What is [:] in python

What is [:] in python

In Python, [:] is a handy tool for making copies of lists. It’s like saying, “Give me a new list with the same items!” Here, we’ll go through some easy examples and answer common questions.


1. Making a Copy

my_list = [1, 2, 3]
new_list = my_list[:]

Now, new_list has the same items as my_list, but it’s a separate list.

2. Changing the Copy

new_list[0] = 99
print(my_list)  # Prints [1, 2, 3]
print(new_list) # Prints [99, 2, 3]

The original list (my_list) doesn’t change when we change the copied one (new_list).

3. Copying Nested Lists

fruit_veg_list = [['apple', 'banana'], ['carrot', 'daikon']]
new_fruit_veg_list = fruit_veg_list[:]
new_fruit_veg_list[0][0] = 'avocado'
print(fruit_veg_list)  # Prints [['avocado', 'banana'], ['carrot', 'daikon']]

For lists within lists, changing the inner list in the copy also changes it in the original.

4. Sorting a List

numbers = [35, 12, 48, 7]
sorted_numbers = numbers[:]
print("Original list:", numbers)  # Prints [35, 12, 48, 7]
print("Sorted list:", sorted_numbers)  # Prints [7, 12, 35, 48]

Here, we sort sorted_numbers, but numbers stay the same.


Q: Can I use [:] on strings and tuples too?

A: Yes! You can use [:] to make copies of strings, tuples, and other sequences.

Q: Is the copied list completely separate from the original?

A: Mostly yes, but be careful with nested lists! Changing the inner lists will affect both the copy and the original.

Q: Why should I use [:]?

A: It’s a quick and easy way to work with a copy of a list when you want to keep the original list unchanged.

Q: Does [:] work with dictionaries?

A: No, [:] doesn’t work with dictionaries since they are not sequences. You can use copy() method instead.


The [:] in Python is a simple way to make a new list with the same elements as the original. It’s especially useful when you want to make changes without affecting the original list. Keep practicing and happy coding!

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