Fix Python – Type annotations for *args and **kwargs

Question

Asked By – Praxeolitic

I’m trying out Python’s type annotations with abstract base classes to write some interfaces. Is there a way to annotate the possible types of *args and **kwargs?

For example, how would one express that the sensible arguments to a function are either an int or two ints? type(args) gives Tuple so my guess was to annotate the type as Union[Tuple[int, int], Tuple[int]], but this doesn’t work.

from typing import Union, Tuple

def foo(*args: Union[Tuple[int, int], Tuple[int]]):
    try:
        i, j = args
        return i + j
    except ValueError:
        assert len(args) == 1
        i = args[0]
        return i

# ok
print(foo((1,)))
print(foo((1, 2)))
# mypy does not like this
print(foo(1))
print(foo(1, 2))

Error messages from mypy:

t.py: note: In function "foo":
t.py:6: error: Unsupported operand types for + ("tuple" and "Union[Tuple[int, int], Tuple[int]]")
t.py: note: At top level:
t.py:12: error: Argument 1 to "foo" has incompatible type "int"; expected "Union[Tuple[int, int], Tuple[int]]"
t.py:14: error: Argument 1 to "foo" has incompatible type "int"; expected "Union[Tuple[int, int], Tuple[int]]"
t.py:15: error: Argument 1 to "foo" has incompatible type "int"; expected "Union[Tuple[int, int], Tuple[int]]"
t.py:15: error: Argument 2 to "foo" has incompatible type "int"; expected "Union[Tuple[int, int], Tuple[int]]"

It makes sense that mypy doesn’t like this for the function call because it expects there to be a tuple in the call itself. The addition after unpacking also gives a typing error that I don’t understand.

How does one annotate the sensible types for *args and **kwargs?

Now we will see solution for issue: Type annotations for *args and **kwargs


Answer

For variable positional arguments (*args) and variable keyword arguments (**kw) you only need to specify the expected value for one such argument.

From the Arbitrary argument lists and default argument values section of the Type Hints PEP:

Arbitrary argument lists can as well be type annotated, so that the definition:

def foo(*args: str, **kwds: int): ...

is acceptable and it means that, e.g., all of the following represent function calls with valid types of arguments:

foo('a', 'b', 'c')
foo(x=1, y=2)
foo('', z=0)

So you’d want to specify your method like this:

def foo(*args: int):

However, if your function can only accept either one or two integer values, you should not use *args at all, use one explicit positional argument and a second keyword argument:

def foo(first: int, second: Optional[int] = None):

Now your function is actually limited to one or two arguments, and both must be integers if specified. *args always means 0 or more, and can’t be limited by type hints to a more specific range.

This question is answered By – Martijn Pieters

This answer is collected from stackoverflow and reviewed by FixPython community admins, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5 , cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0