Replacements for switch statement in Python?


I want to write a function in Python that returns different fixed values based on the value of an input index.

In other languages I would use a switch or case statement, but Python does not appear to have a switch statement. What are the recommended Python solutions in this scenario?

9/28/2018 5:16:42 PM

Accepted Answer

You could use a dictionary:

def f(x):
    return {
        'a': 1,
        'b': 2,
9/13/2008 12:38:24 AM

I've always liked doing it this way

result = {
  'a': lambda x: x * 5,
  'b': lambda x: x + 7,
  'c': lambda x: x - 2

From here


In addition to the dictionary methods (which I really like, BTW), you can also use if-elif-else to obtain the switch/case/default functionality:

if x == 'a':
    # Do the thing
elif x == 'b':
    # Do the other thing
if x in 'bc':
    # Fall-through by not using elif, but now the default case includes case 'a'!
elif x in 'xyz':
    # Do yet another thing
    # Do the default

This of course is not identical to switch/case - you cannot have fall-through as easily as leaving off the break statement, but you can have a more complicated test. Its formatting is nicer than a series of nested ifs, even though functionally that's what it is closer to.


My favorite Python recipe for switch/case is:

choices = {'a': 1, 'b': 2}
result = choices.get(key, 'default')

Short and simple for simple scenarios.

Compare to 11+ lines of C code:

// C Language version of a simple 'switch/case'.
switch( key ) 
    case 'a' :
        result = 1;
    case 'b' :
        result = 2;
    default :
        result = -1;

You can even assign multiple variables by using tuples:

choices = {'a': (1, 2, 3), 'b': (4, 5, 6)}
(result1, result2, result3) = choices.get(key, ('default1', 'default2', 'default3'))

class switch(object):
    value = None
    def __new__(class_, value):
        class_.value = value
        return True

def case(*args):
    return any((arg == switch.value for arg in args))


while switch(n):
    if case(0):
        print "You typed zero."
    if case(1, 4, 9):
        print "n is a perfect square."
    if case(2):
        print "n is an even number."
    if case(2, 3, 5, 7):
        print "n is a prime number."
    if case(6, 8):
        print "n is an even number."
    print "Only single-digit numbers are allowed."


n = 2
#n is an even number.
#n is a prime number.
n = 11
#Only single-digit numbers are allowed.

My favorite one is a really nice recipe. You'll really like it. It's the closest one I've seen to actual switch case statements, especially in features.

class switch(object):
    def __init__(self, value):
        self.value = value
        self.fall = False

    def __iter__(self):
        """Return the match method once, then stop"""
        yield self.match
        raise StopIteration
    def match(self, *args):
        """Indicate whether or not to enter a case suite"""
        if self.fall or not args:
            return True
        elif self.value in args: # changed for v1.5, see below
            self.fall = True
            return True
            return False

Here's an example:

# The following example is pretty much the exact use-case of a dictionary,
# but is included for its simplicity. Note that you can include statements
# in each suite.
v = 'ten'
for case in switch(v):
    if case('one'):
        print 1
    if case('two'):
        print 2
    if case('ten'):
        print 10
    if case('eleven'):
        print 11
    if case(): # default, could also just omit condition or 'if True'
        print "something else!"
        # No need to break here, it'll stop anyway

# break is used here to look as much like the real thing as possible, but
# elif is generally just as good and more concise.

# Empty suites are considered syntax errors, so intentional fall-throughs
# should contain 'pass'
c = 'z'
for case in switch(c):
    if case('a'): pass # only necessary if the rest of the suite is empty
    if case('b'): pass
    # ...
    if case('y'): pass
    if case('z'):
        print "c is lowercase!"
    if case('A'): pass
    # ...
    if case('Z'):
        print "c is uppercase!"
    if case(): # default
        print "I dunno what c was!"

# As suggested by Pierre Quentel, you can even expand upon the
# functionality of the classic 'case' statement by matching multiple
# cases in a single shot. This greatly benefits operations such as the
# uppercase/lowercase example above:
import string
c = 'A'
for case in switch(c):
    if case(*string.lowercase): # note the * for unpacking as arguments
        print "c is lowercase!"
    if case(*string.uppercase):
        print "c is uppercase!"
    if case('!', '?', '.'): # normal argument passing style also applies
        print "c is a sentence terminator!"
    if case(): # default
        print "I dunno what c was!"

Some of the comments indicated that a context manager solution using with foo as case rather than for case in foo might be cleaner, and for large switch statements the linear rather than quadratic behavior might be a nice touch. Part of the value in this answer with a for loop is the ability to have breaks and fallthrough, and if we're willing to play with our choice of keywords a little bit we can get that in a context manager too:

class Switch:
    def __init__(self, value):
        self.value = value
        self._entered = False
        self._broken = False
        self._prev = None

    def __enter__(self):
        return self

    def __exit__(self, type, value, traceback):
        return False # Allows a traceback to occur

    def __call__(self, *values):
        if self._broken:
            return False
        if not self._entered:
            if values and self.value not in values:
                return False
            self._entered, self._prev = True, values
            return True
        if self._prev is None:
            self._prev = values
            return True
        if self._prev != values:
            self._broken = True
            return False
        if self._prev == values:
            self._prev = None
            return False
    def default(self):
        return self()

Here's an example:

# Prints 'bar' then 'baz'.
with Switch(2) as case:
    while case(0):
    while case(1, 2, 3):
    while case(4, 5):
    while case.default:

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