Most functions in Python return a value: usually the result of the work done by that function. But did you know that you can return multiple values in Python too? You don’t need a dictionary, list, or a class to do so.
Return multiple values in Python with a tuple
All you need to do is list your values after the return statement, separated by commas. Here’s an example of how to return multiple values and how to assign them to multiple variables at once:
def get_user(id): # fetch user from database # .... return name, birthdate name, birthdate = get_user(4)
What we are actually doing here, is returning a tuple. We could have written
return (name, birthdate) as well, with the same effect. And if you’re wondering whether you can return more than two values this way: yes you can!
The most obvious advantage of returning multiple values in Python using a tuple is that we can directly assign the result to multiple variables. It’s super clean and concise, just like Python was meant to be.
Alternative ways to return multiple values
Using tuples to return multiple values in Python is alright for a limited number of values. But once you get past 2 or 3 values, you should look into the usage of a data class to keep your code clean and readable. A data class is essentially a regular class, annotated with
@dataclass to give it some handy extra functionality.
If a data class is not an option because you’re running an older Python version, for example, you can also consider returning:
What’s best depends on the kind of data you’re returning. If the data fits in a list nicely, use a list. If the data has keys and values, use a dictionary. If your data is more complex, you might even need to put multiple lists inside a dictionary. Just remember, at some point, it will be cleaner to use a (data) class.
- Learn all about Python tuples and Python dictionaries
- Learn more advanced Python function tricks in our Python functions deep dive