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.
Floor division, the classic division behavior for integers, is now
a // b:
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
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)
Also robust is
truediv from the
operator.truediv(a, b), but this is likely slower because it’s a function call:
>>> from operator import truediv
>>> truediv(1, 2)
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)
>>> 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'
$ python -Qnew -c 'print 1/2j'