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Engineering LibreTexts

8.9: Lists and Strings

A string is a sequence of characters and a list is a sequence of values, but a list of characters is not the same as a string. To convert from a string to a list of characters, you can use list:


>>> s = 'spam'
>>> t = list(s)
>>> print(t)
['s', 'p', 'a', 'm']

Because list is the name of a built-in function, you should avoid using it as a variable name. I also avoid the letter l because it looks too much like the number 1. So that's why I use t.

The list function breaks a string into individual letters. If you want to break a string into words, you can use the split method:


>>> s = 'pining for the fjords'
>>> t = s.split()
>>> print(t)
['pining', 'for', 'the', 'fjords']
>>> print(t[2])

Once you have used split to break the string into a list of words, you can use the index operator (square bracket) to look at a particular word in the list.

You can call split with an optional argument called a delimiter that specifies which characters to use as word boundaries. The following example uses a hyphen as a delimiter:


>>> s = 'spam-spam-spam'
>>> delimiter = '-'
>>> s.split(delimiter)
['spam', 'spam', 'spam']

join is the inverse of split. It takes a list of strings and concatenates the elements. join is a string method, so you have to invoke it on the delimiter and pass the list as a parameter:


>>> t = ['pining', 'for', 'the', 'fjords']
>>> delimiter = ' '
>>> delimiter.join(t)
'pining for the fjords'

In this case the delimiter is a space character, so join puts a space between words. To concatenate strings without spaces, you can use the empty string, "", as a delimiter.