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What is a clean and Pythonic way to have multiple constructors in Python?

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Python does not support explicit multiple constructors, yet there are some ways to achieve multiple constructors.

We use Python’s inbuilt __init__ method to define the constructor of a class. It tells what will the constructor do if the class object is created.

If multiple __init__ methods are written for the same class, then the latest one overwrites all the previous constructors and the reason for this can be that Python stores all the function names in a class as keys in a dictionary so when a new function is defined with the same name, the key remains the same but the value gets overridden by the new function body.

PrerequisitesConstructors, @classmethod decorators

What happens when multiple __init__ methods are defined in a class

There can only be one __init__ method in a class.

If we create multiple __init__ methods, Python will only consider the latest __init__ method.

Note- A new __init__ method overwrites the previous __init__ method.

Example:

Python3

class example:
  
    def __init__(self):
        print("One")
  
    def __init__(self):
        print("Two")
  
    def __init__(self):
        print("Three")
  
  
e = example()

                    

Output
Three

As you can see from the example above, if we try creating multiple __init__ methods, the latest __init__ method overwrites all previous __init__ methods.

Need for Multiple Constructors

Multiple constructors are required when one has to perform different actions on the instantiation of a Python class

This is useful when the class has to perform different actions on different parameters. 

How to Have Multiple Constructors in Python?

The class constructors can be made to exhibit polymorphism in three ways which are listed below.

  1. Overloading constructors based on arguments.
  2. Calling methods from __init__.
  3. Using @classmethod decorator.

Let’s see how to have multiple constructors in a clean and Pythonic way with examples.

Overloading constructors based on arguments

The constructor overloading is done by checking conditions for the arguments passed and performing the required actions. For example, consider passing an argument to the class sample

  • If the parameter is an int, the square of the number should be the answer.
  • If the parameter is a String, the answer should be “Hello!!”+string.
  • If the parameter is of length greater than 1, the sum of arguments should be stored as the answer.

Example:

Python3

class sample:
  
    # constructor overloading
    # based on args
    def __init__(self, *args):
  
        # if args are more than 1
        # sum of args
        if len(args) > 1:
            self.ans = 0
            for i in args:
                self.ans += i
  
        # if arg is an integer
        # square the arg
        elif isinstance(args[0], int):
            self.ans = args[0]*args[0]
  
        # if arg is string
        # Print with hello
        elif isinstance(args[0], str):
            self.ans = "Hello! "+args[0]+"."
  
  
s1 = sample(1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
print("Sum of list :", s1.ans)
  
s2 = sample(5)
print("Square of int :", s2.ans)
  
s3 = sample("GeeksforGeeks")
print("String :", s3.ans)

                    

Output
Sum of list : 15
Square of int : 25
String : Hello! GeeksforGeeks.

In the code above, the instance variable was ans, but its values differ based on the arguments. 

Since a variable number of arguments for the class, *args is used which is a tuple that contains the arguments passed and can be accessed using an index. 

In the case of int and string, only one argument is passed and thus accessed as args[0] (the only element in the tuple).

Calling methods from __init__

A class can have one constructor __init__ which can perform any action when the instance of the class is created. 

This constructor can be made to different functions that carry out different actions based on the arguments passed. Now consider an example : 

  • If the number of arguments passed is 2, then evaluate the expression x = a2-b2
  • If the number of arguments passed is 3, then evaluate the expression y = a2+b2-c.
  • If more than 3 arguments have been passed, then sum up the squares, and divide it by the highest value in the arguments passed.

Example:

Python3

class eval_equations:
  
  # single constructor to call other methods
    def __init__(self, *inp):
  
        # when 2 arguments are passed
        if len(inp) == 2:
            self.ans = self.eq2(inp)
  
        # when 3 arguments are passed
        elif len(inp) == 3:
            self.ans = self.eq1(inp)
  
        # when more than 3 arguments are passed
        else:
            self.ans = self.eq3(inp)
  
    def eq1(self, args):
        x = (args[0]*args[0])+(args[1]*args[1])-args[2]
        return x
  
    def eq2(self, args):
        y = (args[0]*args[0])-(args[1]*args[1])
        return y
  
    def eq3(self, args):
        temp = 0
        for i in range(0, len(args)):
            temp += args[i]*args[i]
          
        temp = temp/max(args)
        z = temp
        return z
  
  
inp1 = eval_equations(1, 2)
inp2 = eval_equations(1, 2, 3)
inp3 = eval_equations(1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  
print("equation 2 :", inp1.ans)
print("equation 1 :", inp2.ans)
print("equation 3 :", inp3.ans)

                    

Output
equation 2 : -3
equation 1 : 2
equation 3 : 11.0

In the example above, the equation to be evaluated is written on different instance methods and made to return the answer. The constructor calls the appropriate method and acts differently for different parameters.

The expressions have been evaluated as follows:

inputs : 1,2 —> 12-22 = 1-4 = -3

inputs : 1,2,3  —> (12 + 22) – 3 = 5-3 = 2

inputs : 1,2,3,4,5 —> (12 + 22 + 32 + 42 + 52) / 5 = 55/5 = 11.0

Using @classmethod decorator

@classmethod decorator allows a function to be accessible without instantiating the class. The functions can be accessed both by the instance of the class and the class itself. 

The first parameter of the method that is declared as classmethod is cls, which is like the self of the instance methods. Here cls refer to the class itself. This proves to be very helpful in using multiple constructors in Python and is a more Pythonic approach compared to the above ones. 

Consider the same example used above. Evaluate different expressions based on the number of inputs.

Example:

Python3

class eval_equations:
  
    # basic constructor
    def __init__(self, a):
        self.ans = a
  
    # expression 1
    @classmethod
    def eq1(cls, args):
        
      # create an object for the class to return
        x = cls((args[0]*args[0])+(args[1]*args[1])-args[2])
        return x
  
    # expression 2
    @classmethod
    def eq2(cls, args):
        y = cls((args[0]*args[0])-(args[1]*args[1]))
        return y
  
    # expression 3
    @classmethod
    def eq3(cls, args):
        temp = 0
  
        # square of each element
        for i in range(0, len(args)):
            temp += args[i]*args[i]
  
        temp = temp/max(args)
        z = cls(temp)
        return z
  
  
li = [[1, 2], [1, 2, 3], [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]]
i = 0
  
# loop to get input three times
while i < 3:
  
    inp = li[i]
  
    # no.of.arguments = 2
    if len(inp) == 2:
        p = eval_equations.eq2(inp)
        print("equation 2 :", p.ans)
  
    # no.of.arguments = 3
    elif len(inp) == 3:
        p = eval_equations.eq1(inp)
        print("equation 1 :", p.ans)
  
    # More than three arguments
    else:
        p = eval_equations.eq3(inp)
        print("equation 3 :", p.ans)
  
    #increment loop        
    i += 1

                    

Output
equation 2 : -3
equation 1 : 2
equation 3 : 11.0

In the example above, the instance of the object is not created initially. The class methods to evaluate various expressions have been defined with the @classmethod decorator. 

Now they can be called with the class name and the object is created in that class method after evaluating the expression. The instance variable holds different answers for a different number of parameters passed.

Conclusion

Creating a class with multiple constructors is a very useful aspect of OOP (object oriented programming). It allows user to simplify their code and gain more productivity.

Creating multiple constructors of a Python class is easier than you thought. We have covered three clean and Pythonic ways to have multiple constructors in a Python class. You can use any of the above methods, to create multiple constructors and gain multiple functionalities with its object.



Last Updated : 05 Feb, 2024
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