lambda really can't be as powerful as Lisp's because Python does not have expressions that do case analysis (this is not lambda's fault, of course ;). The reason is that you really want to put each case on its own set of lines. This enhances readability at the expense of terseness. Since Python's statements are terminated by a newline, it would be rather awkward to have a kind of expression where good style calls for it to be spread out accross multiple lines. You can try to simulate these kinds expressions using into a list or dictionary, but this becomes rather messy. I think the only way to get this done properly is to use eval. For example: def recursiveFunction(args): ... # do stuff... choices = { True:"0", False:"recurisveFunction(newArgs)" } return eval( choices[predicate] ) Why do you want to use eval here ? The reason that you need eval is that you want to prevent any cases from being executed until you decide which one you want. What about: def recursiveFunction(args): ... # do stuff... ... # that defines 'newArgs' and 'predicate' of course ... return (recursiveFunction, lambda x: 0)[predicate](newArgs) Sure, that works, but don't take things so literally. For instance, if you have a bunch of cases, you might not way to apply the same set of arguments to all of them. Also, let's not get distracted from the main point about how doing case analysis in an expression is ugly, making lambda's weaker in Python than in the language which inspired them. > -- bruno desthuilliers python -c "print '@'.join(['.'.join([w[::-1] for w in p.split('.')]) for p in 'o****@xiludom.gro'.split('@')])" Jul 20 '06 #16

 P: n/a danielx wrote: Bruno Desthuilliers wrote: >>danielx wrote:(snip) >>>Python's lambda really can't be as powerful as Lisp's because Pythondoes not have expressions that do case analysis (this is not lambda'sfault, of course ;). The reason is that you really want to put eachcase on its own set of lines. An expression can span several lines. This enhances readability at the expense >>>of terseness. Since Python's statements are terminated by a newline, or by a ';' it >>>would be rather awkward to have a kind of expression where good stylecalls for it to be spread out accross multiple lines. I must be pretty dumb, but I don't see how this relate to the problem of case analysis in lambda expressions ? >>>You can try to simulate these kinds expressions using into a list ordictionary, but this becomes rather messy. I think the only way to getthis done properly is to use eval. For example:def recursiveFunction(args): ... # do stuff... choices = { True:"0", False:"recurisveFunction(newArgs)" } return eval( choices[predicate] ) Why do you want to use eval here ? >>>The reason that you need eval is that you want to prevent any casesfrom being executed until you decide which one you want. What about:def recursiveFunction(args): ... # do stuff... ... # that defines 'newArgs' and 'predicate' of course ... return (recursiveFunction, lambda x: 0)[predicate](newArgs) Sure, that works, but don't take things so literally. Sorry for being pragmatic !-) For instance, if you have a bunch of cases, you might not way to apply the same set of arguments to all of them. return { 'case1' : lambda: someFunc(args1), 'case2' : lambda: someFunc(args2), 'case3' : lambda: someOtherFunc(args1, arg42), }.get(predicate, lambda: 0)() Still no need for eval()... Now of course there are limits to the exercice, and we're still far away from ML-like pattern matching or Lisp 'case' forms. As you noted, Python is a statement-based language, not an expression-based one like Lisp. This makes a definitive difference. Also, let's not get distracted from the main point about how doing case analysis in an expression is ugly, Ugliness is in the eyes of the beholder making lambda's weaker in Python than in the language which inspired them. The fact is that Python "lambdas" are *not* Lisp lambdas. Python "lambdas" are mostly a handy trick to turn a *simple* expression into a closure - and definitively not a basic building block of the language. Daniel, I of course do agree that Python lambdas are nothing near Lisp lambdas - FWIW, Python is not Lisp neither -, but that looks like an apple and banana comparison to me... IMHO, the most obvious problem with Python lambdas is the word "lambda" !-) -- bruno desthuilliers python -c "print '@'.join(['.'.join([w[::-1] for w in p.split('.')]) for p in 'o****@xiludom.gro'.split('@')])" Jul 21 '06 #17

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