Python – the best (idiomatic) way to check the type of a Python variable?


I need to know if a variable in Python is a string or a dict. Is there anything wrong with the following code?

if type(x) == type(str()):
elif type(x) == type(dict()):
    raise ValueError

Update: I accepted avisser's answer (though I will change my mind if someone explains why isinstance is preferred over type(x) is).

But thanks to nakedfanatic for reminding me that it's often cleaner to use a dict (as a case statement) than an if/elif/else series.

Let me elaborate on my use case. If a variable is a string, I need to put it in a list. If it's a dict, I need a list of the unique values. Here's what I came up with:

def value_list(x):
    cases = {str: lambda t: [t],
             dict: lambda t: list(set(t.values()))}
        return cases[type(x)](x)
    except KeyError:
        return None

If isinstance is preferred, how would you write this value_list() function?

Best Solution

What happens if somebody passes a unicode string to your function? Or a class derived from dict? Or a class implementing a dict-like interface? Following code covers first two cases. If you are using Python 2.6 you might want to use collections.Mapping instead of dict as per the ABC PEP.

def value_list(x):
    if isinstance(x, dict):
        return list(set(x.values()))
    elif isinstance(x, basestring):
        return [x]
        return None