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Recursion in Python

  • Difficulty Level : Easy
  • Last Updated : 28 Jul, 2020

The term Recursion can be defined as the process of defining something in terms of itself. In simple words, it is a process in which a function calls itself directly or indirectly.


Advantages of using recursion

  • A complicated function can be split down into smaller sub-problems utilizing recursion.
  • Sequence creation is simpler through recursion than utilizing any nested iteration.
  • Recursive functions render the code look simple and effective.

Disadvantages of using recursion

  • A lot of memory and time is taken through recursive calls which makes it expensive for use.
  • Recursive functions are challenging to debug.
  • The reasoning behind recursion can sometimes be tough to think through.


def func(): <--
              | (recursive call)
    func() ----

Example 1:
A Fibonacci sequence is the integer sequence of 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8....

# Program to print the fibonacci series upto n_terms
# Recursive function
def recursive_fibonacci(n):
   if n <= 1:
       return n
       return(recursive_fibonacci(n-1) + recursive_fibonacci(n-2))
n_terms = 10
# check if the number of terms is valid
if n_terms <= 0:
   print("Invalid input ! Please input a positive value")
   print("Fibonacci series:")
   for i in range(n_terms):


Fibonacci series:

Example 2:
The factorial of 6 is denoted as 6! = 1*2*3*4*5*6 = 720.

# Program to print factorial of a number 
# recursively.
# Recursive function
def recursive_factorial(n):  
   if n == 1:  
       return n  
       return n * recursive_factorial(n-1)  
# user input
num = 6
# check if the input is valid or not
if num < 0:  
   print("Invalid input ! Please enter a positive number.")  
elif num == 0:  
   print("Factorial of number 0 is 1")  
   print("Factorial of number", num, "=", recursive_factorial(num)) 


Factorial of number 6 = 720

What is Tail-Recursion?

A unique type of recursion where the last procedure of a function is a recursive call. The recursion may be automated away by performing the request in the current stack frame and returning the output instead of generating a new stack frame. The tail-recursion may be optimized by the compiler which makes it better than non-tail recursive functions.

Is it possible to optimize a program by making use of a tail-recursive function instead of non-tail recursive function?
Considering the function given below in order to calculate the factorial of n, we can observe that the function looks like a tail-recursive at first but it is a non-tail-recursive function. If we observe closely, we can see that the value returned by Recur_facto(n-1) is used in Recur_facto(n), so the call to Recur_facto(n-1) is not the last thing done by Recur_facto(n).

# Program to calculate factorial of a number
# using a Non-Tail-Recursive function. 
# non-tail recursive function
def Recur_facto(n): 
    if (n == 0): 
        return 1
    return n * Recur_facto(n-1
# print the result



We can write the given function Recur_facto as a tail-recursive function. The idea is to use one more argument and in the second argument, we accommodate the value of the factorial. When n reaches 0, return the final value of the factorial of the desired number.

# Program to calculate factorial of a number
# using a Tail-Recursive function.
# A tail recursive function 
def Recur_facto(n, a = 1): 
    if (n == 0): 
    return Recur_facto(n - 1, n * a) 
# print the result



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