# 6.2: Getting the length of a string using len

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len is a built-in function that returns the number of characters in a string:

>>> fruit = 'banana'
>>> len(fruit)
6

To get the last letter of a string, you might be tempted to try something like this:

>>> length = len(fruit)
>>> last = fruit[length]
IndexError: string index out of range

The reason for the IndexError is that there is no letter in 'banana' with the index 6. Since we started counting at zero, the six letters are numbered 0 to 5. To get the last character, you have to subtract 1 from length:

>>> last = fruit[length-1]
>>> print(last)
a

Alternatively, you can use negative indices, which count backward from the end of the string. The expression fruit[-1] yields the last letter, fruit[-2] yields the second to last, and so on.

This page titled 6.2: Getting the length of a string using len is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Chuck Severance via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.