Python Program to Return Multiple Values From a Function

Spread the love

In Python, a function can return multiple values. This capability is crucial, as it allows developers to design functions that are more versatile and can cater to a variety of programming needs. When a Python function returns multiple values, it essentially returns a tuple, which can then be deconstructed into multiple variables. This article will delve deeply into the concept, providing detailed explanations, insights, examples, and use-cases.

Basic Concept: Returning a Tuple

In Python, a function can return multiple values by returning them as a tuple.

def example_function():
    return 1, "Hello", [1, 2, 3]

a, b, c = example_function()
print(a)  # Output: 1
print(b)  # Output: Hello
print(c)  # Output: [1, 2, 3]

In this example, a, b, and c are assigned the values of the returned tuple, respectively.

Returning Different Types

A function can return multiple values of different types: integers, strings, lists, dictionaries, objects, etc.

def multiple_types():
    return "String", 123, [1,2,3], {'key': 'value'}

s, i, l, d = multiple_types()

Here, s is a string, i is an integer, l is a list, and d is a dictionary.

Usage in Real-world Scenarios

Calculations and Operations

You might want to perform multiple calculations or operations within a single function and return all the results.

def calculate_area_and_perimeter(length, breadth):
    area = length * breadth
    perimeter = 2 * (length + breadth)
    return area, perimeter

area, perimeter = calculate_area_and_perimeter(5, 10)

Finding Multiple Attributes

When processing data, you might want to find multiple attributes of the data and return them.

def string_attributes(s):
    return len(s), s.upper(), s.lower()

length, upper, lower = string_attributes("Hello World")

Unpacking the Returned Values

When a function returns multiple values, they are packed in a tuple. You can unpack them into individual variables or keep them as a tuple.

def example():
    return 1, 2, 3

# Unpacking into individual variables
x, y, z = example()

# Keeping as a tuple
t = example()

Using Asterisk (*) for Extended Unpacking

When you are not sure how many values a function will return, or you are only interested in some of the values, you can use the asterisk (*) for extended unpacking.

def example():
    return 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

first, *rest = example()
print(first)  # Output: 1
print(rest)  # Output: [2, 3, 4, 5]

Returning Namedtuples

collections.namedtuple can be used to return multiple values with names, making the code more self-documenting and readable.

from collections import namedtuple

def circle_metrics(radius):
    import math
    Circle = namedtuple('Circle', 'diameter circumference area')
    diameter = 2 * radius
    circumference = 2 * math.pi * radius
    area = math.pi * (radius ** 2)
    return Circle(diameter, circumference, area)

metrics = circle_metrics(3)
print(metrics.diameter)  # Output: 6
print(metrics.area)  # Output: 28.274333882308138

Handling Ignored Values

When unpacking returned values, if you are not interested in some values, you can assign them to _, which is a conventional variable name for throwaway variables.

def example():
    return 1, 2, 3

x, _, _ = example()
print(x)  # Output: 1

Advanced Use Case: Returning Lambda Functions

A function can also return multiple lambda functions, allowing dynamic function generation.

def function_generator():
    add = lambda x, y: x + y
    subtract = lambda x, y: x - y
    return add, subtract

add, subtract = function_generator()
print(add(5, 3))  # Output: 8
print(subtract(5, 3))  # Output: 2

Considerations and Best Practices

  1. Clear Documentation: When a function returns multiple values, it’s important to clearly document what each value represents to maintain code readability and avoid confusion.
  2. Avoid Overuse: Returning too many values from a function can make the function interface confusing and cumbersome. Consider whether a class or a data structure would be more appropriate.
  3. Descriptive Variable Names: When unpacking multiple returned values, use descriptive variable names to understand the purpose and meaning of each value.
  4. Error Handling: Implement adequate error handling, especially when the function can return a variable number of values, to manage unexpected scenarios gracefully.


Returning multiple values from a function in Python is a versatile and powerful feature, offering developers the flexibility to design more modular, efficient, and clean code. Whether it’s calculating multiple metrics, processing data attributes, or dynamically generating functions, the capability to return multiple values caters to a wide array of programming needs.

Understanding the underlying concept of tuples, leveraging advanced features like extended unpacking and namedtuples, and following best practices for documentation and error handling are essential in utilizing this feature effectively and writing high-quality Python code.

Leave a Reply