Why in Python does “0, 0 == (0, 0)” equal “(0, False)”?

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In Python (I checked only with Python 3.6 but I believe it should hold for many of the previous versions as well):

(0, 0) == 0, 0   # results in a two element tuple: (False, 0)
0, 0 == (0, 0)   # results in a two element tuple: (0, False)
(0, 0) == (0, 0) # results in a boolean True

But:

a = 0, 0
b = (0, 0)
a == b # results in a boolean True

Why does the result differ between the two approaches? Does the equality operator handle tuples differently?

Answer rating: 156

The first two expressions both parse as tuples:

  1. (0, 0) == 0 (which is False), followed by 0
  2. 0, followed by 0 == (0, 0) (which is still False that way around).

The expressions are split that way because of the relative precedence of the comma separator compared to the equality operator: Python sees a tuple containing two expressions, one of which happens to be an equality test, instead of an equality test between two tuples.

But in your second set of statements, a = 0, 0 cannot be a tuple. A tuple is a collection of values, and unlike an equality test, assignment has no value in Python. An assignment is not an expression, but a statement; it does not have a value that can be included into a tuple or any other surrounding expression. If you tried something like (a = 0), 0 in order to force interpretation as a tuple, you would get a syntax error. That leaves the assignment of a tuple to a variable – which could be made more explicit by writing it a = (0, 0) – as the only valid interpretation of a = 0, 0.

So even without the parentheses on the assignment to a, both it and b get assigned the value (0,0), so a == b is therefore True.

Answer rating: 68

What you see in all 3 instances is a consequence of the grammar specification of the language, and how tokens encountered in the source code are parsed to generate the parse tree.

Taking a look at this low level code should help you understand what happens under the hood. We can take these python statements, convert them into byte code and then decompile them using the dis module:

Case 1: (0, 0) == 0, 0

>>> dis.dis(compile("(0, 0) == 0, 0", "", "exec"))
  1           0 LOAD_CONST               2 ((0, 0))
              3 LOAD_CONST               0 (0)
              6 COMPARE_OP               2 (==)
              9 LOAD_CONST               0 (0)
             12 BUILD_TUPLE              2
             15 POP_TOP
             16 LOAD_CONST               1 (None)
             19 RETURN_VALUE

(0, 0) is first compared to 0 first and evaluated to False. A tuple is then constructed with this result and last 0, so you get (False, 0).

Case 2: 0, 0 == (0, 0)

>>> dis.dis(compile("0, 0 == (0, 0)", "", "exec"))
  1           0 LOAD_CONST               0 (0)
              3 LOAD_CONST               0 (0)
              6 LOAD_CONST               2 ((0, 0))
              9 COMPARE_OP               2 (==)
             12 BUILD_TUPLE              2
             15 POP_TOP
             16 LOAD_CONST               1 (None)
             19 RETURN_VALUE

A tuple is constructed with 0 as the first element. For the second element, the same check is done as in the first case and evaluated to False, so you get (0, False).

Case 3: (0, 0) == (0, 0)

>>> dis.dis(compile("(0, 0) == (0, 0)", "", "exec"))
  1           0 LOAD_CONST               2 ((0, 0))
              3 LOAD_CONST               3 ((0, 0))
              6 COMPARE_OP               2 (==)
              9 POP_TOP
             10 LOAD_CONST               1 (None)
             13 RETURN_VALUE

Here, as you see, you"re just comparing those two (0, 0) tuples and returning True.





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