# 6.5. Length¶

The len function, when applied to a string, returns the number of characters in a string.

To get the last letter of a string, you might be tempted to try something like this:

That won’t work. It causes the runtime error IndexError: string index out of range. The reason is that there is no letter at index position 6 in "Banana". Since we started counting at zero, the six indexes are numbered 0 to 5. To get the last character, we have to subtract 1 from the length. Give it a try in the example above.

Typically, a Python programmer would combine lines 2 and 3 from the above example into a single line:

lastch = fruit[len(fruit)-1]


Though, from what you just learned about using negative indices, using fruit[-1] would be a more appropriate way to access the last index in a list.

You can still use the len function to access other predictable indices, like the middle character of a string.

fruit = "grape"
midchar = fruit[len(fruit)/2]
# the value of midchar is "a"


As with strings, the function len returns the length of a list (the number of items in the list). However, since lists can have items which are themselves sequences (e.g., strings), it important to note that len only returns the top-most length.

Note that alist[0] is the string "hello", which has length 5.

sequences-5-1: What is printed by the following statements?

s = "python rocks"
print(len(s))

• 11
• The blank space counts as a character.
• 12
• Yes, there are 12 characters in the string.

sequences-5-2: What is printed by the following statements?

alist = [3, 67, "cat", 3.14, False]
print(len(alist))

• 4
• len returns the actual number of items in the list, not the maximum index value.
• 5
• Yes, there are 5 items in this list.

sequences-5-3: What is printed by the following statements?

L = [0.34, '6', 'SI106', 'Python', -2]
print(len(L[1:-1]))

• 2
• The list begins with the second item of L and includes everything up to but not including the last item.
• 3
• Yes, there are 3 items in this list.
• 4
• The list begins with the second item of L and includes everything up to but not including the last item.
• 5
• The list begins with the second item of L and includes everything up to but not including the last item.
Assign the number of elements in lst to the variable output.
Next Section - 6.6. The Slice Operator