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What is append in Python

Understanding Append in Python

When you start learning Python, one of the first things you'll encounter is the concept of lists. A list is like a shopping list; it's a collection of items in a particular order. Now, imagine you're at the store with your shopping list, and you suddenly remember you need to buy bread. You'll likely add it to the end of your list. In Python, when you want to add an item to the end of a list, you use a method called append.

What Does Append Do?

The append method in Python is like a friendly assistant who helps you tack on items to the end of your list. It takes whatever you give it and sticks it right onto the tail of the list. Let's look at an actual code example:

fruits = ['apple', 'banana', 'cherry']

After running this code, your list of fruits will now include 'orange' at the end:

['apple', 'banana', 'cherry', 'orange']

How to Use Append

Using append is straightforward. You have a list, you call append on it, and you pass the item you want to add as an argument. An argument in programming is like giving an item to someone; you're handing the append method the thing you want to add to your list.

# Let's start with an empty list
my_pets = []

# Now, we add pets to the list one by one

# Let's see what the list looks like now

This code will output:

['cat', 'dog', 'fish']

Each call to append adds a new pet to the end of the my_pets list.

Append vs. Extend

As you learn more about lists, you might come across another method called extend. While append adds a single item to the end of a list, extend is like inviting a whole group of friends over. It takes another list and pours all of its items into your list.

Here's how you can visualize the difference:

# Append example
my_numbers = [1, 2, 3]
my_numbers.append([4, 5])
print(my_numbers)  # Output: [1, 2, 3, [4, 5]]

# Extend example
my_numbers = [1, 2, 3]
my_numbers.extend([4, 5])
print(my_numbers)  # Output: [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

Notice how append added the list [4, 5] as a single item, while extend unpacked the list and added its contents.

When to Use Append

You'll find append useful whenever you need to add items to a list one at a time. This could be when you're collecting user input, reading from a file, or even when processing data in a loop. It's a versatile tool that's as easy to use as tacking an item onto your grocery list.

Code Example with a Loop

Let's say you're writing a program to collect favorite colors from users. You could use a loop to ask for input and append each color to a list.

favorite_colors = []

for i in range(3):  # We'll ask for three favorite colors
    color = input("Enter your favorite color: ")

print("The collected favorite colors are:", favorite_colors)

Each time a user enters a color, append adds it to the favorite_colors list.

Common Mistakes

A common mistake beginners make is forgetting to use append and instead trying to add items using the plus (+) operator. While this can work, it's not the same as append and can lead to unexpected results, especially when you're trying to add a list to another list.

Intuition and Analogies

To help you intuitively understand append, think of a train. Each train car is an item in your list. When you append, you're adding another car to the end of the train. No matter how long the train gets, append always knows where to attach the new car.

Append and Memory

One of the advantages of using append is that it's memory efficient. Since you're adding to the existing list, Python doesn't need to create a new list; it just needs to make room for one more item. This is like adding a new page to a notebook instead of starting a new notebook altogether.


As you journey through the world of Python, append will be one of your trusty companions. It's simple, efficient, and does exactly what its name suggests—it appends. Now that you understand how to use it, you'll find countless situations where it comes in handy, like a Swiss Army knife in your coding toolkit.

Remember, coding is like building with LEGOs. Each piece has its place, and append is one of the pieces that help you construct lists, one block at a time. So go ahead, play around with it, and watch your lists grow as you build more complex and exciting Python programs.