Python Functions

  • A function is a block of code with a name.
  • We can call a function by its name.
  • The code inside a function only runs when it’s called.
  • A function can accept data from the caller program, it’s called as function parameters.
  • The function parameters are inside parentheses and separated by a comma. A function can accept any number of arguments.
  • A function can return data to the caller program. Unlike other popular programming languages, Python functions definition doesn’t specify the return type.
  • We can’t use reserved keywords as the function name. A function name must follow the Python identifiers definition rules.

How to Define a Function in Python?

We can define a function in Python using def keyword. Let’s look at a couple examples of a function in Python.

def hello():
    print('Hello World')

def add(x, y):
    print(f'arguments are {x} and {y}')
    return x + y

Based on above examples, we can define a function structure as this.

def function_name(arguments):
    # code statements
Python Functions
Python Functions

How to Call a Function in Python?

We can call a function by its name. If the function accept parameters, we have to pass them while calling the function.

sum = add(10, 5)
print(f'sum is {sum}')

We are calling hello() and add() functions that are defined by us. We are also calling print() function that is one of the built-in function in Python.

Python Function Types

There are two types of functions in Python.

  1. built-in functions: The functions provided by the Python language such as print(), len(), str(), etc.
  2. user-defined functions: The functions defined by us in a Python program.

Can a Function have default parameter value?

Python allows default values for the function parameters. If the caller doesn’t pass the parameter then the default value is used.

def hello(year=2019):
    print(f'Hello World {year}')

hello(2020)  # function parameter is passed
hello()  # function parameter is not passed, so default value will be used


Hello World 2020
Hello World 2019

Can we have multiple return statements inside a Function?

Yes, a function can have multiple return statements. However, when one of the return statement is reached, the function execution terminates and the value is returned to the caller.

def odd_even_checker(i):
    if i % 2 == 0:
        return 'even'
        return 'odd'


Can a Python Function Return Multiple Values one by one?

Python function can return multiple values one by one. It’s implemented using the yield keyword. It’s useful when you want a function to return a large number of values and process them. We can split the returned values into multiple chunks using yield statement. This type of function is also called a generator function.

def return_odd_ints(i):
    x = 1
    while x <= i:
        yield x
        x += 2

output = return_odd_ints(10)
for out in output:



Python Function Variable Arguments

Python allows three type of parameters in the function definition.

  1. Formal arguments: the ones we have seen in the examples so far.
  2. Variable Number of non-keyword arguments: for example, def add(*args)
  3. Variable Number of keyword arguments or named arguments: for example, def add(**kwargs)

Some important points about variable arguments in Python are:

  • The arguments order should be formal arguments, *args, and **kwargs.
  • It’s not mandatory to use variable parameter names as args and kwargs. However, it’s the best practice to use them for better code readability.
  • The args type is tuple. So we can pass a tuple to be mapped with *args variable.
  • The type of kwargs is dict. So we can pass a dictionary to be mapped with **kwargs variable.

Here is a simple example of using variable arguments in a function.

def add(x, y, *args, **kwargs):
    sum = x + y
    for a in args:
        sum += a

    for k, v in kwargs.items():
        sum += v
    return sum

total = add(1, 2, *(3, 4), **{"k1": 5, "k2": 6})
print(total)  # 21

Python Recursive Function

When a function calls itself, it’s called a recursive function. This scenario is called recursion in programming.

You should be very careful when using recursion because there might be a chance that the function never terminates and goes into infinite loop. Here is a simple example to print fibonacci series using recursion.

def fibonacci_numbers_at_index(count):
    if count <= 1:
        return count
        return fibonacci_numbers_at_index(count - 1) + fibonacci_numbers_at_index(count - 2)

count = 5
i = 1
while i <= count:
    i += 1

It’s good to know about recursion but most of the times you don’t need it in programming. You can perform the same thing using for-loop or while-loop.

Data Type of Python Function

Python functions are instances of ‘function’ class. We can check this using type() function.

def foo():


Output: <class ‘function’>

Python Function vs Method

  • Python function is part of the python script file in which it is defined whereas Methods are defined inside a class definition.
  • We can call a function directly if it’s in the same module. If the function is defined in a different module, we can import the module and then call the function directly. We need a class or an object of the class to call the methods.
  • Python function can access all the global variables whereas Python class methods can access global variables as well as class attributes and functions.
  • Python functions data type is ‘function’ whereas Python methods data type is ‘method’.

Let’s look at a simple example of functions and methods in Python.

class Data:
    def foo(self):
        print('foo method')

def foo():
    print('foo function')

# calling a function

# calling a method
d = Data()

# checking data types


foo function
foo method
<class 'function'>
<class 'method'>

Advantages of Python Functions

  • Code reusability because we can call the same function multiple times
  • Modular code since we can define different functions for different tasks
  • Improves maintainability of the code
  • Abstraction as the caller doesn’t need to know the function implementation

Python Anonymous Function

Anonymous functions doesn’t have a name. We can define anonymous function in Python using lambda keyword.

def square(x):
    return x * x

f_square = lambda x: x * x

print(square(10))  # 100
print(f_square(10))  # 100


Functions are important part of a programming language. Python function are defined using def keyword. We can have variable number of arguments in a Python function. Python also supports anonymous function. They can return a single value or yield a number of values one by one.