Skip to main content
Engineering LibreTexts

1.2: Lists Are Mutable

  • Page ID
    15412
  • The syntax for accessing the elements of a list is the same as for accessing the characters of a string—the bracket operator. The expression inside the brackets specifies the index. Remember that the indices start at 0:

    >>> print cheeses[0]
    Cheddar
    

    Unlike strings, lists are mutable. When the bracket operator appears on the left side of an assignment, it identifies the element of the list that will be assigned.

    >>> numbers = [17, 123]
    >>> numbers[1] = 5
    >>> print numbers
    [17, 5]
    

    The one-eth element of numbers, which used to be 123, is now 5.

    You can think of a list as a relationship between indices and elements. This relationship is called a mapping; each index “maps to” one of the elements. Figure 10.2.1 shows the state diagram for cheeses, numbers and empty:

    State diagram.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): State diagram.

    Lists are represented by boxes with the word “list” outside and the elements of the list inside. cheeses refers to a list with three elements indexed 0, 1 and 2. numbers contains two elements; the diagram shows that the value of the second element has been reassigned from 123 to 5. empty refers to a list with no elements.

    List indices work the same way as string indices:

    • Any integer expression can be used as an index.
    • If you try to read or write an element that does not exist, you get an IndexError.
    • If an index has a negative value, it counts backward from the end of the list.

    The in operator also works on lists.

    >>> cheeses = ['Cheddar', 'Edam', 'Gouda']
    >>> 'Edam' in cheeses
    True
    >>> 'Brie' in cheeses
    False