Conditional statements

Next, we will learn how to make choices in our code using conditional statements (if, elif, else) and Boolean values (True, False).

Basics of conditional statements

Conditional statements can change the code behaviour based on certain conditions. The idea is simple: IF a condition is met, THEN a set of actions is performed.

A simple conditional statement

Let’s look at a simple example with temperatures, and check if temperature 17 (celsius degrees) is hot or not:

temperature = 17

if temperature > 25:
    print('it is hot!')
else:
    print('it is not hot!')
it is not hot!

What did we do here? First, we used the if and else statements to determine what parts of the code to execute. The if statement checks to see whether the variable value for temperature is greater than 25. If this condition is met, 'it is hot' would be written to the screen. Since 17 is smaller than 25, the code beneath else is executed. Code under the else statement will run whenever the if test is False.

Let’s update temperature to a “hot” temperature and repeat the same process:

temperature = 30

if temperature > 25:
    print('it is hot!')
else:
    print('it is not hot!')
it is hot!

The code indented under the if-statement is not executed if the condition is not True. Instead, code under the else-statement gets executed.

How about if without else? The combination of if and else is very common, but the else statement is not strictly required. Python simply does nothing if the if statement is False and there is no else statement.

temperature = 17

if temperature > 25:
    print(temperature,'is greater than 25')

Makes sense, right? Conditional statements always check if the conditional expression is True or False. If True, the codeblock under the conditional statement gets executed. Nothing is printed to the screen if temperature is smaller than 25.

Let’s look at another example from our daily lives. As it turns out, we all use logic similar to if and else conditional statements daily. Imagine you’re getting ready to leave your home for the day and want to decide what to wear. You might look outside to check the weather conditions. If it is raining, you will wear a rain jacket. Otherwise, you will not. Remember that Python uses the == operator to test if a value is exactly equal to another.

weather = 'rain'

if weather == 'rain':
    print('Wear a raincoat!')
else:
    print('No raincoat needed.')
Wear a raincoat!

Similarly as with for loops, Python uses colons (:) and whitespace (indentations; often four spaces) to structure conditional statements. If the condition is True, the indented code block after the colon (:) is executed. The code block may contain several lines of code, but they all must be indented identically You will receive an IndentationError, a SyntaxError, or unwanted behavior if you haven’t indented your code correctly.

Note also that the case of the text being compared (uppercase or lowercase) is important. For instance, in the example above, if we define weather = 'Rain', the comparsion weather == 'rain' would be false. One possible solution to this problem is to use the .lower() method for strings, which would convert the text to which it is applied to lowercase. In the example here, if we define weather = Rain, the comparison weather.lower() == 'rain' would be true!

Check your understanding (online)

We might also need some other rainwear on a rainy day. Think about how you could add another instruction after the weather == rain condition so that the code would tell us to:

Wear a raincoat
Wear rain boots
# Add your solution here
# Here's one possible solution
weather = 'rain'

if weather == 'rain':
    print('Wear a raincoat')
    print('Wear rain boots')
else:
    print('No rainwear needed')
Wear a raincoat
Wear rain boots

Comparison operators

Comparison operators such as > and == compare the values on each side of the operator. Table 1.3 lists operators used for value comparisons in Python:

Operator

Description

<

Less than

<=

Less than or equal to

==

Equal to

>=

Greater than or equal to

>

Greater than

!=

Not equal to

Table 1.3. Comparison operators in Python.

Boolean values

Comparison operations yield boolean values (True or False). In Python, the words True and False are reserved for these Boolean values, and can’t be used for anything else.

Let’s check the current value of the conditions we used in the previous examples:

temperature > 25
False
weather == 'rain'
True

if, elif and else

We can link several conditions together using the “else if” -statement elif. Python checks the elif and else statements only if previous conditions were False. You can have multiple elif statements to check for additional conditions. Let’s create a chain of if elif and else -statements that are able to tell us if the temperature is above freezing, exactly at freezing point or below freezing:

temperature = -3
if temperature > 0:
     print(temperature, 'degrees celsius is above freezing')
elif temperature == 0:
     print(temperature, 'degrees celsius is at the freezing point')
else:
     print(temperature, 'degrees celsius is below freezing')
-3 degrees celsius is below freezing

Check your understanding (online)

Let’s assume that yesterday it was 14°C, it is 10°C outside today, and tomorrow it will be 13°C. The following code compares these temperatures and prints something to the screen based on the comparison.

yesterday = 14
today = 10
tomorrow = 13

if yesterday <= today:
    print('A')
elif today != tomorrow:
    print('B')
elif yesterday > tomorrow:
    print('C')
elif today == today:
    print('D')

Which of the letters A, B, C, and D would be printed out?

# Add your solution here

Combining conditions

We can also use and and or to combine multiple conditions on boolean values.

Keyword

example

Description

and

a and b

True if both a and b are True

or

a or b

True if either a or b is True

if (1 > 0) and (-1 > 0):
     print('Both parts are true')
else:
     print('At least one part is not true')
At least one part is not true
if (1 < 0) or (-1 < 0):
    print('At least one test is true')
At least one test is true

Later on we will also need the bitwise operators & for and, and | for or.

Check your understanding (online)

Let’s return to our example about making decisions on a rainy day. Imagine that we consider not only the rain, but also the wind speed (in meters per second). If it is windy or raining, we’ll just stay at home. If it’s not windy or raining, we can go out and enjoy the weather!

Let’ set 18 m/s as our comfort limit in the conditional statement and see what our Python program tells us to do in these conditions:

# Add your solution here
weather = 'rain'
wind_speed = 20
comfort_limit = 18

# If it is windy or raining, print "stay at home", else print "go out and enjoy the weather!"
if (weather == 'rain') or (wind_speed >= comfort_limit):
    print('Just stay at home')
else:
    print('Go out and enjoy the weather! :)')

As you can see, we better just stay home if it is windy or raining! If you don’t agree, you can modify the conditions and print statements accordingly.

Combining for-loops and conditional statements

Finally, we can also combine for-loops and conditional statements. Let’s iterate over a list of temperatures, and check if the temperature is hot or not:

temperatures = [0, 12, 17, 28, 30]

# For each temperature, if the temperature is greater than 25, print "..is hot"
for temperature in temperatures:
    if temperature > 25:
        print(temperature, 'is hot')
    else:
        print(temperature, 'is not hot')
0 is not hot
12 is not hot
17 is not hot
28 is hot
30 is hot

Exercises

Add exercises.

Footnotes