# 19.1: Conditional expressions

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We saw conditional statements in Section 5.4. Conditional statements are often used to choose one of two values; for example:

if x > 0:
y = math.log(x)
else:
y = float('nan')


This statement checks whether x is positive. If so, it computes math.log. If not, math.log would raise a ValueError. To avoid stopping the program, we generate a “NaN”, which is a special floating-point value that represents “Not a Number”.

We can write this statement more concisely using a conditional expression:

y = math.log(x) if x > 0 else float('nan')


You can almost read this line like English: “y gets log-x if x is greater than 0; otherwise it gets NaN”.

Recursive functions can sometimes be rewritten using conditional expressions. For example, here is a recursive version of factorial:

def factorial(n):
if n == 0:
return 1
else:
return n * factorial(n-1)


We can rewrite it like this:

def factorial(n):
return 1 if n == 0 else n * factorial(n-1)


Another use of conditional expressions is handling optional arguments. For example, here is the init method from GoodKangaroo (see Exercise 17.13.2):

    def __init__(self, name, contents=None):
self.name = name
if contents == None:
contents = []
self.pouch_contents = contents


We can rewrite this one like this:

    def __init__(self, name, contents=None):
self.name = name
self.pouch_contents = [] if contents == None else contents


In general, you can replace a conditional statement with a conditional expression if both branches contain simple expressions that are either returned or assigned to the same variable.

19.1: Conditional expressions is shared under a CC BY-NC 3.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Allen B. Downey (Green Tea Press) .