Difference between Python's Generators and Iterators Difference between Python's Generators and Iterators python python

Difference between Python's Generators and Iterators

iterator is a more general concept: any object whose class has a __next__ method (next in Python 2) and an __iter__ method that does return self.

Every generator is an iterator, but not vice versa. A generator is built by calling a function that has one or more yield expressions (yield statements, in Python 2.5 and earlier), and is an object that meets the previous paragraph's definition of an iterator.

You may want to use a custom iterator, rather than a generator, when you need a class with somewhat complex state-maintaining behavior, or want to expose other methods besides __next__ (and __iter__ and __init__). Most often, a generator (sometimes, for sufficiently simple needs, a generator expression) is sufficient, and it's simpler to code because state maintenance (within reasonable limits) is basically "done for you" by the frame getting suspended and resumed.

For example, a generator such as:

def squares(start, stop):    for i in range(start, stop):        yield i * igenerator = squares(a, b)

or the equivalent generator expression (genexp)

generator = (i*i for i in range(a, b))

would take more code to build as a custom iterator:

class Squares(object):    def __init__(self, start, stop):       self.start = start       self.stop = stop    def __iter__(self): return self    def __next__(self): # next in Python 2       if self.start >= self.stop:           raise StopIteration       current = self.start * self.start       self.start += 1       return currentiterator = Squares(a, b)

But, of course, with class Squares you could easily offer extra methods, i.e.

    def current(self):       return self.start

if you have any actual need for such extra functionality in your application.

What is the difference between iterators and generators? Some examples for when you would use each case would be helpful.

In summary: Iterators are objects that have an __iter__ and a __next__ (next in Python 2) method. Generators provide an easy, built-in way to create instances of Iterators.

A function with yield in it is still a function, that, when called, returns an instance of a generator object:

def a_function():    "when called, returns generator object"    yield

A generator expression also returns a generator:

a_generator = (i for i in range(0))

For a more in-depth exposition and examples, keep reading.

A Generator is an Iterator

Specifically, generator is a subtype of iterator.

>>> import collections, types>>> issubclass(types.GeneratorType, collections.Iterator)True

We can create a generator several ways. A very common and simple way to do so is with a function.

Specifically, a function with yield in it is a function, that, when called, returns a generator:

>>> def a_function():        "just a function definition with yield in it"        yield>>> type(a_function)<class 'function'>>>> a_generator = a_function()  # when called>>> type(a_generator)           # returns a generator<class 'generator'>

And a generator, again, is an Iterator:

>>> isinstance(a_generator, collections.Iterator)True

An Iterator is an Iterable

An Iterator is an Iterable,

>>> issubclass(collections.Iterator, collections.Iterable)True

which requires an __iter__ method that returns an Iterator:

>>> collections.Iterable()Traceback (most recent call last):  File "<pyshell#79>", line 1, in <module>    collections.Iterable()TypeError: Can't instantiate abstract class Iterable with abstract methods __iter__

Some examples of iterables are the built-in tuples, lists, dictionaries, sets, frozen sets, strings, byte strings, byte arrays, ranges and memoryviews:

>>> all(isinstance(element, collections.Iterable) for element in (        (), [], {}, set(), frozenset(), '', b'', bytearray(), range(0), memoryview(b'')))True

Iterators require a next or __next__ method

In Python 2:

>>> collections.Iterator()Traceback (most recent call last):  File "<pyshell#80>", line 1, in <module>    collections.Iterator()TypeError: Can't instantiate abstract class Iterator with abstract methods next

And in Python 3:

>>> collections.Iterator()Traceback (most recent call last):  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>TypeError: Can't instantiate abstract class Iterator with abstract methods __next__

We can get the iterators from the built-in objects (or custom objects) with the iter function:

>>> all(isinstance(iter(element), collections.Iterator) for element in (        (), [], {}, set(), frozenset(), '', b'', bytearray(), range(0), memoryview(b'')))True

The __iter__ method is called when you attempt to use an object with a for-loop. Then the __next__ method is called on the iterator object to get each item out for the loop. The iterator raises StopIteration when you have exhausted it, and it cannot be reused at that point.

From the documentation

From the Generator Types section of the Iterator Types section of the Built-in Types documentation:

Python’s generators provide a convenient way to implement the iterator protocol. If a container object’s __iter__() method is implemented as a generator, it will automatically return an iterator object (technically, a generator object) supplying the __iter__() and next() [__next__() in Python 3] methods. More information about generators can be found in the documentation for the yield expression.

(Emphasis added.)

So from this we learn that Generators are a (convenient) type of Iterator.

Example Iterator Objects

You might create object that implements the Iterator protocol by creating or extending your own object.

class Yes(collections.Iterator):    def __init__(self, stop):        self.x = 0        self.stop = stop    def __iter__(self):        return self    def next(self):        if self.x < self.stop:            self.x += 1            return 'yes'        else:            # Iterators must raise when done, else considered broken            raise StopIteration    __next__ = next # Python 3 compatibility

But it's easier to simply use a Generator to do this:

def yes(stop):    for _ in range(stop):        yield 'yes'

Or perhaps simpler, a Generator Expression (works similarly to list comprehensions):

yes_expr = ('yes' for _ in range(stop))

They can all be used in the same way:

>>> stop = 4             >>> for i, y1, y2, y3 in zip(range(stop), Yes(stop), yes(stop),                              ('yes' for _ in range(stop))):...     print('{0}: {1} == {2} == {3}'.format(i, y1, y2, y3))...     0: yes == yes == yes1: yes == yes == yes2: yes == yes == yes3: yes == yes == yes


You can use the Iterator protocol directly when you need to extend a Python object as an object that can be iterated over.

However, in the vast majority of cases, you are best suited to use yield to define a function that returns a Generator Iterator or consider Generator Expressions.

Finally, note that generators provide even more functionality as coroutines. I explain Generators, along with the yield statement, in depth on my answer to "What does the “yield” keyword do?".


Iterator are objects which uses next() method to get next value of sequence.


A generator is a function that produces or yields a sequence of values using yield method.

Every next() method call on generator object(for ex: f as in below example) returned by generator function(for ex: foo() function in below example), generates next value in sequence.

When a generator function is called, it returns an generator object without even beginning execution of the function. When next() method is called for the first time, the function starts executing until it reaches yield statement which returns the yielded value. The yield keeps track of i.e. remembers last execution. And second next() call continues from previous value.

The following example demonstrates the interplay between yield and call to next method on generator object.

>>> def foo():...     print "begin"...     for i in range(3):...         print "before yield", i...         yield i...         print "after yield", i...     print "end"...>>> f = foo()>>> f.next()beginbefore yield 0            # Control is in for loop0>>> f.next()after yield 0             before yield 1            # Continue for loop1>>> f.next()after yield 1before yield 22>>> f.next()after yield 2endTraceback (most recent call last):  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>StopIteration>>>