By Alex. S.


2008-10-23 22:21:11 8 Comments

What is the use of the yield keyword in Python? What does it do?

For example, I'm trying to understand this code1:

def _get_child_candidates(self, distance, min_dist, max_dist):
    if self._leftchild and distance - max_dist < self._median:
        yield self._leftchild
    if self._rightchild and distance + max_dist >= self._median:
        yield self._rightchild  

And this is the caller:

result, candidates = [], [self]
while candidates:
    node = candidates.pop()
    distance = node._get_dist(obj)
    if distance <= max_dist and distance >= min_dist:
        result.extend(node._values)
    candidates.extend(node._get_child_candidates(distance, min_dist, max_dist))
return result

What happens when the method _get_child_candidates is called? Is a list returned? A single element? Is it called again? When will subsequent calls stop?


1. This piece of code was written by Jochen Schulz (jrschulz), who made a great Python library for metric spaces. This is the link to the complete source: Module mspace.

30 comments

@Gavriel Cohen 2017-01-02 12:09:28

An easy example to understand what it is: yield

def f123():
    for _ in range(4):
        yield 1
        yield 2


for i in f123():
    print i

The output is:

1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2

@Daniel 2013-01-18 17:25:17

For those who prefer a minimal working example, meditate on this interactive Python session:

>>> def f():
...   yield 1
...   yield 2
...   yield 3
... 
>>> g = f()
>>> for i in g:
...   print i
... 
1
2
3
>>> for i in g:
...   print i
... 
>>> # Note that this time nothing was printed

@Jason Baker 2008-10-23 22:28:41

Think of it this way:

An iterator is just a fancy sounding term for an object that has a next() method. So a yield-ed function ends up being something like this:

Original version:

def some_function():
    for i in xrange(4):
        yield i

for i in some_function():
    print i

This is basically what the Python interpreter does with the above code:

class it:
    def __init__(self):
        # Start at -1 so that we get 0 when we add 1 below.
        self.count = -1

    # The __iter__ method will be called once by the 'for' loop.
    # The rest of the magic happens on the object returned by this method.
    # In this case it is the object itself.
    def __iter__(self):
        return self

    # The next method will be called repeatedly by the 'for' loop
    # until it raises StopIteration.
    def next(self):
        self.count += 1
        if self.count < 4:
            return self.count
        else:
            # A StopIteration exception is raised
            # to signal that the iterator is done.
            # This is caught implicitly by the 'for' loop.
            raise StopIteration

def some_func():
    return it()

for i in some_func():
    print i

For more insight as to what's happening behind the scenes, the for loop can be rewritten to this:

iterator = some_func()
try:
    while 1:
        print iterator.next()
except StopIteration:
    pass

Does that make more sense or just confuse you more? :)

I should note that this is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes. :)

@jfs 2008-10-25 02:03:38

__getitem__ could be defined instead of __iter__. For example: class it: pass; it.__getitem__ = lambda self, i: i*10 if i < 10 else [][0]; for i in it(): print(i), It will print: 0, 10, 20, ..., 90

@Peter 2017-05-06 14:37:55

I tried this example in Python 3.6 and if I create iterator = some_function(), the variable iterator does not have a function called next() anymore, but only a __next__() function. Thought I'd mention it.

@e-satis 2008-10-23 22:48:44

To understand what yield does, you must understand what generators are. And before you can understand generators, you must understand iterables.

Iterables

When you create a list, you can read its items one by one. Reading its items one by one is called iteration:

>>> mylist = [1, 2, 3]
>>> for i in mylist:
...    print(i)
1
2
3

mylist is an iterable. When you use a list comprehension, you create a list, and so an iterable:

>>> mylist = [x*x for x in range(3)]
>>> for i in mylist:
...    print(i)
0
1
4

Everything you can use "for... in..." on is an iterable; lists, strings, files...

These iterables are handy because you can read them as much as you wish, but you store all the values in memory and this is not always what you want when you have a lot of values.

Generators

Generators are iterators, a kind of iterable you can only iterate over once. Generators do not store all the values in memory, they generate the values on the fly:

>>> mygenerator = (x*x for x in range(3))
>>> for i in mygenerator:
...    print(i)
0
1
4

It is just the same except you used () instead of []. BUT, you cannot perform for i in mygenerator a second time since generators can only be used once: they calculate 0, then forget about it and calculate 1, and end calculating 4, one by one.

Yield

yield is a keyword that is used like return, except the function will return a generator.

>>> def createGenerator():
...    mylist = range(3)
...    for i in mylist:
...        yield i*i
...
>>> mygenerator = createGenerator() # create a generator
>>> print(mygenerator) # mygenerator is an object!
<generator object createGenerator at 0xb7555c34>
>>> for i in mygenerator:
...     print(i)
0
1
4

Here it's a useless example, but it's handy when you know your function will return a huge set of values that you will only need to read once.

To master yield, you must understand that when you call the function, the code you have written in the function body does not run. The function only returns the generator object, this is a bit tricky :-)

Then, your code will continue from where it left off each time for uses the generator.

Now the hard part:

The first time the for calls the generator object created from your function, it will run the code in your function from the beginning until it hits yield, then it'll return the first value of the loop. Then, each other call will run the loop you have written in the function one more time, and return the next value, until there is no value to return.

The generator is considered empty once the function runs, but does not hit yield anymore. It can be because the loop had come to an end, or because you do not satisfy an "if/else" anymore.


Your code explained

Generator:

# Here you create the method of the node object that will return the generator
def _get_child_candidates(self, distance, min_dist, max_dist):

    # Here is the code that will be called each time you use the generator object:

    # If there is still a child of the node object on its left
    # AND if distance is ok, return the next child
    if self._leftchild and distance - max_dist < self._median:
        yield self._leftchild

    # If there is still a child of the node object on its right
    # AND if distance is ok, return the next child
    if self._rightchild and distance + max_dist >= self._median:
        yield self._rightchild

    # If the function arrives here, the generator will be considered empty
    # there is no more than two values: the left and the right children

Caller:

# Create an empty list and a list with the current object reference
result, candidates = list(), [self]

# Loop on candidates (they contain only one element at the beginning)
while candidates:

    # Get the last candidate and remove it from the list
    node = candidates.pop()

    # Get the distance between obj and the candidate
    distance = node._get_dist(obj)

    # If distance is ok, then you can fill the result
    if distance <= max_dist and distance >= min_dist:
        result.extend(node._values)

    # Add the children of the candidate in the candidates list
    # so the loop will keep running until it will have looked
    # at all the children of the children of the children, etc. of the candidate
    candidates.extend(node._get_child_candidates(distance, min_dist, max_dist))

return result

This code contains several smart parts:

  • The loop iterates on a list, but the list expands while the loop is being iterated :-) It's a concise way to go through all these nested data even if it's a bit dangerous since you can end up with an infinite loop. In this case, candidates.extend(node._get_child_candidates(distance, min_dist, max_dist)) exhausts all the values of the generator, but while keeps creating new generator objects which will produce different values from the previous ones since it's not applied on the same node.

  • The extend() method is a list object method that expects an iterable and adds its values to the list.

Usually we pass a list to it:

>>> a = [1, 2]
>>> b = [3, 4]
>>> a.extend(b)
>>> print(a)
[1, 2, 3, 4]

But in your code it gets a generator, which is good because:

  1. You don't need to read the values twice.
  2. You may have a lot of children and you don't want them all stored in memory.

And it works because Python does not care if the argument of a method is a list or not. Python expects iterables so it will work with strings, lists, tuples and generators! This is called duck typing and is one of the reason why Python is so cool. But this is another story, for another question...

You can stop here, or read a little bit to see an advanced use of a generator:

Controlling a generator exhaustion

>>> class Bank(): # Let's create a bank, building ATMs
...    crisis = False
...    def create_atm(self):
...        while not self.crisis:
...            yield "$100"
>>> hsbc = Bank() # When everything's ok the ATM gives you as much as you want
>>> corner_street_atm = hsbc.create_atm()
>>> print(corner_street_atm.next())
$100
>>> print(corner_street_atm.next())
$100
>>> print([corner_street_atm.next() for cash in range(5)])
['$100', '$100', '$100', '$100', '$100']
>>> hsbc.crisis = True # Crisis is coming, no more money!
>>> print(corner_street_atm.next())
<type 'exceptions.StopIteration'>
>>> wall_street_atm = hsbc.create_atm() # It's even true for new ATMs
>>> print(wall_street_atm.next())
<type 'exceptions.StopIteration'>
>>> hsbc.crisis = False # The trouble is, even post-crisis the ATM remains empty
>>> print(corner_street_atm.next())
<type 'exceptions.StopIteration'>
>>> brand_new_atm = hsbc.create_atm() # Build a new one to get back in business
>>> for cash in brand_new_atm:
...    print cash
$100
$100
$100
$100
$100
$100
$100
$100
$100
...

Note: For Python 3, useprint(corner_street_atm.__next__()) or print(next(corner_street_atm))

It can be useful for various things like controlling access to a resource.

Itertools, your best friend

The itertools module contains special functions to manipulate iterables. Ever wish to duplicate a generator? Chain two generators? Group values in a nested list with a one-liner? Map / Zip without creating another list?

Then just import itertools.

An example? Let's see the possible orders of arrival for a four-horse race:

>>> horses = [1, 2, 3, 4]
>>> races = itertools.permutations(horses)
>>> print(races)
<itertools.permutations object at 0xb754f1dc>
>>> print(list(itertools.permutations(horses)))
[(1, 2, 3, 4),
 (1, 2, 4, 3),
 (1, 3, 2, 4),
 (1, 3, 4, 2),
 (1, 4, 2, 3),
 (1, 4, 3, 2),
 (2, 1, 3, 4),
 (2, 1, 4, 3),
 (2, 3, 1, 4),
 (2, 3, 4, 1),
 (2, 4, 1, 3),
 (2, 4, 3, 1),
 (3, 1, 2, 4),
 (3, 1, 4, 2),
 (3, 2, 1, 4),
 (3, 2, 4, 1),
 (3, 4, 1, 2),
 (3, 4, 2, 1),
 (4, 1, 2, 3),
 (4, 1, 3, 2),
 (4, 2, 1, 3),
 (4, 2, 3, 1),
 (4, 3, 1, 2),
 (4, 3, 2, 1)]

Understanding the inner mechanisms of iteration

Iteration is a process implying iterables (implementing the __iter__() method) and iterators (implementing the __next__() method). Iterables are any objects you can get an iterator from. Iterators are objects that let you iterate on iterables.

There is more about it in this article about how for loops work.

@augurar 2015-03-03 22:54:31

All iterators can only be iterated over once, not just those produced by generator functions. If you don't believe me, call iter() on any iterable object and try to iterate over the result more than once.

@augurar 2015-08-24 20:52:18

@Craicerjack You have your terms mixed up. An iterable is something with an __iter__ method. An iterator is the result of calling iter() on an iterable. Iterators can only be iterated over once.

@Matthias Fripp 2017-05-23 21:41:53

yield is not as magical this answer suggests. When you call a function that contains a yield statement anywhere, you get a generator object, but no code runs. Then each time you extract an object from the generator, Python executes code in the function until it comes to a yield statement, then pauses and delivers the object. When you extract another object, Python resumes just after the yield and continues until it reaches another yield (often the same one, but one iteration later). This continues until the function runs off the end, at which point the generator is deemed exhausted.

@picmate 涅 2018-02-15 19:21:11

"These iterables are handy... but you store all the values in memory and this is not always what you want", is either wrong or confusing. An iterable returns an iterator upon calling the iter() on the iterable, and an iterator doesn't always have to store its values in memory, depending on the implementation of the iter method, it can also generate values in the sequence on demand.

@user28409 2008-10-25 21:22:30

Shortcut to understanding yield

When you see a function with yield statements, apply this easy trick to understand what will happen:

  1. Insert a line result = [] at the start of the function.
  2. Replace each yield expr with result.append(expr).
  3. Insert a line return result at the bottom of the function.
  4. Yay - no more yield statements! Read and figure out code.
  5. Compare function to original definition.

This trick may give you an idea of the logic behind the function, but what actually happens with yield is significantly different that what happens in the list based approach. In many cases the yield approach will be a lot more memory efficient and faster too. In other cases this trick will get you stuck in an infinite loop, even though the original function works just fine. Read on to learn more...

Don't confuse your Iterables, Iterators and Generators

First, the iterator protocol - when you write

for x in mylist:
    ...loop body...

Python performs the following two steps:

  1. Gets an iterator for mylist:

    Call iter(mylist) -> this returns an object with a next() method (or __next__() in Python 3).

    [This is the step most people forget to tell you about]

  2. Uses the iterator to loop over items:

    Keep calling the next() method on the iterator returned from step 1. The return value from next() is assigned to x and the loop body is executed. If an exception StopIteration is raised from within next(), it means there are no more values in the iterator and the loop is exited.

The truth is Python performs the above two steps anytime it wants to loop over the contents of an object - so it could be a for loop, but it could also be code like otherlist.extend(mylist) (where otherlist is a Python list).

Here mylist is an iterable because it implements the iterator protocol. In a user defined class, you can implement the __iter__() method to make instances of your class iterable. This method should return an iterator. An iterator is an object with a next() method. It is possible to implement both __iter__() and next() on the same class, and have __iter__() return self. This will work for simple cases, but not when you want two iterators looping over the same object at the same time.

So that's the iterator protocol, many objects implement this protocol:

  1. Built-in lists, dictionaries, tuples, sets, files.
  2. User defined classes that implement __iter__().
  3. Generators.

Note that a for loop doesn't know what kind of object it's dealing with - it just follows the iterator protocol, and is happy to get item after item as it calls next(). Built-in lists return their items one by one, dictionaries return the keys one by one, files return the lines one by one, etc. And generators return... well that's where yield comes in:

def f123():
    yield 1
    yield 2
    yield 3

for item in f123():
    print item

Instead of yield statements, if you had three return statements in f123() only the first would get executed, and the function would exit. But f123() is no ordinary function. When f123() is called, it does not return any of the values in the yield statements! It returns a generator object. Also, the function does not really exit - it goes into a suspended state. When the for loop tries to loop over the generator object, the function resumes from its suspended state at the very next line after the yield it previously returned from, executes the next line of code, in this case a yield statement, and returns that as the next item. This happens until the function exits, at which point the generator raises StopIteration, and the loop exits.

So the generator object is sort of like an adapter - at one end it exhibits the iterator protocol, by exposing __iter__() and next() methods to keep the for loop happy. At the other end however, it runs the function just enough to get the next value out of it, and puts it back in suspended mode.

Why Use Generators?

Usually you can write code that doesn't use generators but implements the same logic. One option is to use the temporary list 'trick' I mentioned before. That will not work in all cases, for e.g. if you have infinite loops, or it may make inefficient use of memory when you have a really long list. The other approach is to implement a new iterable class SomethingIter that keeps state in instance members and performs the next logical step in it's next() (or __next__() in Python 3) method. Depending on the logic, the code inside the next() method may end up looking very complex and be prone to bugs. Here generators provide a clean and easy solution.

@DanielSank 2017-06-17 22:41:34

"When you see a function with yield statements, apply this easy trick to understand what will happen" Doesn't this completely ignore the fact that you can send into a generator, which is a huge part of the point of generators?

@Pedro 2017-09-14 14:48:17

"it could be a for loop, but it could also be code like otherlist.extend(mylist)" -> This is incorrect. extend() modifies the list in-place and does not return an iterable. Trying to loop over otherlist.extend(mylist) will fail with a TypeError because extend() implicitly returns None, and you can't loop over None.

@today 2017-12-26 18:53:57

@pedro You have misunderstood that sentence. It means that python performs the two mentioned steps on mylist (not on otherlist) when executing otherlist.extend(mylist).

@Rafael 2019-03-23 13:55:51

An analogy could help to grasp the idea here:

Imagine that you have created an amazing machine that is capable of generating thousands and thousands of lightbulbs per day. The machine generates these lightbulbs in boxes with a unique serial number. You don't have enough space to store all these lightbulbs at the same time (i.e., you cannot keep up with the speed of the machine due to storage limitation), so you would like to adjust this machine to generate lightbulbs on demand.

Python generators don't differ much from this concept.

Imagine that you have a function x that generates unique serial numbers for the boxes. Obviously, you can have a very large number of such barcodes generated by the function. A wiser, and space efficient, option is to generate those serial numbers on-demand.

Machine's code:

def barcode_generator():
    serial_number = 10000  # Initial barcode
    while True:
        yield serial_number
        serial_number += 1


barcode = barcode_generator()
while True:
    number_of_lightbulbs_to_generate = int(input("How many lightbulbs to generate? "))
    barcodes = [next(barcode) for _ in range(number_of_lightbulbs_to_generate)]
    print(barcodes)

    # function_to_create_the_next_batch_of_lightbulbs(barcodes)

    produce_more = input("Produce more? [Y/n]: ")
    if produce_more == "n":
        break

As you can see we have a self-contained "function" to generate the next unique serial number each time. This function returns back a generator! As you can see we are not calling the function each time we need a new serial number, but we are using next() given the generator to obtain the next serial number.

Output:

How many lightbulbs to generate? 5
[10000, 10001, 10002, 10003, 10004]
Produce more? [Y/n]: y
How many lightbulbs to generate? 6
[10005, 10006, 10007, 10008, 10009, 10010]
Produce more? [Y/n]: y
How many lightbulbs to generate? 7
[10011, 10012, 10013, 10014, 10015, 10016, 10017]
Produce more? [Y/n]: n

@RBansal 2013-01-16 06:42:09

Yield gives you a generator.

def get_odd_numbers(i):
    return range(1, i, 2)
def yield_odd_numbers(i):
    for x in range(1, i, 2):
       yield x
foo = get_odd_numbers(10)
bar = yield_odd_numbers(10)
foo
[1, 3, 5, 7, 9]
bar
<generator object yield_odd_numbers at 0x1029c6f50>
bar.next()
1
bar.next()
3
bar.next()
5

As you can see, in the first case foo holds the entire list in memory at once. It's not a big deal for a list with 5 elements, but what if you want a list of 5 million? Not only is this a huge memory eater, it also costs a lot of time to build at the time that the function is called.

In the second case, bar just gives you a generator. A generator is an iterable--which means you can use it in a for loop, etc, but each value can only be accessed once. All the values are also not stored in memory at the same time; the generator object "remembers" where it was in the looping the last time you called it--this way, if you're using an iterable to (say) count to 50 billion, you don't have to count to 50 billion all at once and store the 50 billion numbers to count through.

Again, this is a pretty contrived example, you probably would use itertools if you really wanted to count to 50 billion. :)

This is the most simple use case of generators. As you said, it can be used to write efficient permutations, using yield to push things up through the call stack instead of using some sort of stack variable. Generators can also be used for specialized tree traversal, and all manner of other things.

@It'sNotALie. 2019-03-21 18:33:13

Just a note - in Python 3, range also returns a generator instead of a list, so you'd also see a similar idea, except that __repr__/__str__ are overridden to show a nicer result, in this case range(1, 10, 2).

@thavan 2019-02-22 12:11:45

yield yields something. It's like somebody asks you to make 5 cup cakes. If you are done with at-least one cup cake, you can give it to them to eat while you make other cakes.

In [4]: def make_cake(numbers):
   ...:     for i in range(numbers):
   ...:         yield 'Cake {}'.format(i)
   ...:

In [5]: factory = make_cake(5)

Here factory is called generator, which makes you cakes. If you call make_function, you get a generator instead of running that function. It is because when yield keyword is present in a function, it becomes a generator.

In [7]: next(factory)
Out[7]: 'Cake 0'

In [8]: next(factory)
Out[8]: 'Cake 1'

In [9]: next(factory)
Out[9]: 'Cake 2'

In [10]: next(factory)
Out[10]: 'Cake 3'

In [11]: next(factory)
Out[11]: 'Cake 4'

They consumed all cakes, but they ask for one again.

In [12]: next(factory)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
StopIteration                             Traceback (most recent call last)
<ipython-input-12-0f5c45da9774> in <module>
----> 1 next(factory)

StopIteration:

and they are being told to stop asking more. So once you consumed a generator you are done with it. You need call make_cake again if you want more cakes. It is like placing another order for cup cakes.

In [13]: factory = make_cake(3)

In [14]: for cake in factory:
    ...:     print(cake)
    ...:
Cake 0
Cake 1
Cake 2

You can also use for loop with a generator like the one above.

One more example: Lets say you want a random password whenever you ask for it.

In [22]: import random

In [23]: import string

In [24]: def random_password_generator():
    ...:     while True:
    ...:         yield ''.join([random.choice(string.ascii_letters) for _ in range(8)])
    ...:

In [25]: rpg = random_password_generator()

In [26]: for i in range(3):
    ...:     print(next(rpg))
    ...:
FXpUBhhH
DdUDHoHn
dvtebEqG

In [27]: next(rpg)
Out[27]: 'mJbYRMNo'

Here rpg is a generator, which can generate infinite number of random passwords. So we can also say that generators are useful when we don't know the length of sequence unlike list which has finite number of elements.

@Douglas Mayle 2008-10-23 22:24:03

yield is just like return - it returns whatever you tell it to (as a generator). The difference is that the next time you call the generator, execution starts from the last call to the yield statement. Unlike return, the stack frame is not cleaned up when a yield occurs, however control is transferred back to the caller, so its state will resume the next time the function is called.

In the case of your code, the function get_child_candidates is acting like an iterator so that when you extend your list, it adds one element at a time to the new list.

list.extend calls an iterator until it's exhausted. In the case of the code sample you posted, it would be much clearer to just return a tuple and append that to the list.

@kurosch 2008-10-24 18:11:04

This is close, but not correct. Every time you call a function with a yield statement in it, it returns a brand new generator object. It's only when you call that generator's .next() method that execution resumes after the last yield.

@Bob Stein 2016-03-25 13:21:44

TL;DR

Instead of this:

def square_list(n):
    the_list = []                         # Replace
    for x in range(n):
        y = x * x
        the_list.append(y)                # these
    return the_list                       # lines

do this:

def square_yield(n):
    for x in range(n):
        y = x * x
        yield y                           # with this one.

Whenever you find yourself building a list from scratch, yield each piece instead.

This was my first "aha" moment with yield.


yield is a sugary way to say

build a series of stuff

Same behavior:

>>> for square in square_list(4):
...     print(square)
...
0
1
4
9
>>> for square in square_yield(4):
...     print(square)
...
0
1
4
9

Different behavior:

Yield is single-pass: you can only iterate through once. When a function has a yield in it we call it a generator function. And an iterator is what it returns. Those terms are revealing. We lose the convenience of a container, but gain the power of a series that's computed as needed, and arbitrarily long.

Yield is lazy, it puts off computation. A function with a yield in it doesn't actually execute at all when you call it. It returns an iterator object that remembers where it left off. Each time you call next() on the iterator (this happens in a for-loop) execution inches forward to the next yield. return raises StopIteration and ends the series (this is the natural end of a for-loop).

Yield is versatile. Data doesn't have to be stored all together, it can be made available one at a time. It can be infinite.

>>> def squares_all_of_them():
...     x = 0
...     while True:
...         yield x * x
...         x += 1
...
>>> squares = squares_all_of_them()
>>> for _ in range(4):
...     print(next(squares))
...
0
1
4
9

If you need multiple passes and the series isn't too long, just call list() on it:

>>> list(square_yield(4))
[0, 1, 4, 9]

Brilliant choice of the word yield because both meanings apply:

yield — produce or provide (as in agriculture)

...provide the next data in the series.

yield — give way or relinquish (as in political power)

...relinquish CPU execution until the iterator advances.

@smwikipedia 2016-03-25 05:40:24

(My below answer only speaks from the perspective of using Python generator, not the underlying implementation of generator mechanism, which involves some tricks of stack and heap manipulation.)

When yield is used instead of a return in a python function, that function is turned into something special called generator function. That function will return an object of generator type. The yield keyword is a flag to notify the python compiler to treat such function specially. Normal functions will terminate once some value is returned from it. But with the help of the compiler, the generator function can be thought of as resumable. That is, the execution context will be restored and the execution will continue from last run. Until you explicitly call return, which will raise a StopIteration exception (which is also part of the iterator protocol), or reach the end of the function. I found a lot of references about generator but this one from the functional programming perspective is the most digestable.

(Now I want to talk about the rationale behind generator, and the iterator based on my own understanding. I hope this can help you grasp the essential motivation of iterator and generator. Such concept shows up in other languages as well such as C#.)

As I understand, when we want to process a bunch of data, we usually first store the data somewhere and then process it one by one. But this naive approach is problematic. If the data volume is huge, it's expensive to store them as a whole beforehand. So instead of storing the data itself directly, why not store some kind of metadata indirectly, i.e. the logic how the data is computed.

There are 2 approaches to wrap such metadata.

  1. The OO approach, we wrap the metadata as a class. This is the so-called iterator who implements the iterator protocol (i.e. the __next__(), and __iter__() methods). This is also the commonly seen iterator design pattern.
  2. The functional approach, we wrap the metadata as a function. This is the so-called generator function. But under the hood, the returned generator object still IS-A iterator because it also implements the iterator protocol.

Either way, an iterator is created, i.e. some object that can give you the data you want. The OO approach may be a bit complex. Anyway, which one to use is up to you.

@ARGeo 2018-09-09 13:25:57

In Python generators (a special type of iterators) are used to generate series of values and yield keyword is just like the return keyword of generator functions.

The other fascinating thing yield keyword does is saving the state of a generator function.

So, we can set a number to a different value each time the generator yields.

Here's an instance:

def getPrimes(number):
    while True:
        if isPrime(number):
            number = yield number     # a miracle occurs here
        number += 1

def printSuccessivePrimes(iterations, base=10):
primeGenerator = getPrimes(base)
primeGenerator.send(None)
for power in range(iterations):
    print(primeGenerator.send(base ** power))

@Jon Skeet 2008-10-23 22:26:06

It's returning a generator. I'm not particularly familiar with Python, but I believe it's the same kind of thing as C#'s iterator blocks if you're familiar with those.

The key idea is that the compiler/interpreter/whatever does some trickery so that as far as the caller is concerned, they can keep calling next() and it will keep returning values - as if the generator method was paused. Now obviously you can't really "pause" a method, so the compiler builds a state machine for you to remember where you currently are and what the local variables etc look like. This is much easier than writing an iterator yourself.

@Savai Maheshwari 2018-08-17 12:36:56

A simple generator function

def my_gen():
    n = 1
    print('This is printed first')
    # Generator function contains yield statements
    yield n

    n += 1
    print('This is printed second')
    yield n

    n += 1
    print('This is printed at last')
    yield n

yield statement pauses the function saving all its states and later continues from there on successive calls.

https://www.programiz.com/python-programming/generator

@DummyHead 2017-11-14 12:02:47

All great answers, however a bit difficult for newbies.

I assume you have learned the return statement.

As an analogy, return and yield are twins. return means 'return and stop' whereas 'yield` means 'return, but continue'

  1. Try to get a num_list with return.
def num_list(n):
    for i in range(n):
        return i

Run it:

In [5]: num_list(3)
Out[5]: 0

See, you get only a single number rather than a list of them. return never allows you prevail happily, just implements once and quit.

  1. There comes yield

Replace return with yield:

In [10]: def num_list(n):
    ...:     for i in range(n):
    ...:         yield i
    ...:

In [11]: num_list(3)
Out[11]: <generator object num_list at 0x10327c990>

In [12]: list(num_list(3))
Out[12]: [0, 1, 2]

Now, you win to get all the numbers.

Comparing to return which runs once and stops, yield runs times you planed. You can interpret return as return one of them, and yield as return all of them. This is called iterable.

  1. One more step we can rewrite yield statement with return
In [15]: def num_list(n):
    ...:     result = []
    ...:     for i in range(n):
    ...:         result.append(i)
    ...:     return result

In [16]: num_list(3)
Out[16]: [0, 1, 2]

It's the core about yield.

The difference between a list return outputs and the object yield output is:

You will always get [0, 1, 2] from a list object but only could retrieve them from 'the object yield output' once. So, it has a new name generator object as displayed in Out[11]: <generator object num_list at 0x10327c990>.

In conclusion, as a metaphor to grok it:

  • return and yield are twins
  • list and generator are twins

@Mike S 2018-08-23 13:27:21

This is understandable, but one major difference is that you can have multiple yields in a function/method. The analogy totally breaks down at that point. Yield remembers its place in a function, so the next time you call next(), your function continues on to the next yield. This is important, I think, and should be expressed.

@redbandit 2016-10-13 13:43:40

In summary, the yield statement transforms your function into a factory that produces a special object called a generator which wraps around the body of your original function. When the generator is iterated, it executes your function until it reaches the next yield then suspends execution and evaluates to the value passed to yield. It repeats this process on each iteration until the path of execution exits the function. For instance,

def simple_generator():
    yield 'one'
    yield 'two'
    yield 'three'

for i in simple_generator():
    print i

simply outputs

one
two
three

The power comes from using the generator with a loop that calculates a sequence, the generator executes the loop stopping each time to 'yield' the next result of the calculation, in this way it calculates a list on the fly, the benefit being the memory saved for especially large calculations

Say you wanted to create a your own range function that produces an iterable range of numbers, you could do it like so,

def myRangeNaive(i):
    n = 0
    range = []
    while n < i:
        range.append(n)
        n = n + 1
    return range

and use it like this;

for i in myRangeNaive(10):
    print i

But this is inefficient because

  • You create an array that you only use once (this wastes memory)
  • This code actually loops over that array twice! :(

Luckily Guido and his team were generous enough to develop generators so we could just do this;

def myRangeSmart(i):
    n = 0
    while n < i:
       yield n
       n = n + 1
    return

for i in myRangeSmart(10):
    print i

Now upon each iteration a function on the generator called next() executes the function until it either reaches a 'yield' statement in which it stops and 'yields' the value or reaches the end of the function. In this case on the first call, next() executes up to the yield statement and yield 'n', on the next call it will execute the increment statement, jump back to the 'while', evaluate it, and if true, it will stop and yield 'n' again, it will continue that way until the while condition returns false and the generator jumps to the end of the function.

@Tom Fuller 2016-09-10 11:37:25

Many people use return rather than yield, but in some cases yield can be more efficient and easier to work with.

Here is an example which yield is definitely best for:

return (in function)

import random

def return_dates():
    dates = [] # With 'return' you need to create a list then return it
    for i in range(5):
        date = random.choice(["1st", "2nd", "3rd", "4th", "5th", "6th", "7th", "8th", "9th", "10th"])
        dates.append(date)
    return dates

yield (in function)

def yield_dates():
    for i in range(5):
        date = random.choice(["1st", "2nd", "3rd", "4th", "5th", "6th", "7th", "8th", "9th", "10th"])
        yield date # 'yield' makes a generator automatically which works
                   # in a similar way. This is much more efficient.

Calling functions

dates_list = return_dates()
print(dates_list)
for i in dates_list:
    print(i)

dates_generator = yield_dates()
print(dates_generator)
for i in dates_generator:
    print(i)

Both functions do the same thing, but yield uses three lines instead of five and has one less variable to worry about.

This is the result from the code:

Output

As you can see both functions do the same thing. The only difference is return_dates() gives a list and yield_dates() gives a generator.

A real life example would be something like reading a file line by line or if you just want to make a generator.

@Christophe Roussy 2016-06-22 09:40:15

Yet another TL;DR

Iterator on list: next() returns the next element of the list

Iterator generator: next() will compute the next element on the fly (execute code)

You can see the yield/generator as a way to manually run the control flow from outside (like continue loop one step), by calling next, however complex the flow.

Note: The generator is NOT a normal function. It remembers the previous state like local variables (stack). See other answers or articles for detailed explanation. The generator can only be iterated on once. You could do without yield, but it would not be as nice, so it can be considered 'very nice' language sugar.

@Kaleem Ullah 2015-09-01 12:42:19

Yield is an object

A return in a function will return a single value.

If you want a function to return a huge set of values, use yield.

More importantly, yield is a barrier.

like barrier in the CUDA language, it will not transfer control until it gets completed.

That is, it will run the code in your function from the beginning until it hits yield. Then, it’ll return the first value of the loop.

Then, every other call will run the loop you have written in the function one more time, returning the next value until there isn't any value to return.

@Mangu Singh Rajpurohit 2015-07-29 06:11:25

Like every answer suggests, yield is used for creating a sequence generator. It's used for generating some sequence dynamically. For example, while reading a file line by line on a network, you can use the yield function as follows:

def getNextLines():
   while con.isOpen():
       yield con.read()

You can use it in your code as follows:

for line in getNextLines():
    doSomeThing(line)

Execution Control Transfer gotcha

The execution control will be transferred from getNextLines() to the for loop when yield is executed. Thus, every time getNextLines() is invoked, execution begins from the point where it was paused last time.

Thus in short, a function with the following code

def simpleYield():
    yield "first time"
    yield "second time"
    yield "third time"
    yield "Now some useful value {}".format(12)

for i in simpleYield():
    print i

will print

"first time"
"second time"
"third time"
"Now some useful value 12"

@Sławomir Lenart 2014-07-24 21:15:29

There is another yield use and meaning (since Python 3.3):

yield from <expr>

From PEP 380 -- Syntax for Delegating to a Subgenerator:

A syntax is proposed for a generator to delegate part of its operations to another generator. This allows a section of code containing 'yield' to be factored out and placed in another generator. Additionally, the subgenerator is allowed to return with a value, and the value is made available to the delegating generator.

The new syntax also opens up some opportunities for optimisation when one generator re-yields values produced by another.

Moreover this will introduce (since Python 3.5):

async def new_coroutine(data):
   ...
   await blocking_action()

to avoid coroutines being confused with a regular generator (today yield is used in both).

@Engin OZTURK 2013-12-20 13:07:18

Here is a simple example:

def isPrimeNumber(n):
    print "isPrimeNumber({}) call".format(n)
    if n==1:
        return False
    for x in range(2,n):
        if n % x == 0:
            return False
    return True

def primes (n=1):
    while(True):
        print "loop step ---------------- {}".format(n)
        if isPrimeNumber(n): yield n
        n += 1

for n in primes():
    if n> 10:break
    print "wiriting result {}".format(n)

Output:

loop step ---------------- 1
isPrimeNumber(1) call
loop step ---------------- 2
isPrimeNumber(2) call
loop step ---------------- 3
isPrimeNumber(3) call
wiriting result 3
loop step ---------------- 4
isPrimeNumber(4) call
loop step ---------------- 5
isPrimeNumber(5) call
wiriting result 5
loop step ---------------- 6
isPrimeNumber(6) call
loop step ---------------- 7
isPrimeNumber(7) call
wiriting result 7
loop step ---------------- 8
isPrimeNumber(8) call
loop step ---------------- 9
isPrimeNumber(9) call
loop step ---------------- 10
isPrimeNumber(10) call
loop step ---------------- 11
isPrimeNumber(11) call

I am not a Python developer, but it looks to me yield holds the position of program flow and the next loop start from "yield" position. It seems like it is waiting at that position, and just before that, returning a value outside, and next time continues to work.

It seems to be an interesting and nice ability :D

@fiacre 2018-07-02 01:20:23

Don't forget that 2 is prime :-)

@Engin OZTURK 2018-07-02 01:44:08

You are correct. But what is the effect on flow which is to see the behaviour of "yield" ? I can change the algorithm in the name of mathmatics. Will it help to get different assessment of "yield" ?

@alinsoar 2013-08-21 19:01:25

From a programming viewpoint, the iterators are implemented as thunks.

To implement iterators, generators, and thread pools for concurrent execution, etc. as thunks (also called anonymous functions), one uses messages sent to a closure object, which has a dispatcher, and the dispatcher answers to "messages".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Message_passing

"next" is a message sent to a closure, created by the "iter" call.

There are lots of ways to implement this computation. I used mutation, but it is easy to do it without mutation, by returning the current value and the next yielder.

Here is a demonstration which uses the structure of R6RS, but the semantics is absolutely identical to Python's. It's the same model of computation, and only a change in syntax is required to rewrite it in Python.

Welcome to Racket v6.5.0.3.

-> (define gen
     (lambda (l)
       (define yield
         (lambda ()
           (if (null? l)
               'END
               (let ((v (car l)))
                 (set! l (cdr l))
                 v))))
       (lambda(m)
         (case m
           ('yield (yield))
           ('init  (lambda (data)
                     (set! l data)
                     'OK))))))
-> (define stream (gen '(1 2 3)))
-> (stream 'yield)
1
-> (stream 'yield)
2
-> (stream 'yield)
3
-> (stream 'yield)
'END
-> ((stream 'init) '(a b))
'OK
-> (stream 'yield)
'a
-> (stream 'yield)
'b
-> (stream 'yield)
'END
-> (stream 'yield)
'END
->

@aestrivex 2013-04-04 14:56:19

There is one type of answer that I don't feel has been given yet, among the many great answers that describe how to use generators. Here is the programming language theory answer:

The yield statement in Python returns a generator. A generator in Python is a function that returns continuations (and specifically a type of coroutine, but continuations represent the more general mechanism to understand what is going on).

Continuations in programming languages theory are a much more fundamental kind of computation, but they are not often used, because they are extremely hard to reason about and also very difficult to implement. But the idea of what a continuation is, is straightforward: it is the state of a computation that has not yet finished. In this state, the current values of variables, the operations that have yet to be performed, and so on, are saved. Then at some point later in the program the continuation can be invoked, such that the program's variables are reset to that state and the operations that were saved are carried out.

Continuations, in this more general form, can be implemented in two ways. In the call/cc way, the program's stack is literally saved and then when the continuation is invoked, the stack is restored.

In continuation passing style (CPS), continuations are just normal functions (only in languages where functions are first class) which the programmer explicitly manages and passes around to subroutines. In this style, program state is represented by closures (and the variables that happen to be encoded in them) rather than variables that reside somewhere on the stack. Functions that manage control flow accept continuation as arguments (in some variations of CPS, functions may accept multiple continuations) and manipulate control flow by invoking them by simply calling them and returning afterwards. A very simple example of continuation passing style is as follows:

def save_file(filename):
  def write_file_continuation():
    write_stuff_to_file(filename)

  check_if_file_exists_and_user_wants_to_overwrite(write_file_continuation)

In this (very simplistic) example, the programmer saves the operation of actually writing the file into a continuation (which can potentially be a very complex operation with many details to write out), and then passes that continuation (i.e, as a first-class closure) to another operator which does some more processing, and then calls it if necessary. (I use this design pattern a lot in actual GUI programming, either because it saves me lines of code or, more importantly, to manage control flow after GUI events trigger.)

The rest of this post will, without loss of generality, conceptualize continuations as CPS, because it is a hell of a lot easier to understand and read.


Now let's talk about generators in Python. Generators are a specific subtype of continuation. Whereas continuations are able in general to save the state of a computation (i.e., the program's call stack), generators are only able to save the state of iteration over an iterator. Although, this definition is slightly misleading for certain use cases of generators. For instance:

def f():
  while True:
    yield 4

This is clearly a reasonable iterable whose behavior is well defined -- each time the generator iterates over it, it returns 4 (and does so forever). But it isn't probably the prototypical type of iterable that comes to mind when thinking of iterators (i.e., for x in collection: do_something(x)). This example illustrates the power of generators: if anything is an iterator, a generator can save the state of its iteration.

To reiterate: Continuations can save the state of a program's stack and generators can save the state of iteration. This means that continuations are more a lot powerful than generators, but also that generators are a lot, lot easier. They are easier for the language designer to implement, and they are easier for the programmer to use (if you have some time to burn, try to read and understand this page about continuations and call/cc).

But you could easily implement (and conceptualize) generators as a simple, specific case of continuation passing style:

Whenever yield is called, it tells the function to return a continuation. When the function is called again, it starts from wherever it left off. So, in pseudo-pseudocode (i.e., not pseudocode, but not code) the generator's next method is basically as follows:

class Generator():
  def __init__(self,iterable,generatorfun):
    self.next_continuation = lambda:generatorfun(iterable)

  def next(self):
    value, next_continuation = self.next_continuation()
    self.next_continuation = next_continuation
    return value

where the yield keyword is actually syntactic sugar for the real generator function, basically something like:

def generatorfun(iterable):
  if len(iterable) == 0:
    raise StopIteration
  else:
    return (iterable[0], lambda:generatorfun(iterable[1:]))

Remember that this is just pseudocode and the actual implementation of generators in Python is more complex. But as an exercise to understand what is going on, try to use continuation passing style to implement generator objects without use of the yield keyword.

@tzot 2008-10-24 00:36:05

Here is an example in plain language. I will provide a correspondence between high-level human concepts to low-level Python concepts.

I want to operate on a sequence of numbers, but I don't want to bother my self with the creation of that sequence, I want only to focus on the operation I want to do. So, I do the following:

  • I call you and tell you that I want a sequence of numbers which is produced in a specific way, and I let you know what the algorithm is.
    This step corresponds to defining the generator function, i.e. the function containing a yield.
  • Sometime later, I tell you, "OK, get ready to tell me the sequence of numbers".
    This step corresponds to calling the generator function which returns a generator object. Note that you don't tell me any numbers yet; you just grab your paper and pencil.
  • I ask you, "tell me the next number", and you tell me the first number; after that, you wait for me to ask you for the next number. It's your job to remember where you were, what numbers you have already said, and what is the next number. I don't care about the details.
    This step corresponds to calling .next() on the generator object.
  • … repeat previous step, until…
  • eventually, you might come to an end. You don't tell me a number; you just shout, "hold your horses! I'm done! No more numbers!"
    This step corresponds to the generator object ending its job, and raising a StopIteration exception The generator function does not need to raise the exception. It's raised automatically when the function ends or issues a return.

This is what a generator does (a function that contains a yield); it starts executing, pauses whenever it does a yield, and when asked for a .next() value it continues from the point it was last. It fits perfectly by design with the iterator protocol of Python, which describes how to sequentially request values.

The most famous user of the iterator protocol is the for command in Python. So, whenever you do a:

for item in sequence:

it doesn't matter if sequence is a list, a string, a dictionary or a generator object like described above; the result is the same: you read items off a sequence one by one.

Note that defining a function which contains a yield keyword is not the only way to create a generator; it's just the easiest way to create one.

For more accurate information, read about iterator types, the yield statement and generators in the Python documentation.

@Gavriel Cohen 2018-01-17 12:26:00

Yield

>>> def create_generator():
...    my_list = range(3)
...    for i in my_list:
...        yield i*i
...
>>> my_generator = create_generator() # create a generator
>>> print(my_generator) # my_generator is an object!
<generator object create_generator at 0xb7555c34>
>>> for i in my_generator:
...     print(i)
0
1
4

In short, you can see that the loop does not stop and continues to function even after the object or variable is sent (unlike return where the loop stops after execution).

@Aaron Hall 2015-06-25 06:11:11

What does the yield keyword do in Python?

Answer Outline/Summary

  • A function with yield, when called, returns a Generator.
  • Generators are iterators because they implement the iterator protocol, so you can iterate over them.
  • A generator can also be sent information, making it conceptually a coroutine.
  • In Python 3, you can delegate from one generator to another in both directions with yield from.
  • (Appendix critiques a couple of answers, including the top one, and discusses the use of return in a generator.)

Generators:

yield is only legal inside of a function definition, and the inclusion of yield in a function definition makes it return a generator.

The idea for generators comes from other languages (see footnote 1) with varying implementations. In Python's Generators, the execution of the code is frozen at the point of the yield. When the generator is called (methods are discussed below) execution resumes and then freezes at the next yield.

yield provides an easy way of implementing the iterator protocol, defined by the following two methods: __iter__ and next (Python 2) or __next__ (Python 3). Both of those methods make an object an iterator that you could type-check with the Iterator Abstract Base Class from the collections module.

>>> def func():
...     yield 'I am'
...     yield 'a generator!'
... 
>>> type(func)                 # A function with yield is still a function
<type 'function'>
>>> gen = func()
>>> type(gen)                  # but it returns a generator
<type 'generator'>
>>> hasattr(gen, '__iter__')   # that's an iterable
True
>>> hasattr(gen, 'next')       # and with .next (.__next__ in Python 3)
True                           # implements the iterator protocol.

The generator type is a sub-type of iterator:

>>> import collections, types
>>> issubclass(types.GeneratorType, collections.Iterator)
True

And if necessary, we can type-check like this:

>>> isinstance(gen, types.GeneratorType)
True
>>> isinstance(gen, collections.Iterator)
True

A feature of an Iterator is that once exhausted, you can't reuse or reset it:

>>> list(gen)
['I am', 'a generator!']
>>> list(gen)
[]

You'll have to make another if you want to use its functionality again (see footnote 2):

>>> list(func())
['I am', 'a generator!']

One can yield data programmatically, for example:

def func(an_iterable):
    for item in an_iterable:
        yield item

The above simple generator is also equivalent to the below - as of Python 3.3 (and not available in Python 2), you can use yield from:

def func(an_iterable):
    yield from an_iterable

However, yield from also allows for delegation to subgenerators, which will be explained in the following section on cooperative delegation with sub-coroutines.

Coroutines:

yield forms an expression that allows data to be sent into the generator (see footnote 3)

Here is an example, take note of the received variable, which will point to the data that is sent to the generator:

def bank_account(deposited, interest_rate):
    while True:
        calculated_interest = interest_rate * deposited 
        received = yield calculated_interest
        if received:
            deposited += received


>>> my_account = bank_account(1000, .05)

First, we must queue up the generator with the builtin function, next. It will call the appropriate next or __next__ method, depending on the version of Python you are using:

>>> first_year_interest = next(my_account)
>>> first_year_interest
50.0

And now we can send data into the generator. (Sending None is the same as calling next.) :

>>> next_year_interest = my_account.send(first_year_interest + 1000)
>>> next_year_interest
102.5

Cooperative Delegation to Sub-Coroutine with yield from

Now, recall that yield from is available in Python 3. This allows us to delegate coroutines to a subcoroutine:

def money_manager(expected_rate):
    under_management = yield     # must receive deposited value
    while True:
        try:
            additional_investment = yield expected_rate * under_management 
            if additional_investment:
                under_management += additional_investment
        except GeneratorExit:
            '''TODO: write function to send unclaimed funds to state'''
        finally:
            '''TODO: write function to mail tax info to client'''


def investment_account(deposited, manager):
    '''very simple model of an investment account that delegates to a manager'''
    next(manager) # must queue up manager
    manager.send(deposited)
    while True:
        try:
            yield from manager
        except GeneratorExit:
            return manager.close()

And now we can delegate functionality to a sub-generator and it can be used by a generator just as above:

>>> my_manager = money_manager(.06)
>>> my_account = investment_account(1000, my_manager)
>>> first_year_return = next(my_account)
>>> first_year_return
60.0
>>> next_year_return = my_account.send(first_year_return + 1000)
>>> next_year_return
123.6

You can read more about the precise semantics of yield from in PEP 380.

Other Methods: close and throw

The close method raises GeneratorExit at the point the function execution was frozen. This will also be called by __del__ so you can put any cleanup code where you handle the GeneratorExit:

>>> my_account.close()

You can also throw an exception which can be handled in the generator or propagated back to the user:

>>> import sys
>>> try:
...     raise ValueError
... except:
...     my_manager.throw(*sys.exc_info())
... 
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 4, in <module>
  File "<stdin>", line 2, in <module>
ValueError

Conclusion

I believe I have covered all aspects of the following question:

What does the yield keyword do in Python?

It turns out that yield does a lot. I'm sure I could add even more thorough examples to this. If you want more or have some constructive criticism, let me know by commenting below.


Appendix:

Critique of the Top/Accepted Answer**

  • It is confused on what makes an iterable, just using a list as an example. See my references above, but in summary: an iterable has an __iter__ method returning an iterator. An iterator provides a .next (Python 2 or .__next__ (Python 3) method, which is implicitly called by for loops until it raises StopIteration, and once it does, it will continue to do so.
  • It then uses a generator expression to describe what a generator is. Since a generator is simply a convenient way to create an iterator, it only confuses the matter, and we still have not yet gotten to the yield part.
  • In Controlling a generator exhaustion he calls the .next method, when instead he should use the builtin function, next. It would be an appropriate layer of indirection, because his code does not work in Python 3.
  • Itertools? This was not relevant to what yield does at all.
  • No discussion of the methods that yield provides along with the new functionality yield from in Python 3. The top/accepted answer is a very incomplete answer.

Critique of answer suggesting yield in a generator expression or comprehension.

The grammar currently allows any expression in a list comprehension.

expr_stmt: testlist_star_expr (annassign | augassign (yield_expr|testlist) |
                     ('=' (yield_expr|testlist_star_expr))*)
...
yield_expr: 'yield' [yield_arg]
yield_arg: 'from' test | testlist

Since yield is an expression, it has been touted by some as interesting to use it in comprehensions or generator expression - in spite of citing no particularly good use-case.

The CPython core developers are discussing deprecating its allowance. Here's a relevant post from the mailing list:

On 30 January 2017 at 19:05, Brett Cannon wrote:

On Sun, 29 Jan 2017 at 16:39 Craig Rodrigues wrote:

I'm OK with either approach. Leaving things the way they are in Python 3 is no good, IMHO.

My vote is it be a SyntaxError since you're not getting what you expect from the syntax.

I'd agree that's a sensible place for us to end up, as any code relying on the current behaviour is really too clever to be maintainable.

In terms of getting there, we'll likely want:

  • SyntaxWarning or DeprecationWarning in 3.7
  • Py3k warning in 2.7.x
  • SyntaxError in 3.8

Cheers, Nick.

-- Nick Coghlan | ncoghlan at gmail.com | Brisbane, Australia

Further, there is an outstanding issue (10544) which seems to be pointing in the direction of this never being a good idea (PyPy, a Python implementation written in Python, is already raising syntax warnings.)

Bottom line, until the developers of CPython tell us otherwise: Don't put yield in a generator expression or comprehension.

The return statement in a generator

In Python 2:

In a generator function, the return statement is not allowed to include an expression_list. In that context, a bare return indicates that the generator is done and will cause StopIteration to be raised.

An expression_list is basically any number of expressions separated by commas - essentially, in Python 2, you can stop the generator with return, but you can't return a value.

In Python 3:

In a generator function, the return statement indicates that the generator is done and will cause StopIteration to be raised. The returned value (if any) is used as an argument to construct StopIteration and becomes the StopIteration.value attribute.

Footnotes

  1. The languages CLU, Sather, and Icon were referenced in the proposal to introduce the concept of generators to Python. The general idea is that a function can maintain internal state and yield intermediate data points on demand by the user. This promised to be superior in performance to other approaches, including Python threading, which isn't even available on some systems.

  2. This means, for example, that xrange objects (range in Python 3) aren't Iterators, even though they are iterable, because they can be reused. Like lists, their __iter__ methods return iterator objects.

  3. yield was originally introduced as a statement, meaning that it could only appear at the beginning of a line in a code block. Now yield creates a yield expression. https://docs.python.org/2/reference/simple_stmts.html#grammar-token-yield_stmt This change was proposed to allow a user to send data into the generator just as one might receive it. To send data, one must be able to assign it to something, and for that, a statement just won't work.

@blueray 2017-04-29 17:22:22

yield is similar to return. The difference is:

yield makes a function iterable (in the following example primes(n = 1) function becomes iterable).
What it essentially means is the next time the function is called, it will continue from where it left (which is after the line of yield expression).

def isprime(n):
    if n == 1:
        return False
    for x in range(2, n):
        if n % x == 0:
            return False
    else:
        return True

def primes(n = 1):
   while(True):
       if isprime(n): yield n
       n += 1 

for n in primes():
    if n > 100: break
    print(n)

In the above example if isprime(n) is true it will return the prime number. In the next iteration it will continue from the next line

n += 1  

@Dustin Getz 2012-10-03 20:38:16

Here are some Python examples of how to actually implement generators as if Python did not provide syntactic sugar for them:

As a Python generator:

from itertools import islice

def fib_gen():
    a, b = 1, 1
    while True:
        yield a
        a, b = b, a + b

assert [1, 1, 2, 3, 5] == list(islice(fib_gen(), 5))

Using lexical closures instead of generators

def ftake(fnext, last):
    return [fnext() for _ in xrange(last)]

def fib_gen2():
    #funky scope due to python2.x workaround
    #for python 3.x use nonlocal
    def _():
        _.a, _.b = _.b, _.a + _.b
        return _.a
    _.a, _.b = 0, 1
    return _

assert [1,1,2,3,5] == ftake(fib_gen2(), 5)

Using object closures instead of generators (because ClosuresAndObjectsAreEquivalent)

class fib_gen3:
    def __init__(self):
        self.a, self.b = 1, 1

    def __call__(self):
        r = self.a
        self.a, self.b = self.b, self.a + self.b
        return r

assert [1,1,2,3,5] == ftake(fib_gen3(), 5)

@Chen A. 2017-10-03 11:30:17

All of the answers here are great; but only one of them (the most voted one) relates to how your code works. Others are relating to generators in general, and how they work.

So I won't repeat what generators are or what yields do; I think these are covered by great existing answers. However, after spending few hours trying to understand a similar code to yours, I'll break it down how it works.

Your code traverse a binary tree structure. Let's take this tree for example:

    5
   / \
  3   6
 / \   \
1   4   8

And another simpler implementation of a binary-search tree traversal:

class Node(object):
..
def __iter__(self):
    if self.has_left_child():
        for child in self.left:
            yield child

    yield self.val

    if self.has_right_child():
        for child in self.right:
            yield child

The execution code is on the Tree object, which implements __iter__ as this:

def __iter__(self):

    class EmptyIter():
        def next(self):
            raise StopIteration

    if self.root:
        return self.root.__iter__()
    return EmptyIter()

The while candidates statement can be replaced with for element in tree; Python translate this to

it = iter(TreeObj)  # returns iter(self.root) which calls self.root.__iter__()
for element in it: 
    .. process element .. 

Because Node.__iter__ function is a generator, the code inside it is executed per iteration. So the execution would look like this:

  1. root element is first; check if it has left childs and for iterate them (let's call it it1 because its the first iterator object)
  2. it has a child so the for is executed. The for child in self.left creates a new iterator from self.left, which is a Node object itself (it2)
  3. Same logic as 2, and a new iterator is created (it3)
  4. Now we reached the left end of the tree. it3 has no left childs so it continues and yield self.value
  5. On the next call to next(it3) it raises StopIteration and exists since it has no right childs (it reaches to the end of the function without yield anything)
  6. it1 and it2 are still active - they are not exhausted and calling next(it2) would yield values, not raise StopIteration
  7. Now we are back to it2 context, and call next(it2) which continues where it stopped: right after the yield child statement. Since it has no more left childs it continues and yields it's self.val.

The catch here is that every iteration creates sub-iterators to traverse the tree, and holds the state of the current iterator. Once it reaches the end it traverse back the stack, and values are returned in the correct order (smallest yields value first).

Your code example did something similar in a different technique: it populated a one-element list for every child, then on the next iteration it pops it and run the function code on the current object (hence the self).

I hope this contributed a little to this legendary topic. I spent several good hours drawing this process to understand it.

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