The relational operators work with tuples and other sequences; Python starts by comparing the first element from each sequence. If they are equal, it goes on to the next elements, and so on, until it finds elements that differ. Subsequent elements are not considered (even if they are really big).
>>> (0, 1, 2) < (0, 3, 4) True >>> (0, 1, 2000000) < (0, 3, 4) True
sort function works the same way. It sorts primarily by first element, but in the case of a tie, it sorts by second element, and so on.
This feature lends itself to a pattern called DSU for
- a sequence by building a list of tuples with one or more sort keys preceding the elements from the sequence,
- the list of tuples, and
- by extracting the sorted elements of the sequence.
For example, suppose you have a list of words and you want to sort them from longest to shortest:
def sort_by_length(words): t =  for word in words: t.append((len(word), word)) t.sort(reverse=True) res =  for length, word in t: res.append(word) return res
The first loop builds a list of tuples, where each tuple is a word preceded by its length.
sort compares the first element, length, first, and only considers the second element to break ties. The keyword argument
sort to go in decreasing order.
The second loop traverses the list of tuples and builds a list of words in descending order of length.
In this example, ties are broken by comparing words, so words with the same length appear in reverse alphabetical order. For other applications you might want to break ties at random. Modify this example so that words with the same length appear in random order. Hint: see the
random function in the