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Python String Split () Method

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8th Aug, 2021
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Python String Split () Method

If you’re wondering what the split() function in Python does?. Well! It splits your sentence into words. This means that the string entered by the user is split into a list. For the function to locate the position where the string is to be split, the user can either mention or specify the separator. While doing so, whenever the function will identify that separator, it will separate the strings. Also, if no separator is mentioned, the white space present in the string is considered a separator by default. 

Python offers several functions for carrying out different tasks. One such manipulation tool in the Python programming language is split(). Whenever the word string is mentioned, it means that the user is defining a collection of characters. In other words, it may be defined as an array of characters taken from a sequence that is mentioned within single quotes. Sometimes double or triple quotes are also used to define the strings. Therefore, whenever the user needs to break down the string, the Python split() function is used. And the result is a string of smaller strings.

A mutable string represents a Unicode character. The term ‘Mutable’ means that there cannot be an alteration to a string once it gets declared. So, a string cannot be changed once it gets declared. But using a split() function, the user can break down the string into different strings. Several ways exist to break down a string in Python.

The article will focus on how the split() function breaks down a string in Python. 

The function split() in Python

In Python, most users might have seen how strings are concatenated or how the strings are joined to form one string. The split() function in Python does the opposite of what the concatenation function does in the programming language Python. The Python split string is scanned by the function split() and identifies any separator mentioned within the string. But, in the absence of any separator in the string, the function splits the string whenever a white space is detected.

The syntax of the split() function is 

string.split(separator, maxsplit)

Users can use different parameters with the function. Therefore the parameters that can be defined in the function are:

1. Separator

It is an optional parameter. This parameter specifies the user-defined separator to be used when the function splits the string. The Python programming language is instructed where to break down the string. The parameter works as a delimiter, and the separation of the string occurs through the pre-defined separator. If the user defines the separator as a string value, the program will result in an empty string.

 By default, the parameter used in the function is any whitespace.

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2. Maxsplit

It is an optional parameter. The parameter specifies the number of splits to be performed. The default value used by the parameter is -1, which is “all occurrences.” This means that there is no limit to the number of times a string can be split. If the user does not define the maxsplit, Python scans the strings, and then it splits the string whenever it detects a delimiter.

3. Return

A list of strings is returned after the string is broken down by the split() function through the specified separator. 

The split() function returns a string list composed of elements from the string after it gets broken by the separator. 

An example of a split function is shown below

Input program: 

txt = “let’s split the sentence”

x = txt.split()


Output of the sentence:

[“let’s”, ‘split’, ‘the’, ‘sentence’]

split() function can be used with different types of separation. When the comma is used as an separator:

txt = “hey, whats up, man?”

x = txt.split(“, “)


The output of the program is [‘hey’, ‘whats up’, ‘man’’]

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Requirement of the split() function

A list of words is returned when a string is separated using the split() function. While doing so, there is a use of delimiter string like the character comma “,”.

A few advantages of using the split() function in Python are:

  • When a user wants to break down a large string into different smaller strings, the split() function is useful. 
  • In the absence of a separator within the split() function, whitespaces can be considered a separator by the split() function.
  • For analyzing or deducing any conclusions quickly, the split() function can be used.
  • The split() function can be used for decoding strings that are encrypted in some manner.

Working with split() function

 The variables in Python contain data that are both alphanumeric or numeric that are used for the storage of data directories or for displaying different messages. The programmers who work in Python find it very useful. 

The method split() is used to manipulate the strings, and it is considered quite beneficial. A string is returned by the function when any delimiters separate the primary string input by the user. One, or more than one, strings are returned by the function. Also, the substrings that are returned are returned in the form of data types in a list. 

An example of split() function is shown below:

x = ‘january, february, march’ 


[‘january, ‘february’, ‘march’] 

In the above example, the string variable “x” is defined with three strings. Implementing the spit() function with a separator comma(,”), the string in the variable “x” is separated through the presence of commas in between the string.

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Ways of using a split() function

Several ways exist in Python which are used for implementing the split() function. The several techniques which are used for implementing the split() function are:

1. Using space in the string

In the presence of any whitespace in a string, the split function splits the string at that position where the whitespace is present. 

An example of a code using the whitespace is shown below:

str = “using the whitespace” 


The output of the above code is as follows: 

[‘using’, ‘the’, ‘whitespace’]

In the code shown above, a variable “str” is used for declaring through a string value. There are no arguments defined in the split() function, therefore; it gets split with the presence of whitespaces. 

2. Splitting of a string on the first occurrence

Two substrings are generated whenever a string is split based on the first occurrence of a character. The two strings generated are:

  • The first string containing the first occurrence of character as shown:

str = “dfykjk” 


Using the above code, the output of the code will result in [“dfy”, “jk”].

  • split() function can be used to split a file into a list. The result of the function is a different list with each element of the string that will become a line in the file. The function that can be used for splitting a file through the in-built function of Python is splitlines().

3. Using the newline character (\n)

The split() function can be used by using a newline character (\n) for splitting a string in the programming language Python. This new line character can be used as a separator in the string. A variable “str’ can be declared with the string which is required to be split up. The string will have the newline character (\) defined within it. In this case, the “\n” character is used as a separator. Therefore, the string gets split into substrings when detecting the newline character by the function. Even the splitlines() function can be used for splitting  string using the newline character. 

4. Using a tab (\t) function

In any text files, the tabs are considered as escape characters. The string is separated through the tab (\t) present in the string. Whenever the split() function in Python detects any tabs present in the string, the string gets split into substrings. Therefore, in this case, the tab is used as a separator in the string. 

5. Using a comma

Any string in the Python programming language can be split through the split() function when the comma (‘) is used as a separator in the string. The comma acts as a delimiter in the string. The resulting list is denoted by substrings which are between the commas in the original string.

6. Using multiple delimiters

Individual delimiters for separating a string are mentioned in the article above. While, instead of using a single delimiter, multiple delimiters can also be used for separating a string in Python. 

7. Using the character “#”

In Python, even the character “#” can be used for separating a string. So whenever, a string contains character #, the original string gets split into substrings at the points where the # character is present.

8. Using the maxsplit character

This character “maxsplit” defines how many times the string needs to be split up by the split() function. A value can be defined to the maxsplit while performing the split 

The article discussed how strings can be broken down into substrings in Python. Python provides us with ways through which it is possible to split a string. One way is that the split() function can be used for carrying this specific task of splitting in Python. 

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Pavan Vadapalli

Blog Author
Director of Engineering @ upGrad. Motivated to leverage technology to solve problems. Seasoned leader for startups and fast moving orgs. Working on solving problems of scale and long term technology strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1Why is the split() function used?

The split() function is used for splitting up a string into substrings.

2How the string is split up through the split() function?

Special delimiters are specified in the split() function that helps the function split up the string.

3What are the delimiters that can be used in split() function?

Delimiters that can be used are whitespace, commas, newline character, tabs, or # character.

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