I have two integer values a and b, but I need their ratio in floating point. I know that a < b and I want to calculate a / b, so if I use integer division I’ll always get 0 with a remainder of a.

How can I force c to be a floating point number in Python 2 in the following?

c = a / b

In Python 2, division of two ints produces an int. In Python 3, it produces a float. We can get the new behaviour by importing from __future__.

>>> from __future__ import division
>>> a = 4
>>> b = 6
>>> c = a / b
>>> c
0.66666666666666663

You can cast to float by doing c = a / float(b). If the numerator or denominator is a float, then the result will be also.


A caveat: as commenters have pointed out, this won’t work if b might be something other than an integer or floating-point number (or a string representing one). If you might be dealing with other types (such as complex numbers) you’ll need to either check for those or use a different method.

How can I force division to be floating point in Python?

I have two integer values a and b, but I need their ratio in floating point. I know that a < b and I want to calculate a/b, so if I use integer division I’ll always get 0 with a remainder of a.

How can I force c to be a floating point number in Python in the following?

c = a / b

What is really being asked here is:

“How do I force true division such that a / b will return a fraction?”

Upgrade to Python 3

In Python 3, to get true division, you simply do a / b.

>>> 1/2
0.5

Floor division, the classic division behavior for integers, is now a // b:

>>> 1//2
0
>>> 1//2.0
0.0

However, you may be stuck using Python 2, or you may be writing code that must work in both 2 and 3.

If Using Python 2

In Python 2, it’s not so simple. Some ways of dealing with classic Python 2 division are better and more robust than others.

Recommendation for Python 2

You can get Python 3 division behavior in any given module with the following import at the top:

from __future__ import division

which then applies Python 3 style division to the entire module. It also works in a python shell at any given point. In Python 2:

>>> from __future__ import division
>>> 1/2
0.5
>>> 1//2
0
>>> 1//2.0
0.0

This is really the best solution as it ensures the code in your module is more forward compatible with Python 3.

Other Options for Python 2

If you don’t want to apply this to the entire module, you’re limited to a few workarounds. The most popular is to coerce one of the operands to a float. One robust solution is a / (b * 1.0). In a fresh Python shell:

>>> 1/(2 * 1.0)
0.5

Also robust is truediv from the operator module operator.truediv(a, b), but this is likely slower because it’s a function call:

>>> from operator import truediv
>>> truediv(1, 2)
0.5

Not Recommended for Python 2

Commonly seen is a / float(b). This will raise a TypeError if b is a complex number. Since division with complex numbers is defined, it makes sense to me to not have division fail when passed a complex number for the divisor.

>>> 1 / float(2)
0.5
>>> 1 / float(2j)
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
TypeError: can't convert complex to float

It doesn’t make much sense to me to purposefully make your code more brittle.

You can also run Python with the -Qnew flag, but this has the downside of executing all modules with the new Python 3 behavior, and some of your modules may expect classic division, so I don’t recommend this except for testing. But to demonstrate:

$ python -Qnew -c 'print 1/2'
0.5
$ python -Qnew -c 'print 1/2j'
-0.5j

c = a / (b * 1.0)

In Python 3.x, the single slash (/) always means true (non-truncating) division. (The // operator is used for truncating division.) In Python 2.x (2.2 and above), you can get this same behavior by putting a

from __future__ import division

at the top of your module.

Just making any of the parameters for division in floating-point format also produces the output in floating-point.

Example:

>>> 4.0/3
1.3333333333333333

or,

>>> 4 / 3.0
1.3333333333333333

or,

>>> 4 / float(3)
1.3333333333333333

or,

>>> float(4) / 3
1.3333333333333333

Add a dot (.) to indicate floating point numbers

>>> 4/3.
1.3333333333333333

This will also work

>>> u=1./5
>>> print u
0.2

If you want to use “true” (floating point) division by default, there is a command line flag:

python -Q new foo.py

There are some drawbacks (from the PEP):

It has been argued that a command line option to change the
default is evil. It can certainly be dangerous in the wrong
hands: for example, it would be impossible to combine a 3rd
party library package that requires -Qnew with another one that
requires -Qold.

You can learn more about the other flags values that change / warn-about the behavior of division by looking at the python man page.

For full details on division changes read: PEP 238 — Changing the Division Operator

from operator import truediv

c = truediv(a, b)

from operator import truediv

c = truediv(a, b)

where a is dividend and b is the divisor.
This function is handy when quotient after division of two integers is a float.