# 10.2: Lists are mutable

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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:

>>> cheeses
'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 = [42, 123]
>>> numbers = 5
>>> numbers
[42, 5]


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

Figure $$\PageIndex{1}$$ shows the state diagram for cheeses, numbers and empty: 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

This page titled 10.2: Lists are mutable is shared under a CC BY-NC 3.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Allen B. Downey (Green Tea Press) .