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When Do You Use an Ellipsis in Python?

The ellipsis is a punctuation mark used in English text to denote omission. In essence, you replace the content by adding three dots (...). However, you may have noticed three dots in the Python source code. The ellipsis is not just used in writing.

Ellipsis in Python is what the ellipsis literal (...) evaluates to. You can use Ellipsis or... without importing it because Ellipsis is a built-in constant:

In Short: Use the Ellipsis as a Placeholder in Python

Although you can use both... and Ellipsis in your code, ... is more frequently chosen. You can use the ellipsis in Python to denote unwritten code, much as how three dots in English are used to remove text:

Executing do nothing() in ellipsis causes Python to run without error:

Nothing goes wrong when you call a Python function that has merely... in the function body. Like the pass keyword, this means you can utilize an ellipsis as a placeholder.

Three dots results in the least amount of visual noise. Therefore, when sharing portions of your code online, it can be helpful to change unneeded code.

Stubs serve as substitutes for actual functions. Stubs can be useful when you need the function signature and don't want to run the function body's code. For instance, stop external requests when creating an application. When working with stubs, you frequently omit code.

Imagine you have a Flask project with custom stats.count visitor counter (). The database where you track visitor statistics is connected to the count visitor() method. When testing your application in debug mode, you can make a stub of count visitor() to prevent oneself from being counted:

Use of the ellipsis in the function body is advised since the contents of count visitor() are irrelevant in this situation. When you run your Flask application in debug mode, Python runs count visitor() without a problem or undesirable side effects:

Count visitor() on line 14 of the Flask application refers to your stub in line 10 if you run it in debug mode. Using... in the count visitor() method body enables you to test your app without any negative consequences.

The illustration, as mentioned earlier, demonstrates the smaller-scale use of stubs. Stubs are frequently used in the testing process for larger projects since they make it easier to test specific sections of your code separately.

Additionally, this discussion of the ellipsis in conjunction with stubs may be familiar to you if you are familiar with category checking in Python.

Mypy is the programme used most frequently for type checking. Mypy employs stub files to identify the types of the core library and third-party library declarations:

Visit the type shed repository for Python to examine how... is used in the repository's stub files. You might discover another application for the Ellipsis constant if you go further into the subject of static typing. In the next section, you'll discover when to use... in type tips.

What Does the Ellipsis Mean in Type Hints?

You discovered in the last section that you may type-check your stub files using the Ellipsis as a placeholder. However, you can also make use of type hinting. You will discover how to employ... in this area to:

  1. Describe a variable-length homogeneous type tuple.
  2. Change a callable's list of arguments for anything else.

A smart method to be clear about the data types you anticipate in your code is through type hints. However, there are situations when using type hints is preferable to completely limiting how your users can use the objects. For instance, you should provide a tuple that only includes integers, but the exact quantity of integers is up to you. The ellipsis can be useful in this situation:

Explanation: You define the tuple-type variable numbers in line 9. The numbers variable needs to be an integer-only tuple. The whole amount doesn't matter.

Lines 6, 7, and 8's variable declarations are correct because they adhere to the type hinting. The following definitions of numbers are forbidden:

  • There are no homogenous items on line 11.
  • Line 12 is a list rather than a tuple.

You may run the code with mypy to list both errors if you have it installed:

When you use the type hint... within a tuple, it indicates that you anticipate the tuple's items to be the same.

The ellipsis literal, on the other hand, effectively removes a restriction on the way the callable might be called, perhaps in terms of the number or type of arguments:

Explanation: You declare the callable parameter action at line 12. Any number and kind of argument may be passed to this callable, but it must always return an integer. You can also accept a different number of optional parameters with *args: int as long as they are integers. You invoke the action callable with the number I and any additional arguments in line 19 of the function body of calculate().

Python needs to know what kinds you'll accept as input and what type you anticipate returning the callable when you construct a callable type. You indicate that you don't care how many or what kinds of parameters the callable accepts by using Callable[..., int]. But you said it had to return an integer.

Lines 16 and 17's parameters to compute() are functions that adhere to the standard you established. Both the callables add one() and multiply with() to return an integer.

Line 20's code cannot be executed since nine cannot be called. Because of the name, a callable has to be something you can call.

As pixels() is callable, its use at line 21 is likewise incorrect. You create an f-string at line 10. The return value is a string rather than the integer type you anticipated.

You've explored how to employ the ellipsis placeholder in type, hinting at both tuples and callables in the examples above:


  • Tuple: defines a tuple of data with an undetermined length and a consistent type.
  • Callable: Removes limitations by acting as a list of arguments to a callable.

NumPy Ellipsis for Slicing

If you have used NumPy before, you might have seen another application for Ellipsis. With the ellipsis literal in NumPy, you can slice multiple arrays.

Let's begin with an illustration that does not utilize Ellipsis in NumPy:

In this NumPy example, you will combine the two functions.arange() and.reshape() to produce a three-dimensional array.

The colon character (:) can be used to cut the NumPy array if you just want to specify the very first elements of the last dimension:

Explanation: You must supply three slices because the array has three dimensions; if you added additional dimensions, picture how annoying the syntax would become! Failure to determine an array's dimensions makes the situation worse.:

Explanation: Arrr element has five dimensions in this case. Your outcome can differ because the number of dimensions is random. Nevertheless, using... to specify your multidimensional array will function.

Even additional options for using Ellipsis to indicate an element or a range of arrays are provided by NumPy. For other applications of these three tiny dots, see NumPy: Ellipsis (...) for ndarray.

Is the Ellipsis Always Three Dots in Python?

After learning about the ellipsis in Python, you might start to notice every ellipsis that appears in the Python universe more closely. Three dots might appear in Python, but they might not be the Ellipsis constant.

Three dots in the Python interaction shell denote the secondary prompt.:

The prompt extends across numerous lines, for instance, when you define a function in the Python program or when you write for loops.

The three dots in the example mentioned above aren't literal ellipsis; they are the additional prompt for your body function.

End of queue marker

The ellipsis is sometimes used to indicate the end of a line. It is logical:

It's unique enough to serve as an end-of-queue marker, even if it's not something you typically see in queues, so you don't need to construct a custom object.

Recurring references

In the REPL, Python displays an ellipsis for circular references.:

This does not imply that Python replaces the reference with an ellipsis; rather, it simply displays one rather than crashing or overflowing your screen. You can examine this on your own. The original a will still be returned if you keep requesting nested objects:


The literal "ellipsis" (...) evaluates to the Ellipsis value. Most frequently, while creating function stubs, you might use... as a placeholder.

The three dots in type hinting might be useful when you wish to be adaptable. The ellipsis literal can replace a list of arguments for callable types with a variable-length tuple of homogenous type.

Using NumPy, you can condense your slicing syntax by substituting the Ellipsis object for variable-length dimensions. Thanks to the three dots' clutter-free syntax, your code will be easier to comprehend.

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