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Split in Python

Updated on 22/05/20244,453 Views


The split() in Python is a cornerstone tool for developers, aiding in efficient string parsing. As data processing and natural language processing grow significantly, so does the need to dissect and analyze strings.

Python's split() method simplifies this, turning complex strings into manageable lists. In this tutorial, we will thoroughly examine the nuances of the split() method, discussing its capabilities, applications, and the best practices for utilizing it in different situations.


Python, a powerful and versatile programming language, offers a multitude of built-in methods for string manipulation, among which the split() method stands out due to its ubiquity and utility. This method serves as an essential tool, allowing developers to segment lengthy strings into more digestible sub-strings based on specified delimiters. In this tutorial, we will delve deep into the intricacies of the split() in Python, exploring its functionalities, use cases, and the optimal ways to leverage it in various scenarios.

Basic Example of Python String split() Method


string = "FOUR,FIVE,SIX"
w = string.split(',')

Another Example of split() in Python


t = 'up Grad Tutorial!'
x = 'up, Grad, Tutorial!'
y = 'up:Grad:Tutorial!'
z = 'MatRatChatOwl'

Why Do We Use the split() Function in Python?

The split() function in Python stands as an invaluable utility within the programming paradigm, offering unmatched versatility when handling strings. It's not just about breaking down sentences; it finds its roots in deeper, more complex programming scenarios. Let's delve into the diverse arenas where the split() function proves indispensable:

Data Processing and Extraction:

  • Delimited Files: Among the most common use cases of the split() function is the parsing of delimited text files. These files include:

a. CSV (Comma-Separated Values): Typically used to store tabular data where columns are separated by commas.

b. TSV (Tab-Separated Values): Similar to CSV but uses tabs as separators.

c. Given the simple structure of these files, the split() function makes it easy to extract individual data fields, aiding in the organization, analysis, and processing of large data sets.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) Preprocessing:

  • Tokenization: In the world of NLP, breaking down text into smaller chunks, or tokens, is foundational. This process, known as tokenization, often involves splitting sentences into individual words or phrases. The split() function becomes a primary tool in this task, enabling efficient text preprocessing for further analysis or machine learning model training.

Configurations and Settings Extraction:

  • Application Configurations: Modern software applications often use configuration files to set up initial parameters or functionalities. These configurations can be in the form of key=value pairs. By employing the split() function, developers can conveniently extract specific configuration values based on the delimiter (often =), streamlining the setup process.

String Manipulations:

  • Developer's Swiss Knife: The split() function is not restricted to complex tasks. It also shines in everyday string manipulations. Whether it's extracting a user's first name from a full name, breaking down URLs into domain and path, or even segregating file names from their extensions, split() comes to the rescue, making it an essential part of a developer's toolbox.

The encompassing utility of the split() function in Python makes it a tool no developer can afford to overlook. From mundane tasks to advanced data processing, its presence is felt, underpinning a variety of operations.

The Workings of Split() Function

The split() function is a built-in method available for strings in Python. It is used to split a given string into a list of substrings based on a specified delimiter. Here's the general syntax:

string.split([separator[, maxsplit]])
  • string: This is the string that you want to split into substrings.
  • separator (optional): The delimiter or character that is used as a reference to split the string. If not provided, the string is split at whitespace characters (spaces, tabs, newlines).
  • maxsplit (optional): An integer that specifies the maximum number of splits to be performed. The default value is -1, which means no limit on splits.

Here's how the split() function works step by step:

  1. The input string is scanned from left to right.
  2. When the separator character is encountered, the string is split at that point, and the substring before the separator is added to the resulting list.
  3. The separator itself is not included in any of the substrings.
  4. The scanning continues after the separator, and the process is repeated for subsequent substrings.
  5. If maxsplit is specified, the splitting process stops after the specified number of splits have been made. The remaining part of the string is treated as a single substring.




The Workings of String Split Python When Max Split Is Specified

In Python, the str.split() method is used to split a string into a list of substrings based on a specified delimiter. The maxsplit parameter determines the maximum number of splits that will be performed. When maxsplit is specified, the splitting process stops after reaching the specified number of splits, and the remaining part of the string is treated as a single element in the resulting list.

Here's how the str.split() method works when maxsplit is specified:


text = "apple,banana,orange,grape,pineapple"
split_result = text.split(",", maxsplit=2)

In this example, the string text is split using the comma, as the delimiter, and maxsplit is set to 2. This means that the string will be split into a maximum of 3 parts. The output will be : ['apple', 'banana', 'orange,grape,pineapple'].

As you can see, the splitting process stopped after 2 splits, and the remaining portion of the string ('orange,grape,pineapple') is treated as a single element in the resulting list.

If you don't specify maxsplit, or if you specify a negative value for maxsplit, the string will be split without any limit on the number of splits:


text = "apple,banana,orange,grape,pineapple"
split_result = text.split(",")

In this case, the string is split at every occurrence of the comma, resulting in five separate elements in the list.

The Different Ways of Using the Split() Function

The split() function in Python is quite versatile and can be used in various ways to achieve different tasks. Here are a few common scenarios in which you might use the split() function:

  • Tokenization:

Tokenization is the process of breaking a text into individual words or tokens. The split() function can be used to tokenize a sentence or paragraph by splitting it at spaces or punctuation marks.

sentence = "This is a sample sentence. Split it into tokens."
tokens = sentence.split()  # Split at whitespace
  • CSV or TSV Parsing:

When dealing with comma-separated values (CSV) or tab-separated values (TSV) files, you can use the split() function to parse each line and extract individual values.

line = "Alice,25,New York"
values = line.split(",")  # Split CSV line
  • Path Manipulation:

The split() function can be used to split file paths and extract the directory and filename components

file_path = "/home/user/documents/file.txt"
directory, filename = file_path.rsplit("/", 1)  # Split at the last /
  • Extracting Data from Strings:

If you have strings with specific formatting, you can use the split() function to extract relevant data.

data = "Temperature: 25°C, Humidity: 70%"
temp, humidity = [item.split(":")[1].strip() for item in data.split(",")]
  • Parsing Log Files:

Log files often have a specific structure. You can use the split() function to parse different parts of log entries.

log_entry = "2023-08-25 10:30: Request received from IP:"
timestamp, rest_of_entry = log_entry.split(" ", 1)
  • Parsing URLs:

When working with URLs, you can use the split() function to extract components like the protocol, domain, and path.

url = "https://www.example.com/page"
protocol, domain_and_path = url.split("://", 1)

These are just a few examples of how the split() function can be used in different contexts. It's a powerful tool for manipulating and extracting information from strings, making it a fundamental part of text processing and data parsing tasks in Python.

String Split() and Method Split()


string = "FOUR,FIVE,SIX"
w = string.split(',')
Method Split():
text = "hello, my name is Ram, I am 27 years old"
p = text.split(", ")

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using the split() Function in Python

The split() function in Python is used to split a string into a list of substrings based on a specified delimiter. This function can be very useful in text processing, but it also has its advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages of using split() function:

Text Processing: The primary advantage of split() is its utility in text processing tasks, such as parsing CSV files, log files, and other structured or semi-structured data formats.

Convenience: It provides a simple and convenient way to break down a string into parts based on a delimiter, which can save time and effort compared to manually parsing strings.

Readable Code: Using split() can make your code more readable, as it clearly indicates that you're separating a string into meaningful parts.

Less Error-Prone: Manually parsing strings using indexing and slicing can be error-prone, especially with complex delimiters. split() reduces the chances of making mistakes.

Disadvantages of using split() function:

Loss of Delimiter: The delimiter used to split the string is removed in the process. If you need to retain the delimiters, you'll need to work around this limitation.

Whitespace Handling: By default, split() treats consecutive whitespace characters as a single delimiter. This behavior might not always be desired and can lead to unexpected results.

Whitespace Removal: By default, split() also removes leading and trailing whitespace from each split substring. This might not be the desired behavior in all cases.

Limited Splitting: The split() function might not cover all splitting scenarios, especially if you need more advanced splitting rules or multiple delimiters.

Performance: In some cases, when dealing with large amounts of data, using split() can have performance implications, especially if splitting is done repeatedly in a loop.

Custom Splitting: For more complex splitting needs, you might need to use regular expressions (re module) or write custom parsing logic, which can be more flexible but also more complex.

In summary, the split() function is a useful tool for many text processing tasks, offering convenience and readability. However, you should be aware of its limitations and potential pitfalls, especially when dealing with complex delimiters, whitespace handling, and performance considerations. It's essential to evaluate your specific use case and requirements before deciding to use the split() function.


The split() method in Python underlines the language's commitment to providing efficient and user-friendly tools for string manipulation. As we've journeyed through its functionalities, it's evident that mastering this method can greatly enhance one's coding versatility, especially in tasks involving text processing, data extraction, and general string management. Given the data-centric world we're navigating, such skills become increasingly paramount.

As the realms of data science, web development, and automation expand, professionals who harness the capabilities of methods like split() find themselves better equipped to tackle modern challenges. It's a testament to the language's design that such a seemingly simple function can have such profound implications. If you found this insight compelling and wish to further enhance your Python proficiency, consider exploring upGrad's range of upskilling courses, tailored for those who are eager to stay updated in the tech space.


1. What does .split do in Python?

The .split() method in Python is a function that is used to segment or divide a string into a list of substrings. This method is instrumental when we aim to break down a lengthy string into manageable parts or substrings.

2. How is Python split string different from other string methods?

Python offers a myriad of string methods, each designed for distinct purposes. While many methods like replace() or upper() are centered around transforming the string or evaluating its properties, the split() method uniquely concentrates on deconstructing or dividing the string. Its primary goal is to break a string into substrings based on specific delimiter criteria.

3. Can split Python handle multiple separators at once?

The standard .split() function in Python is designed to handle a single separator at a time. If there's a need to split a string using multiple or complex delimiters, one would typically resort to regular expressions, particularly the re.split() method. This allows for more flexibility in defining multiple separators.

4. Why is the .split python function indispensable in data processing?

The .split() function stands out as a crucial tool in the realm of data processing. It facilitates the parsing and segmentation of data, especially when dealing with structured text formats. For instance, when reading CSV files or handling input data streams, the ability to split data into individual units using delimiters is invaluable. It streamlines the process of data manipulation, preprocessing, and analysis in various domains.

5. Are there alternatives to the Python split function for unique tasks?

Absolutely. While the .split() function is versatile, there are instances where more specialized methods are beneficial. For tasks demanding intricate split criteria, one might turn to regex split methods provided by the re-module. Additionally, there are specific string parsing libraries that cater to complex segmentation tasks, offering a broader set of tools and configurations.



Director of Engineering

Director of Engineering @ upGrad. Motivated to leverage technology to solve problems. Seasoned leader for startups and fast moving orgs. Working … Read More

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