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PEP: 498
Title: Literal String Interpolation
Version: $Revision$
Last-Modified: $Date$
Author: Eric V. Smith <eric@trueblade.com>
Status: Final
Type: Standards Track
Content-Type: text/x-rst
Created: 01-Aug-2015
Python-Version: 3.6
Post-History: 07-Aug-2015, 30-Aug-2015, 04-Sep-2015, 19-Sep-2015, 06-Nov-2016
Resolution: https://mail.python.org/pipermail/python-dev/2015-September/141526.html
Abstract
========
Python supports multiple ways to format text strings. These include
%-formatting [#]_, ``str.format()`` [#]_, and ``string.Template``
[#]_. Each of these methods have their advantages, but in addition
have disadvantages that make them cumbersome to use in practice. This
PEP proposed to add a new string formatting mechanism: Literal String
Interpolation. In this PEP, such strings will be referred to as
"f-strings", taken from the leading character used to denote such
strings, and standing for "formatted strings".
This PEP does not propose to remove or deprecate any of the existing
string formatting mechanisms.
F-strings provide a way to embed expressions inside string literals,
using a minimal syntax. It should be noted that an f-string is really
an expression evaluated at run time, not a constant value. In Python
source code, an f-string is a literal string, prefixed with 'f', which
contains expressions inside braces. The expressions are replaced with
their values. Some examples are::
>>> import datetime
>>> name = 'Fred'
>>> age = 50
>>> anniversary = datetime.date(1991, 10, 12)
>>> f'My name is {name}, my age next year is {age+1}, my anniversary is {anniversary:%A, %B %d, %Y}.'
'My name is Fred, my age next year is 51, my anniversary is Saturday, October 12, 1991.'
>>> f'He said his name is {name!r}.'
"He said his name is 'Fred'."
A similar feature was proposed in PEP 215. PEP 215 proposed to support
a subset of Python expressions, and did not support the type-specific
string formatting (the ``__format__()`` method) which was introduced
with PEP 3101.
Rationale
=========
This PEP is driven by the desire to have a simpler way to format
strings in Python. The existing ways of formatting are either error
prone, inflexible, or cumbersome.
%-formatting is limited as to the types it supports. Only ints, strs,
and doubles can be formatted. All other types are either not
supported, or converted to one of these types before formatting. In
addition, there's a well-known trap where a single value is passed::
>>> msg = 'disk failure'
>>> 'error: %s' % msg
'error: disk failure'
But if msg were ever to be a tuple, the same code would fail::
>>> msg = ('disk failure', 32)
>>> 'error: %s' % msg
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
TypeError: not all arguments converted during string formatting
To be defensive, the following code should be used::
>>> 'error: %s' % (msg,)
"error: ('disk failure', 32)"
``str.format()`` was added to address some of these problems with
%-formatting. In particular, it uses normal function call syntax (and
therefor supports multiple parameters) and it is extensible through
the ``__format__()`` method on the object being converted to a
string. See PEP 3101 for a detailed rationale. This PEP reuses much of
the ``str.format()`` syntax and machinery, in order to provide
continuity with an existing Python string formatting mechanism.
However, ``str.format()`` is not without its issues. Chief among them
is its verbosity. For example, the text ``value`` is repeated here::
>>> value = 4 * 20
>>> 'The value is {value}.'.format(value=value)
'The value is 80.'
Even in its simplest form there is a bit of boilerplate, and the value
that's inserted into the placeholder is sometimes far removed from
where the placeholder is situated::
>>> 'The value is {}.'.format(value)
'The value is 80.'
With an f-string, this becomes::
>>> f'The value is {value}.'
'The value is 80.'
F-strings provide a concise, readable way to include the value of
Python expressions inside strings.
In this sense, ``string.Template`` and %-formatting have similar
shortcomings to ``str.format()``, but also support fewer formatting
options. In particular, they do not support the ``__format__``
protocol, so that there is no way to control how a specific object is
converted to a string, nor can it be extended to additional types that
want to control how they are converted to strings (such as ``Decimal``
and ``datetime``). This example is not possible with
``string.Template``::
>>> value = 1234
>>> f'input={value:#06x}'
'input=0x04d2'
And neither %-formatting nor ``string.Template`` can control
formatting such as::
>>> date = datetime.date(1991, 10, 12)
>>> f'{date} was on a {date:%A}'
'1991-10-12 was on a Saturday'
No use of globals() or locals()
-------------------------------
In the discussions on python-dev [#]_, a number of solutions where
presented that used locals() and globals() or their equivalents. All
of these have various problems. Among these are referencing variables
that are not otherwise used in a closure. Consider::
>>> def outer(x):
... def inner():
... return 'x={x}'.format_map(locals())
... return inner
...
>>> outer(42)()
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
File "<stdin>", line 3, in inner
KeyError: 'x'
This returns an error because the compiler has not added a reference
to x inside the closure. You need to manually add a reference to x in
order for this to work::
>>> def outer(x):
... def inner():
... x
... return 'x={x}'.format_map(locals())
... return inner
...
>>> outer(42)()
'x=42'
In addition, using locals() or globals() introduces an information
leak. A called routine that has access to the callers locals() or
globals() has access to far more information than needed to do the
string interpolation.
Guido stated [#]_ that any solution to better string interpolation
would not use locals() or globals() in its implementation. (This does
not forbid users from passing locals() or globals() in, it just
doesn't require it, nor does it allow using these functions under the
hood.)
Specification
=============
In source code, f-strings are string literals that are prefixed by the
letter 'f' or 'F'. Everywhere this PEP uses 'f', 'F' may also be
used. 'f' may be combined with 'r' or 'R', in either order, to produce
raw f-string literals. 'f' may not be combined with 'b': this PEP does
not propose to add binary f-strings. 'f' may not be combined with 'u'.
When tokenizing source files, f-strings use the same rules as normal
strings, raw strings, binary strings, and triple quoted strings. That
is, the string must end with the same character that it started with:
if it starts with a single quote it must end with a single quote, etc.
This implies that any code that currently scans Python code looking
for strings should be trivially modifiable to recognize f-strings
(parsing within an f-string is another matter, of course).
Once tokenized, f-strings are parsed in to literal strings and
expressions. Expressions appear within curly braces ``'{'`` and
``'}'``. While scanning the string for expressions, any doubled
braces ``'{{'`` or ``'}}'`` inside literal portions of an f-string are
replaced by the corresponding single brace. Doubled literal opening
braces do not signify the start of an expression. A single closing
curly brace ``'}'`` in the literal portion of a string is an error:
literal closing curly braces must be doubled ``'}}'`` in order to
represent a single closing brace.
The parts of the f-string outside of braces are literal
strings. These literal portions are then decoded. For non-raw
f-strings, this includes converting backslash escapes such as
``'\n'``, ``'\"'``, ``"\'"``, ``'\xhh'``, ``'\uxxxx'``,
``'\Uxxxxxxxx'``, and named unicode characters ``'\N{name}'`` into
their associated Unicode characters [#]_.
Backslashes may not appear anywhere within expressions. Comments,
using the ``'#'`` character, are not allowed inside an expression.
Following each expression, an optional type conversion may be
specified. The allowed conversions are ``'!s'``, ``'!r'``, or
``'!a'``. These are treated the same as in ``str.format()``: ``'!s'``
calls ``str()`` on the expression, ``'!r'`` calls ``repr()`` on the
expression, and ``'!a'`` calls ``ascii()`` on the expression. These
conversions are applied before the call to ``format()``. The only
reason to use ``'!s'`` is if you want to specify a format specifier
that applies to ``str``, not to the type of the expression.
F-strings use the same format specifier mini-language as ``str.format``.
Similar to ``str.format()``, optional format specifiers maybe be
included inside the f-string, separated from the expression (or the
type conversion, if specified) by a colon. If a format specifier is
not provided, an empty string is used.
So, an f-string looks like::
f ' <text> { <expression> <optional !s, !r, or !a> <optional : format specifier> } <text> ... '
The expression is then formatted using the ``__format__`` protocol,
using the format specifier as an argument. The resulting value is
used when building the value of the f-string.
Note that ``__format__()`` is not called directly on each value. The
actual code uses the equivalent of ``type(value).__format__(value,
format_spec)``, or ``format(value, format_spec)``. See the
documentation of the builtin ``format()`` function for more details.
Expressions cannot contain ``':'`` or ``'!'`` outside of strings or
parentheses, brackets, or braces. The exception is that the ``'!='``
operator is allowed as a special case.
Escape sequences
----------------
Backslashes may not appear inside the expression portions of
f-strings, so you cannot use them, for example, to escape quotes
inside f-strings::
>>> f'{\'quoted string\'}'
File "<stdin>", line 1
SyntaxError: f-string expression part cannot include a backslash
You can use a different type of quote inside the expression::
>>> f'{"quoted string"}'
'quoted string'
Backslash escapes may appear inside the string portions of an
f-string.
Note that the correct way to have a literal brace appear in the
resulting string value is to double the brace::
>>> f'{{ {4*10} }}'
'{ 40 }'
>>> f'{{{4*10}}}'
'{40}'
Like all raw strings in Python, no escape processing is done for raw
f-strings::
>>> fr'x={4*10}\n'
'x=40\\n'
Due to Python's string tokenizing rules, the f-string
``f'abc {a['x']} def'`` is invalid. The tokenizer parses this as 3
tokens: ``f'abc {a['``, ``x``, and ``']} def'``. Just like regular
strings, this cannot be fixed by using raw strings. There are a number
of correct ways to write this f-string: with a different quote
character::
f"abc {a['x']} def"
Or with triple quotes::
f'''abc {a['x']} def'''
Code equivalence
----------------
The exact code used to implement f-strings is not specified. However,
it is guaranteed that any embedded value that is converted to a string
will use that value's ``__format__`` method. This is the same
mechanism that ``str.format()`` uses to convert values to strings.
For example, this code::
f'abc{expr1:spec1}{expr2!r:spec2}def{expr3}ghi'
Might be evaluated as::
'abc' + format(expr1, spec1) + format(repr(expr2), spec2) + 'def' + format(expr3) + 'ghi'
Expression evaluation
---------------------
The expressions that are extracted from the string are evaluated in
the context where the f-string appeared. This means the expression has
full access to local and global variables. Any valid Python expression
can be used, including function and method calls.
Because the f-strings are evaluated where the string appears in the
source code, there is no additional expressiveness available with
f-strings. There are also no additional security concerns: you could
have also just written the same expression, not inside of an
f-string::
>>> def foo():
... return 20
...
>>> f'result={foo()}'
'result=20'
Is equivalent to::
>>> 'result=' + str(foo())
'result=20'
Expressions are parsed with the equivalent of ``ast.parse('(' +
expression + ')', '<fstring>', 'eval')`` [#]_.
Note that since the expression is enclosed by implicit parentheses
before evaluation, expressions can contain newlines. For example::
>>> x = 0
>>> f'''{x
... +1}'''
'1'
>>> d = {0: 'zero'}
>>> f'''{d[0
... ]}'''
'zero'
Format specifiers
-----------------
Format specifiers may also contain evaluated expressions. This allows
code such as::
>>> width = 10
>>> precision = 4
>>> value = decimal.Decimal('12.34567')
>>> f'result: {value:{width}.{precision}}'
'result: 12.35'
Once expressions in a format specifier are evaluated (if necessary),
format specifiers are not interpreted by the f-string evaluator. Just
as in ``str.format()``, they are merely passed in to the
``__format__()`` method of the object being formatted.
Concatenating strings
---------------------
Adjacent f-strings and regular strings are concatenated. Regular
strings are concatenated at compile time, and f-strings are
concatenated at run time. For example, the expression::
>>> x = 10
>>> y = 'hi'
>>> 'a' 'b' f'{x}' '{c}' f'str<{y:^4}>' 'd' 'e'
yields the value::
'ab10{c}str< hi >de'
While the exact method of this run time concatenation is unspecified,
the above code might evaluate to::
'ab' + format(x) + '{c}' + 'str<' + format(y, '^4') + '>de'
Each f-string is entirely evaluated before being concatenated to
adjacent f-strings. That means that this::
>>> f'{x' f'}'
Is a syntax error, because the first f-string does not contain a
closing brace.
Error handling
--------------
Either compile time or run time errors can occur when processing
f-strings. Compile time errors are limited to those errors that can be
detected when scanning an f-string. These errors all raise
``SyntaxError``.
Unmatched braces::
>>> f'x={x'
File "<stdin>", line 1
SyntaxError: f-string: expecting '}'
Invalid expressions::
>>> f'x={!x}'
File "<stdin>", line 1
SyntaxError: f-string: empty expression not allowed
Run time errors occur when evaluating the expressions inside an
f-string. Note that an f-string can be evaluated multiple times, and
work sometimes and raise an error at other times::
>>> d = {0:10, 1:20}
>>> for i in range(3):
... print(f'{i}:{d[i]}')
...
0:10
1:20
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "<stdin>", line 2, in <module>
KeyError: 2
or::
>>> for x in (32, 100, 'fifty'):
... print(f'x = {x:+3}')
...
'x = +32'
'x = +100'
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "<stdin>", line 2, in <module>
ValueError: Sign not allowed in string format specifier
Leading and trailing whitespace in expressions is ignored
---------------------------------------------------------
For ease of readability, leading and trailing whitespace in
expressions is ignored. This is a by-product of enclosing the
expression in parentheses before evaluation.
Evaluation order of expressions
-------------------------------
The expressions in an f-string are evaluated in left-to-right
order. This is detectable only if the expressions have side effects::
>>> def fn(l, incr):
... result = l[0]
... l[0] += incr
... return result
...
>>> lst = [0]
>>> f'{fn(lst,2)} {fn(lst,3)}'
'0 2'
>>> f'{fn(lst,2)} {fn(lst,3)}'
'5 7'
>>> lst
[10]
Discussion
==========
python-ideas discussion
-----------------------
Most of the discussions on python-ideas [#]_ focused on three issues:
- How to denote f-strings,
- How to specify the location of expressions in f-strings, and
- Whether to allow full Python expressions.
How to denote f-strings
***********************
Because the compiler must be involved in evaluating the expressions
contained in the interpolated strings, there must be some way to
denote to the compiler which strings should be evaluated. This PEP
chose a leading ``'f'`` character preceding the string literal. This
is similar to how ``'b'`` and ``'r'`` prefixes change the meaning of
the string itself, at compile time. Other prefixes were suggested,
such as ``'i'``. No option seemed better than the other, so ``'f'``
was chosen.
Another option was to support special functions, known to the
compiler, such as ``Format()``. This seems like too much magic for
Python: not only is there a chance for collision with existing
identifiers, the PEP author feels that it's better to signify the
magic with a string prefix character.
How to specify the location of expressions in f-strings
*******************************************************
This PEP supports the same syntax as ``str.format()`` for
distinguishing replacement text inside strings: expressions are
contained inside braces. There were other options suggested, such as
``string.Template``'s ``$identifier`` or ``${expression}``.
While ``$identifier`` is no doubt more familiar to shell scripters and
users of some other languages, in Python ``str.format()`` is heavily
used. A quick search of Python's standard library shows only a handful
of uses of ``string.Template``, but hundreds of uses of
``str.format()``.
Another proposed alternative was to have the substituted text between
``\{`` and ``}`` or between ``\{`` and ``\}``. While this syntax would
probably be desirable if all string literals were to support
interpolation, this PEP only supports strings that are already marked
with the leading ``'f'``. As such, the PEP is using unadorned braces
to denoted substituted text, in order to leverage end user familiarity
with ``str.format()``.
Supporting full Python expressions
**********************************
Many people on the python-ideas discussion wanted support for either
only single identifiers, or a limited subset of Python expressions
(such as the subset supported by ``str.format()``). This PEP supports
full Python expressions inside the braces. Without full expressions,
some desirable usage would be cumbersome. For example::
>>> f'Column={col_idx+1}'
>>> f'number of items: {len(items)}'
would become::
>>> col_number = col_idx+1
>>> f'Column={col_number}'
>>> n_items = len(items)
>>> f'number of items: {n_items}'
While it's true that very ugly expressions could be included in the
f-strings, this PEP takes the position that such uses should be
addressed in a linter or code review::
>>> f'mapping is { {a:b for (a, b) in ((1, 2), (3, 4))} }'
'mapping is {1: 2, 3: 4}'
Similar support in other languages
----------------------------------
Wikipedia has a good discussion of string interpolation in other
programming languages [#]_. This feature is implemented in many
languages, with a variety of syntaxes and restrictions.
Differences between f-string and str.format expressions
-------------------------------------------------------
There is one small difference between the limited expressions allowed
in ``str.format()`` and the full expressions allowed inside
f-strings. The difference is in how index lookups are performed. In
``str.format()``, index values that do not look like numbers are
converted to strings::
>>> d = {'a': 10, 'b': 20}
>>> 'a={d[a]}'.format(d=d)
'a=10'
Notice that the index value is converted to the string ``'a'`` when it
is looked up in the dict.
However, in f-strings, you would need to use a literal for the value
of ``'a'``::
>>> f'a={d["a"]}'
'a=10'
This difference is required because otherwise you would not be able to
use variables as index values::
>>> a = 'b'
>>> f'a={d[a]}'
'a=20'
See [#]_ for a further discussion. It was this observation that led to
full Python expressions being supported in f-strings.
Furthermore, the limited expressions that ``str.format()`` understands
need not be valid Python expressions. For example::
>>> '{i[";]}'.format(i={'";':4})
'4'
For this reason, the str.format() "expression parser" is not suitable
for use when implementing f-strings.
Triple-quoted f-strings
-----------------------
Triple quoted f-strings are allowed. These strings are parsed just as
normal triple-quoted strings are. After parsing and decoding, the
normal f-string logic is applied, and ``__format__()`` is called on
each value.
Raw f-strings
-------------
Raw and f-strings may be combined. For example, they could be used to
build up regular expressions::
>>> header = 'Subject'
>>> fr'{header}:\s+'
'Subject:\\s+'
In addition, raw f-strings may be combined with triple-quoted strings.
No binary f-strings
-------------------
For the same reason that we don't support ``bytes.format()``, you may
not combine ``'f'`` with ``'b'`` string literals. The primary problem
is that an object's ``__format__()`` method may return Unicode data that
is not compatible with a bytes string.
Binary f-strings would first require a solution for
``bytes.format()``. This idea has been proposed in the past, most
recently in PEP 461 [#]_. The discussions of such a feature usually
suggest either
- adding a method such as ``__bformat__()`` so an object can control
how it is converted to bytes, or
- having ``bytes.format()`` not be as general purpose or extensible
as ``str.format()``.
Both of these remain as options in the future, if such functionality
is desired.
``!s``, ``!r``, and ``!a`` are redundant
----------------------------------------
The ``!s``, ``!r``, and ``!a`` conversions are not strictly
required. Because arbitrary expressions are allowed inside the
f-strings, this code::
>>> a = 'some string'
>>> f'{a!r}'
"'some string'"
Is identical to::
>>> f'{repr(a)}'
"'some string'"
Similarly, ``!s`` can be replaced by calls to ``str()`` and ``!a`` by
calls to ``ascii()``.
However, ``!s``, ``!r``, and ``!a`` are supported by this PEP in order
to minimize the differences with ``str.format()``. ``!s``, ``!r``, and
``!a`` are required in ``str.format()`` because it does not allow the
execution of arbitrary expressions.
Lambdas inside expressions
--------------------------
Because lambdas use the ``':'`` character, they cannot appear outside
of parentheses in an expression. The colon is interpreted as the start
of the format specifier, which means the start of the lambda
expression is seen and is syntactically invalid. As there's no
practical use for a plain lambda in an f-string expression, this is
not seen as much of a limitation.
If you feel you must use lambdas, they may be used inside of parentheses::
>>> f'{(lambda x: x*2)(3)}'
'6'
Can't combine with 'u'
--------------------------
The 'u' prefix was added to Python 3.3 in PEP 414 as a means to ease
source compatibility with Python 2.7. Because Python 2.7 will never
support f-strings, there is nothing to be gained by being able to
combine the 'f' prefix with 'u'.
Examples from Python's source code
==================================
Here are some examples from Python source code that currently use
``str.format()``, and how they would look with f-strings. This PEP
does not recommend wholesale converting to f-strings, these are just
examples of real-world usages of ``str.format()`` and how they'd look
if written from scratch using f-strings.
``Lib/asyncio/locks.py``::
extra = '{},waiters:{}'.format(extra, len(self._waiters))
extra = f'{extra},waiters:{len(self._waiters)}'
``Lib/configparser.py``::
message.append(" [line {0:2d}]".format(lineno))
message.append(f" [line {lineno:2d}]")
``Tools/clinic/clinic.py``::
methoddef_name = "{}_METHODDEF".format(c_basename.upper())
methoddef_name = f"{c_basename.upper()}_METHODDEF"
``python-config.py``::
print("Usage: {0} [{1}]".format(sys.argv[0], '|'.join('--'+opt for opt in valid_opts)), file=sys.stderr)
print(f"Usage: {sys.argv[0]} [{'|'.join('--'+opt for opt in valid_opts)}]", file=sys.stderr)
References
==========
.. [#] %-formatting
(https://docs.python.org/3/library/stdtypes.html#printf-style-string-formatting)
.. [#] str.format
(https://docs.python.org/3/library/string.html#formatstrings)
.. [#] string.Template documentation
(https://docs.python.org/3/library/string.html#template-strings)
.. [#] Formatting using locals() and globals()
(https://mail.python.org/pipermail/python-ideas/2015-July/034671.html)
.. [#] Avoid locals() and globals()
(https://mail.python.org/pipermail/python-ideas/2015-July/034701.html)
.. [#] String literal description
(https://docs.python.org/3/reference/lexical_analysis.html#string-and-bytes-literals)
.. [#] ast.parse() documentation
(https://docs.python.org/3/library/ast.html#ast.parse)
.. [#] Start of python-ideas discussion
(https://mail.python.org/pipermail/python-ideas/2015-July/034657.html)
.. [#] Wikipedia article on string interpolation
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_interpolation)
.. [#] Differences in str.format() and f-string expressions
(https://mail.python.org/pipermail/python-ideas/2015-July/034726.html)
.. [#] PEP 461 rejects bytes.format()
(https://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-0461/#proposed-variations)
Copyright
=========
This document has been placed in the public domain.
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