By y2k

2009-11-11 00:30:54 8 Comments


items = []

items.amount()  # Should return 3

How do I get the number of elements in the list?


@Jonathan Komar 2017-12-06 18:14:14

And for completeness, it is possible without using the len() function (I would not condone this as a good option):

def count(list):
  item_count = 0
  for item in list[:]:
    item_count = item_count + 1
  return item_count


(The colon in list[:] is implicit and is therefore also optional.)

@S. Salman 2018-03-23 17:32:19

Where did the OP say that he doesn't want to use the len() function?

@Jonathan Komar 2018-03-23 17:33:37

@GeorgeJ.Adams Where is your creative thinking cap? My answer answers the OP, albeit differently. We value a multiplicity of answers here at StackExchange, right?

@S. Salman 2018-03-23 17:37:40

Agreed. But the thing is in this case there is no reason to use your code v. the one liner. It it computationally faster? Is it easier to program this way? Multiple answers are welcome if they show a new dimension.

@Jonathan Komar 2018-04-05 15:49:30

@GeorgeJ.Adams I agree. But that is also not a reason to downvote this answer. I stand by my diversity argument.

@Brandon Ling 2018-05-25 18:35:50

@Jonathan Komar i disagree, if the OP was looking for creative non-efficient ways of doing it, he would have specified. Some questions can be answered 1 million different ways, but no one wants to read thru 1 million different answers

@Jonathan Komar 2018-05-25 20:01:48

@BrandonLing You’re entitled to that opinion. That is what the voting system is for. You made a bold statement however: “no one wants...” Maybe some people want multiple approaches to better understand the best solution.

@Brandon Ling 2018-05-26 14:55:40

@JonathanKomar Let me rephrase. People come to this question for the same objective of the OP. If people wanted creative ways for solving the issue, it would probably go under a different question or forum. Alternative solutions make sense when the best answer has some type of limitation. When will this answer ever make sense over the best answer? Why not just give an answer written in binary?

@MSeifert 2017-04-07 19:03:33

Besides len you can also use operator.length_hint (requires Python 3.4+). For a normal list both are equivalent, but length_hint makes it possible to get the length of a list-iterator, which could be useful in certain circumstances:

>>> from operator import length_hint
>>> l = ["apple", "orange", "banana"]
>>> len(l)
>>> length_hint(l)

>>> list_iterator = iter(l)
>>> len(list_iterator)
TypeError: object of type 'list_iterator' has no len()
>>> length_hint(list_iterator)

But length_hint is by definition only a "hint", so most of the time len is better.

I've seen several answers suggesting accessing __len__. This is all right when dealing with built-in classes like list, but it could lead to problems with custom classes, because len (and length_hint) implement some safety checks. For example, both do not allow negative lengths or lengths that exceed a certain value (the sys.maxsize value). So it's always safer to use the len function instead of the __len__ method!

@gnud 2009-11-11 00:33:22

The len() function can be used with several different types in Python - both built-in types and library types. For example:

>>> len([1,2,3])

Official 2.x documentation is here: len()
Official 3.x documentation is here: len()

@Aaron Hall 2014-11-25 21:51:55

How to get the size of a list?

To find the size of a list, use the builtin function, len:

items = []

And now:


returns 3.


Everything in Python is an object, including lists. All objects have a header of some sort in the C implementation.

Lists and other similar builtin objects with a "size" in Python, in particular, have an attribute called ob_size, where the number of elements in the object is cached. So checking the number of objects in a list is very fast.

But if you're checking if list size is zero or not, don't use len - instead, put the list in a boolean context - it treated as False if empty, True otherwise.

From the docs


Return the length (the number of items) of an object. The argument may be a sequence (such as a string, bytes, tuple, list, or range) or a collection (such as a dictionary, set, or frozen set).

len is implemented with __len__, from the data model docs:


Called to implement the built-in function len(). Should return the length of the object, an integer >= 0. Also, an object that doesn’t define a __nonzero__() [in Python 2 or __bool__() in Python 3] method and whose __len__() method returns zero is considered to be false in a Boolean context.

And we can also see that __len__ is a method of lists:


returns 3.

Builtin types you can get the len (length) of

And in fact we see we can get this information for all of the described types:

>>> all(hasattr(cls, '__len__') for cls in (str, bytes, tuple, list, 
                                            xrange, dict, set, frozenset))

Do not use len to test for an empty or nonempty list

To test for a specific length, of course, simply test for equality:

if len(items) == required_length:

But there's a special case for testing for a zero length list or the inverse. In that case, do not test for equality.

Also, do not do:

if len(items): 

Instead, simply do:

if items:     # Then we have some items, not empty!


if not items: # Then we have an empty list!

I explain why here but in short, if items or if not items is both more readable and more performant.

@Shai Alon 2015-07-14 08:36:42

Answering your question as the examples also given previously:

items = []

print items.__len__()

@Aaron Hall 2016-10-26 15:10:21

In Python, names that start with underscores are semantically non-public methods and should not be used by users.

@Shai Alon 2016-12-04 16:30:10

1. __foo__: this is just a convention, a way for the Python system to use names that won't conflict with user names. 2. _foo: this is just a convention, a way for the programmer to indicate that the variable is private (whatever that means in Python). 3. __foo: this has real meaning: the interpreter replaces this name with _classname__foo as a way to ensure that the name will not overlap with a similar name in another class. * No other form of underscores have meaning in the Python world. * There's no difference between class, variable, global, etc in these conventions.

@Aaron Hall 2016-12-04 18:42:49

This Q&A explains why you shouldn't use the special methods directly as a user:

@Shai Alon 2017-02-28 11:39:07

@AaronHall but for len function it's almost the same. It might be faster for very large variables. However, I get your point and we should use len(obj) and not obj.__len__().

@Naftuli Kay 2013-04-19 21:51:10

While this may not be useful due to the fact that it'd make a lot more sense as being "out of the box" functionality, a fairly simple hack would be to build a class with a length property:

class slist(list):
    def length(self):
        return len(self)

You can use it like so:

>>> l = slist(range(10))
>>> l.length
>>> print l
[0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]

Essentially, it's exactly identical to a list object, with the added benefit of having an OOP-friendly length property.

As always, your mileage may vary.

@Tadhg McDonald-Jensen 2016-06-13 02:17:59

just so you know, you can just do length = property(len) and skip the one line wrapper function and keep the documentation / introspection of len with your property.

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