Python – Why does python use ‘else’ after for and while loops

for-elsefor-loopif-statementpython

I understand how this construct works:

for i in range(10):
    print(i)

    if i == 9:
        print("Too big - I'm giving up!")
        break;
else:
    print("Completed successfully")

But I don't understand why else is used as the keyword here, since it suggests the code in question only runs if the for block does not complete, which is the opposite of what it does! No matter how I think about it, my brain can't progress seamlessly from the for statement to the else block. To me, continue or continuewith would make more sense (and I'm trying to train myself to read it as such).

I'm wondering how Python coders read this construct in their head (or aloud, if you like). Perhaps I'm missing something that would make such code blocks more easily decipherable?

Best Solution

A common construct is to run a loop until something is found and then to break out of the loop. The problem is that if I break out of the loop or the loop ends I need to determine which case happened. One method is to create a flag or store variable that will let me do a second test to see how the loop was exited.

For example assume that I need to search through a list and process each item until a flag item is found and then stop processing. If the flag item is missing then an exception needs to be raised.

Using the Python for...else construct you have

for i in mylist:
    if i == theflag:
        break
    process(i)
else:
    raise ValueError("List argument missing terminal flag.")

Compare this to a method that does not use this syntactic sugar:

flagfound = False
for i in mylist:
    if i == theflag:
        flagfound = True
        break
    process(i)

if not flagfound:
    raise ValueError("List argument missing terminal flag.")

In the first case the raise is bound tightly to the for loop it works with. In the second the binding is not as strong and errors may be introduced during maintenance.