Homebreadcumb forward arrow iconBlogbreadcumb forward arrow iconData Sciencebreadcumb forward arrow iconRecurrent Neural Network in Python: Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Recurrent Neural Network in Python: Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Last updated:
27th Jun, 2023
Read Time
10 Mins
share image icon
In this article
Chevron in toc
View All
Recurrent Neural Network in Python: Ultimate Guide for Beginners

When you need to process sequences – daily stock prices, sensor measurements, etc. – in a program, you need a recurrent neural network (RNN).

RNNs are a sort of Neural Network where the output from one step is transferred as input to the new step. In conventional neural systems, all the data sources and outputs are autonomous of one another. However, in cases like when it is required to anticipate the following expression of a sentence, the previous words are required, and consequently, there is a need to recollect the past words.

This is where RNN comes into the picture. It created a Hidden Layer to solve these issues. The fundamental and most significant element of RNN is Hidden state, which remembers some data about a sequence.

RNNs have been generating accurate results in some of the most common real-world applications: Because of their ability to handle text effectively, RNNs are generally used in Natural Language Processing (NLP) tasks.

  • Speech recognition
  • Machine translation
  • Music composition
  • Handwriting recognition
  • Grammar learning

This is why RNNs have gained immense popularity in the deep learning space.

Now let’s see the need for recurrent neural networks in Python.

Get Machine Learning Certification online from the World’s top Universities – Masters, Executive Post Graduate Programs, and Advanced Certificate Program in ML & AI to fast-track your career.

What is the Need for RNNs in Python?

To answer this question, we first need to address the problems associated with a Convolution Neural Network (CNN), also called vanilla neural nets.

The major problem with CNNs is that they can only work for pre-defined sizes, i.e. if they accept fixed-size inputs, they also give out fixed-size outputs.

Whereas, with RNNs, this problem is easily taken care of. RNNs allow developers to work with variable-length sequences for both inputs as well as outputs.

Below is an illustration of what RNNs look like:

Source: Andrej Karpathy

Here, the red color denotes inputs, green RNNs, and blue outputs.

Let’s understand each in detail.

One-to-one: These are also called plain or vanilla neural networks. They work with fixed input size to fixed output size and are independent of previous inputs.

Example: Image classification.

One-to-many: While the information as input is of fixed size, the output is a sequence of data.

Example: Image captioning (image is input, and output is a set of words).

Many-to-one: Input is a sequence of information and output is of a fixed size.

Example: Sentiment analysis (input is a set of words and output tells whether the set of words reflects a positive or negative sentiment).

Many-to-many: Input is a sequence of information and output is a sequence of data.

Example: Machine translation (RNN reads a sentence in English and gives an output of the sentence in the desired language).

Sequence processing with variable lengths makes RNNs so useful. Here’s how:

  • Machine Translation: The best example of this is Google Translate. It works on many-to-many RNNs. As you know, the original text is input to an RNN, which yields translated text.
  • Sentiment Analysis: You know how Google segregates negative reviews from the positive ones? It is achieved by a many-to-one RNN. When the text is fed into the RNN, it gives the output, reflecting the class in which the input lies.

Now let’s see how RNNs work.

Our learners also read: Top Python Free Courses

RNNs in Python: Advancements and Applications

Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM)

Recurrent neural network in python have evolved with the introduction of advanced architectures such as LSTM and GRUs. These variants address the vanishing gradient problem often encountered in traditional Recurrent neural network in python, enabling better retention and utilization of long-term dependencies in sequences. LSTM and GRU units incorporate gating mechanisms that selectively retain or discard information, resulting in improved performance on tasks that require long-range dependencies.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) Applications

RNN python code, particularly in combination with LSTM python  or GRU units, have revolutionized the field of Natural Language Processing (NLP). They have been widely adopted for tasks such as sentiment analysis, machine translation, text generation, named entity recognition, and language modeling. RNNs excel in capturing contextual information and understanding the sequential nature of text, making them suitable for applications that involve language understanding and generation.

Speech Recognition and Voice Processing

RNNs have played a crucial role in advancing speech recognition systems. By training on large speech datasets and leveraging architectures such as Connectionist Temporal Classification (CTC) or hybrid models with Hidden Markov Models (HMMs), RNNs can transcribe spoken language into written text with high accuracy. This technology has enabled significant advancements in virtual assistants, voice-controlled systems, transcription services, and language processing in audio and video content. LSTM code in python can be used to develop powerful speech recognition systems.

Time Series Analysis and Forecasting

RNNs have proven effective in time series analysis, where they can model and forecast patterns in data sequences. Stock price prediction, energy consumption forecasting, and weather prediction are examples of domains where RNNs have demonstrated their utility. By leveraging the temporal dependencies in sequential data, RNN python code can capture complex patterns and make accurate predictions, enabling better decision-making and resource planning in various industries.

Computer Vision Applications

RNNs have been successfully applied to computer vision tasks, such as image captioning and video analysis. By combining Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) for visual feature extraction with RNNs for language modeling, systems can generate descriptive captions for images and videos. This technology has practical applications in autonomous vehicles, surveillance systems, content recommendation engines, and accessibility tools for visually impaired individuals. LSTM code in python are also useful in creating powerful image and video captioning models.

Python Libraries for RNNs

Python provides a rich ecosystem of deep learning libraries that facilitate the implementation and training of RNN models. TensorFlow, PyTorch, and Keras are popular libraries that offer comprehensive support for building and training RNN architectures. These libraries provide pre-implemented RNN variants, including LSTM python and GRU units, making it easier for researchers and practitioners to develop and experiment with RNN models.

Advancements and Future Directions

The field of RNNs is continuously evolving, with ongoing research and development focusing on improving model architectures, training techniques, and efficiency. Transformer models initially introduced for machine translation, have gained attention for their ability to capture long-range dependencies more effectively than traditional RNNs. Researchers are also exploring techniques such as attention mechanisms, sparse representations, and unsupervised pre-training to enhance the performance and capabilities of RNNs.

Recurrent Neural Networks in Python (RNNs) have emerged as a powerful tool for sequence processing tasks, offering the ability to model dependencies and patterns in sequential data.

How do RNNs Work?

It’s best to understand the working of a recurrent neural network in Python by looking at an example.

Let’s suppose that there is a deeper network containing one output layer, three hidden layers, and one input layer.

Just as it is with other neural networks, in this case, too, each hidden layer will come with its own set of weights and biases.

Explore our Popular Data Science Online Certifications

For the sake of this example, let’s consider that the weights and biases for layer 1 are (w1, b1), layer 2 are (w2, b2), and layer 3 are (w3, b3). These three layers are independent of each other and do not remember the previous results.

Now, here’s what the RNN will do:

upGrad’s Exclusive Data Science Webinar for you –

Watch our Webinar on How to Build Digital & Data Mindset?



= current state

= previous state

= input state

  • To apply the Activation function (tanh), use the following formula:


= weight at the recurrent neuron

= weight at input neuron

  • To calculate output, use the following formula:


= output

= weight at the output layer

Here’s a step-by-step explanation of how an RNN can be trained.

  1. At one time, input is given to the network.
  2. Now, you need to calculate its current state using the current input set and the previous state.
  3. The current will become  for the next step of the time.
  4. You can go as many time steps as you want and combine the data from all the previous states.
  5. As soon as all time steps are completed, use the final current state to calculate the final output.
  6. Compare this output to the actual output, i.e. the target output and the error between the two.
  7. Propagate the error back to the network and update the weights to train the RNN.

Top Data Science Skills You Should Learn


To conclude, I would first like to point out the advantages of a Recurring Neural Network in Python:

  • An RNN can remember all the information it receives. This is the characteristic that is most used in series prediction as it can remember the previous inputs.
  • In RNN, the same transition function with the same parameters can be used at every time step.

It’s critical to understand that the recurrent neural network in Python has no language understanding. It is adequately an advanced pattern recognition machine. In any case, unlike methods like Markov chains or frequency analysis, the RNN makes predictions dependent on the ordering of components in the sequence.

Basically, if you say that people are just extraordinary pattern recognition machines and, in this manner, the recurrent neural system is just acting like a human-machine.

The uses of RNNs go a long way past content generation to machine translation, image captioning, and authorship identification. Even though RNNs cannot possibly replace humans, it’s possible that with all the more training information and a bigger model, a neural system would have the option to integrate new, sensible patent abstracts.

Also, If you’re interested to learn more about Machine learning, check out IIIT-B & upGrad’s Executive PG Programme in Machine Learning & AI which is designed for working professionals and offers 450+ hours of rigorous training, 30+ case studies & assignments, IIIT-B Alumni status, 5+ practical hands-on capstone projects & job assistance with top firms.


Rohit Sharma

Blog Author
Rohit Sharma is the Program Director for the UpGrad-IIIT Bangalore, PG Diploma Data Analytics Program.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1Is CNN faster than RNN?

If we look at the computation time of both CNN and RNN, CNN is found to be very fast (~ 5x) as compared to RNN. Let us try to understand this in a better way with an example.

If a restaurant review is: ‘The service has been incredibly slow, and I am pretty much disappointed with this restaurant. The food quality was also mediocre.’ Here, there is sequential data present in the statement, where you might be trying to find out whether the sentiments are good or bad. The CNN model will be able to make the computations faster over here as it would be looking at only certain phrases, such as 'incredibly slow,' 'mediocre,' and 'disappointed.' Here, RNN might just confuse you by looking at several other parameters. CNN is a simpler model, which makes it more efficient than RNN.

2What are the applications of RNN?

RNNs are pretty powerful machine learning models that are being used in plenty of areas. The main aim of RNN is to process the sequential data that is made available to it. Availability of sequential data is found in various domains. Some of its applications in different domains include Machine translation, Speech recognition, Call centre analysis, Prediction problems, Text summarization, Video tagging, Face detection, Image recognition, OCR applications, and Music composition.

3What are some key differences between RNN and CNN?

RNNs are useful for analyzing sequential and temporal data like videos or text. On the other hand, CNN is useful for solving problems that are related to spatial data like images. In RNN, the sizes of inputs and outputs may vary, while in CNN, there is a fixed size for input as well as the resulting output. Some use cases for RNNs are machine translation, speech analysis, sentiment analysis, and prediction problems, while CNNs are useful in medical analysis, classification, and facial recognition.

Explore Free Courses

Suggested Blogs

Data Mining Techniques & Tools: Types of Data, Methods, Applications [With Examples]
Why data mining techniques are important like never before? Businesses these days are collecting data at a very striking rate. The sources of this eno
Read More

by Rohit Sharma

07 Jul 2024

An Overview of Association Rule Mining & its Applications
Association Rule Mining in data mining, as the name suggests, involves discovering relationships between seemingly independent relational databases or
Read More

by Abhinav Rai

07 Jul 2024

What is Decision Tree in Data Mining? Types, Real World Examples & Applications
Introduction to Data Mining In its raw form, data requires efficient processing to transform into valuable information. Predicting outcomes hinges on
Read More

by Rohit Sharma

04 Jul 2024

6 Phases of Data Analytics Lifecycle Every Data Analyst Should Know About
What is a Data Analytics Lifecycle? Data is crucial in today’s digital world. As it gets created, consumed, tested, processed, and reused, data goes
Read More

by Rohit Sharma

04 Jul 2024

Most Common Binary Tree Interview Questions & Answers [For Freshers & Experienced]
Introduction Data structures are one of the most fundamental concepts in object-oriented programming. To explain it simply, a data structure is a par
Read More

by Rohit Sharma

03 Jul 2024

Data Science Vs Data Analytics: Difference Between Data Science and Data Analytics
Summary: In this article, you will learn, Difference between Data Science and Data Analytics Job roles Skills Career perspectives Which one is right
Read More

by Rohit Sharma

02 Jul 2024

Graphs in Data Structure: Types, Storing & Traversal
In my experience with Data Science, I’ve found that choosing the right data structure is crucial for organizing information effectively. Graphs
Read More

by Rohit Sharma

01 Jul 2024

Python Banking Project [With Source Code] in 2024
The banking sector has many applications for programming and IT solutions. If you’re interested in working on a project for the banking sector,
Read More

by Rohit Sharma

25 Jun 2024

Linear Search vs Binary Search: Difference Between Linear Search & Binary Search
In my journey through data structures, I’ve navigated the nuances of linear search vs binary search in data structure, especially when dealing w
Read More

by Rohit Sharma

23 Jun 2024

Want to build a career in Data Science?Download Career Growth Report
footer sticky close icon