Python Programming/Scoping

VariablesEdit

Variables in Python are automatically declared by assignment. Variables are always references to objects, and are never typed. Variables exist only in the current scope or global scope. When they go out of scope, the variables are destroyed, but the objects to which they refer are not (unless the number of references to the object drops to zero).

Scope is delineated by function and class blocks. Both functions and their scopes can be nested. So therefore

def foo():
    def bar():
        x = 5 # x is now in scope
        return x + y # y is defined in the enclosing scope later
    y = 10
    return bar() # now that y is defined, bar's scope includes y

Now when this code is tested,

>>> foo()
15
>>> bar()
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<pyshell#26>", line 1, in -toplevel-
    bar()
NameError: name 'bar' is not defined

The name 'bar' is not found because a higher scope does not have access to the names lower in the hierarchy.

It is a common pitfall to fail to lookup an attribute (such as a method) of an object (such as a container) referenced by a variable before the variable is assigned the object. In its most common form:

>>> for x in range(10):
         y.append(x) # append is an attribute of lists
 
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<pyshell#46>", line 2, in -toplevel-
    y.append(x)
NameError: name 'y' is not defined

Here, to correct this problem, one must add y = [] before the for loop.

Last modified on 12 October 2013, at 21:37