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Python list copy() method

  • Difficulty Level : Basic
  • Last Updated : 03 Aug, 2021

Sometimes, there is a need to reuse any object, hence copy methods are always of great utility. Python in its language offers a number of ways to achieve this. This particular article aims at demonstrating the copy method present in the list. Since the list is widely used hence, its copy is also necessary.




The copy() method doesn’t take any parameters


Returns a shallow copy of a list. A shallow copy means any modification in the new list won’t be reflected in the original list. 

Example 1: Demonstrating the working of list.copy() 


# Python 3 code to demonstrate
# working of list.copy()
# Initializing list
lis1 = [ 1, 2, 3, 4 ]
# Using copy() to create a shallow copy
lis2 = lis1.copy()
# Printing new list
print ("The new list created is : " + str(lis2))
# Adding new element to new list
# Printing lists after adding new element
# No change in old list
print ("The new list after adding new element : " + str(lis2))
print ("The old list after adding new element to new list  : " + str(lis1))


The new list created is : [1, 2, 3, 4]
The new list after adding new element : [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
The old list after adding new element to new list  : [1, 2, 3, 4]


A shallow copy means if we modify any of the nested list elements, changes are reflected in both the list as they point to the same reference. Whereas in deep copy, when we add an element in any of the lists, only that list is modified. When we use the “=” operator the new list refers to the same object, hence any change (append, remove, change of value) in one list is reflected on both. But when we use the list.copy() method, changes made to one list or not reflected on other except for in nested elements (like list within a list), Here we should use the copy.deepcopy() from the copy module to avoid this problem. Please refer to this article Deep Copy vs Shallow copy

  • Techniques to deep copy: 
    • Using copy.deepcopy()
  • Techniques to shallow copy: 
    • Using copy.copy()
    • Using list.copy()
    • Using slicing

Example 2: Demonstrating techniques of shallow and deep copy  


# Python 3 code to demonstrate
# techniques of deep and shallow copy
import copy
# Initializing list
list1 = [ 1, [2, 3] , 4 ]
# all changes are reflected
list2 = list1
# shallow copy - changes to
# nested list is reflected,
# same as copy.copy(), slicing
list3 = list1.copy()
# deep copy - no change is reflected
list4 = copy.deepcopy(list1)
list1[1][1] = 999
print("list 1 after modification:\n", list1)
print("list 2 after modification:\n", list2)
print("list 3 after modification:\n", list3)
print("list 4 after modification:\n", list4)


list 1 after modification:
 [1, [2, 999], 4, 5]
list 2 after modification:
 [1, [2, 999], 4, 5]
list 3 after modification:
 [1, [2, 999], 4]
list 4 after modification:
 [1, [2, 3], 4]

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