O'Reilly logo

Think Python by Allen B. Downey

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Chapter 6. Fruitful Functions

Return Values

Some of the built-in functions we have used, such as the math functions, produce results. Calling the function generates a value, which we usually assign to a variable or use as part of an expression.

e = math.exp(1.0)
height = radius * math.sin(radians)

All of the functions we have written so far are void; they print something or move turtles around, but their return value is None.

In this chapter, we are (finally) going to write fruitful functions. The first example is area, which returns the area of a circle with the given radius:

def area(radius):
    temp = math.pi * radius**2
    return temp

We have seen the return statement before, but in a fruitful function the return statement includes an expression. This statement means: “Return immediately from this function and use the following expression as a return value.” The expression can be arbitrarily complicated, so we could have written this function more concisely:

def area(radius):
    return math.pi * radius**2

On the other hand, temporary variables like temp often make debugging easier.

Sometimes it is useful to have multiple return statements, one in each branch of a conditional:

def absolute_value(x):
    if x < 0:
        return -x
    else:
        return x

Since these return statements are in an alternative conditional, only one will be executed.

As soon as a return statement executes, the function terminates without executing any subsequent statements. Code that appears after a return statement, or any other place ...

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required