Discover Python Strings & How They Can Improve Your Code

Download Now: Free Introduction to Python
Athena Ozanich
Athena Ozanich



Python and strings these terms together conjure an image of a snake made of strings, which isn't too far from the truth.

A young woman studying Python strings realizing how much she can improve her programming code by understanding how strings work.

This post will cover the basics of Python strings; you will learn about the various syntax you can use to create strings and how to work with them meaningfully. You will also learn about the different operations you can perform against strings and ways to format them. All of these concepts will come with code blocks to show examples of each.

Without further ado, let's slither right in!

Download Now: An Introduction to Python [Free Guide]

What are strings in Python?

In most programming languages, strings are just a collection of characters stored within a variable for various uses. Python strings are no different and offer several benefits, such as creating messages for clients to improve their user experience. The Python language is very robust, and so is the subject of Python strings.

Strings can be used for much more than that; they can also provide ways to monitor and control the behavior of the software application itself. Furthermore, they are also frequently used to help facilitate further development of your software and support testing and debugging tasks. The next video helps further illuminate the subject of Python strings.

Now that you know some different ways strings are used in Python, let's look at the syntax of defining strings.

Define String Python

There are multiple ways to define strings in Python. They have one thing in common: you use quotation marks to define your strings. There are three different syntaxes for defining strings, and when you use them together, you can nest them to add quotes to the string itself. In the code below, you can see all three ways to define a Python string.

# all of the following valid string declarations are equivalent in value helloString = 'Hello' helloString1 = "Hello" helloString2 = '''Hello'''

Each of the three examples above is a valid string expression and gets interpreted as having the same value. It is interesting to note that the first two are often used together to create strings with quotes in them. In Python, the length of a string is dictated by the number of characters, including special characters and spaces. This next image shows the way Python string lengths are calculated.

An image that shows how strings work and the way indexing happens with a strings in Python.

Image source

Python String Examples

There is much more to Python strings than just the above, such as nesting quotes within strings and even multiline strings. Let's look at some examples of both in the code blocks below.

hello_string = 'She said, "Hello"' hello_string1 = "She said, 'Hello'" hello_string2 ="' She said, "Hello" '''

The above strings would also be evaluated as equal in value and result in the same string when printed to the console or terminal. The inner quotes will be preserved, meaning if you define your string with single quotes and use double quotes inside, the string will print with double quotes. Passing these variables into the print function results in the following strings.

She said, "Hello" She said, 'Hello' She said, "Hello"

The above shows that the printed string will reflect the quoted text's quotation marks.

Triple Quote Strings

The third string from both examples uses three quotes — either three single or three double — a syntax primarily used for multiline string or formatting.

# triple quotes string can extend multiple lines hello_string ="""She said, 'Hello' """ #If printed you will get the string below # She said, # 'Hello' hello_string1 ="' She said, "Hello" ''' #If printed you will get the string below # She said, # "Hello"

These strings share the same quality regarding how the quotation marks get preserved when quoting text within a string. Triple quotes for defining strings will also allow you to create a string with a double-quoted text without needing to escape apostrophes within.

hello_string ="' She said "Hello, I'm the Doctor!" ''' #If printed, you will get the string #She said, "Hello, I'm the Doctor!"

String Character Escaping

Sometimes you will find yourself working with a string that may have invalid characters; in this case, you'll need to escape the incompatible characters. Escaping characters within strings are simple and only requires using a backslash before the target character. Let's look at how to do this in the following examples.

hello_string = 'She said, "Hello I\'m the Doctor!"' #If printed, you will get the string #She said, "Hello, I'm the Doctor!" hello_string1 = "She said 'Hello I\'m the Doctor!'" #If printed, you will get the string #She said, 'Hello, I'm the Doctor!' hello_string2 = '''She said "Hello I\'m the Doctor!"''' #If printed, you will get the string #She said, "Hello, I'm the Doctor!"

The strings above all have a single quote within the quoted text. These single quotes must escape preventing the unintentional breaking out of the string. If you do not escape special characters in your strings, the code will cause an error.

You can also escape quotes within a string by using an escape at each quotation mark shown in the example below.

hello_string = '''She said, \"Hello I'm the Doctor!\"''' #If printed, you will get the string #She said, "Hello, I'm the Doctor!" hello_string1 = "She said, \"Hello I'm the Doctor!\"" #If printed, you will get the string #She said, "Hello, I'm the Doctor!"

Each of the strings above use either double quotes or triple quotes. Because of this format, the double escape signals a different translation. With this format, the text within the two backslashes gets preserved and will not need to escape the single quote. Let's look at an example of another string with a special character text.

hello_string = '''She said, "Hello I\'m \x61 Doctor!"''' #She said, "Hello, I'm a Doctor!"

In the above example, escaping the symbol' \x61', which gets translated into the character 'a', an essential distinction as special characters, will become helpful at some point. If you don't escape the character, it gets printed as it is in the string.

hello_string = '''She said, "Hello I\'m x61 Doctor!"''' #She said, "Hello, I'm x61 Doctor!"

Printing Raw Strings

You can also print raw strings, which will print anything within a string exactly as it is written, that includes escaped special characters. The backslash will also get printed if you escape a quote within a raw string.

hello_string = r'She said, "Hello I\'m the Doctor!"' #She said, "Hello I\'m the Doctor!"

Raw strings are useful for debugging strings and values within your software and can help identify and eliminate potential errors.

Python String Operations

There are many ways to interact with Python strings, such as finding substrings and even string concatenation. However, it is important to note that Python strings are immutable, meaning you cannot change strings. You cannot change or delete individual string characters, but you can reassign a string variable with a new value.

Let's look at some code examples of how you can interact with strings.

Accessing Strings and String Characters

There are multiple ways to access strings and the characters within, and you will likely need to do this at some point.

Regardless of how you do it, the process will likely all have something in common: the concept of iterating over characters. One way to do this is with loops, which allow you to iterate through the characters in the string. Let's check that out next.

Iterating Through Strings

You can also use loops to iterate over the characters within a string. Doing this gives you the ability to interact with the individual characters.

# Iterating over a string count = 0 for letter in 'Hello World': if(letter != ' '): count += 1 print(count,'letters in this string')

Substring Checks

Checking for a string within a string is typically referred to as either substring checks or string membership checks. These checks do behind-the-scenes iteration to find the target string. This is useful as you will not need to iterate through the string manually. Performing membership tests can save you time and help keep your code clean and uncluttered.

hello_string = 'a' in 'She said' #printing the variable above would return the value "True." hello_string = 'Doc' in 'She said' ##printing the variable above would return the value "False."

It is worth noting that this type of membership check is case-sensitive. Searching for a capital letter will only return true if that letter is found as an uppercase letter.

Concatenating Strings

Sometimes, you will find yourself in a situation where the best approach is to combine two or more strings into a new value. Concatenation is the process of combining two or more strings or characters to create new strings. Because strings are immutable, you can't alter the value of a string, but you can overwrite it, and string concatenation is one common way this is done.

str1 = 'Hello ' str1 = str1 + 'World!' #would return the string 'Hello World!'

This pattern is a low-level recursive pattern for updating strings with new values and is also used to build custom messages for users. You can also do real-time concatenation, such as concatenating on the fly during a call to the print function.

str1 = 'Hello ' print(str1 + 'World!') #would return the string 'Hello World!'

These code blocks both show valid ways to concatenate strings together, and with string concatenation, there is a lot you can do with user messages, notes, comments, and much more.

Moving Forward With Python Strings

In this post, you have learned all of the beginner basics of Python strings, how they work and what you can do with them. Moving forward, you can practice your newfound skills by using strings in your code to perform various tasks. You can also learn about Python string methods, a vast subject with a lot you can learn.

As always, the best thing you can do is practice all the information you have learned by using this information in your software development.


Topics: What Is Python?

Related Articles

A guide for marketers, developers, and data analysts.

    CMS Hub is flexible for marketers, powerful for developers, and gives customers a personalized, secure experience