### Introduction

The `or`

operator is one of the three existing *logical operators* in Python (`and`

, `or`

, `not`

), which perform a logical evaluation of the passed operands.

In simple terms, when two operands are passed, it will decide whether the final value of the created logical expression is `True`

or `False`

. The mechanism used to evaluate the value of the final expression is based on the set of rules known as **Boolean algebra**.

In this guide, we’ll cover the

`or`

operator in Python as well as its most common use cases.

*or* Operator Basics

Python’s `or`

operator just performs logical disjunction on the two provided operands. Assuming that the operands are simply two *Boolean values*, the rule on how to use the `or`

operator is pretty straight-forward:

If either one of two operands has the value

`True`

, the whole expression has the value`True`

. In all other cases, the whole expression has the value`False`

.

Now let’s take a look at the *truth table* of the `or`

operator:

Operand 1 | Operand 2 | OR Expression Value |

True | True | True |

True | False | True |

False | True | True |

False | False | False |

This table describes the law of logical disjunction. By looking at this table, we can see that the `or`

operator produces `False`

as the result only if both of the operands are `False`

as well.

All of this leads us to the concept of **lazy evaluation**. A mechanism used to optimize calculations of mathematical operations. In this particular case, it is used to speed up the process of evaluating Boolean expressions with the `or`

operator.

We already know that an `or`

expression results in a `True`

value if either of its two operands is `True`

. Therefore, in a Boolean expression consisting of multiple operands, it is completely unnecessary to evaluate each one of them individually.

It’s enough just to read the values of operands one after the other. When we come across a `True`

for the first time, we can safely just ignore all of the other operands and just evaluate the whole expression as `True`

.

On the other hand, if there is no operand with the value `True`

, we must evaluate the whole expression with the value `False`

. That is the basic principle of lazy evaluation – **don’t evaluate if you don’t have to.**

### Using *or* on Boolean Variables

The `or`

operator in Python is used to evaluate two of its operands. In this section, we’ll focus on the case where both of the operands have Boolean values. In some cases, the `or`

operator can be used with non-Boolean values, which we’ll discuss in the following sections.

Let’s take a look at how to use the `or`

operator with two Boolean values:

```
result1 = True or False
result2 = False or False
print('R1:', result1)
print('R2:', result2)
```

In this example, we can see how the `or`

operator evaluates expressions consisting only of simple Boolean values. As described in the previous sections, this piece of code will have the following output:

```
R1: True
R2: False
```

In the previous example, we’ve named Boolean expressions `result1`

and `result2`

. That way, we’ve created two Boolean variables with values `True`

and `False`

, respectively.

Those two variables can be used as the operands of another Boolean expression and, therefore, could be considered as subexpressions of the more complex Boolean expression. That’s the general principle used to build more complex Boolean expressions layer by layer:

```
result3 = result1 or result2
result4 = result3 or True
print('R3:', result3)
print('R4:', result4)
```

As expected, this will output:

```
R3: True
R4: True
```

`result4`

is a complex Boolean expression consisting of multiple subexpressions and Boolean values. Let’s take a look at the process of unfolding it:

```
1. result4 = result3 or True
2. result4 = (result1 or result2) or True
3. result4 = ((True or False) or (False or False)) or True
```

Based on the associative law for the `or`

operator, we know that the order in which we apply the operator doesn’t have an impact on the value of the Boolean expression, so there is no need for brackets. Therefore, we can transform `result4`

one step further by deleting all of the brackets:

```
result4 = True or False or False or False or True
```

### Using *or* on Non-Boolean Variables

The `or`

operator in Python can also be used with variables other than Boolean. You can even mix and match Boolean variables with non-Boolean variables. In this section, we’ll go over some examples that illustrate the usage of the `or`

operator with variables of different data types.

Generally speaking, any object or a variable in Python is considered to be `True`

unless its class has a predefined `__bool__()`

method that returns `False`

or a `__len__()`

method that returns `0`

.

In simple terms that means that only objects considered to be `False`

are those which are predefined to be `False`

or those which are empty – empty lists, tuples, strings, dictionaries… The Official Python documentation gives us the list of some of the most common built-in objects considered to be `False`

:

- Constants defined to be false:
`None`

and`False`

. - Zero of any numeric type:
`0`

,`0.0`

,`0j`

,`Decimal(0)`

,`Fraction(0, 1)`

- Empty sequences and collections:
`''`

,`()`

,`[]`

,`{}`

,`set()`

,`range(0)`

**Note:** These are also known as **Falsy Values** – the ones you’d intuitively be able to reduce to a `False`

boolean value. The opposite values are **Truthy Values**.

Another very important fact is that the

`or`

operator in this case returnsthe actual object, not the`True/False`

value of the object.

Let’s take a look at the example that illustrates mentioned behavior:

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```
exp = {} or 'This is a string'
```

As stated before, the first operand – `{}`

(empty dictionary) is considered to be `False`

and the second operand – `'This is a string'`

(not an empty string) is considered to be `True`

. This means that the previous expression is **implicitly** transformed to:

```
```

Here, `exp`

is evaluated to `True`

. But, when we try to print the original `exp`

value, instead of `True`

, the output will be:

```
'This is a string'
```

This example illustrates the case when the `or`

operator returns the object itself instead of its `True/False`

value. To sum this behavior up, we can illustrate it with the altered (truth) table of the `or`

operator:

object1 (value) | object2 (value) | object1 `or` object2 (return value) |

True | True | object1 |

True | False | object1 |

False | True | object2 |

False | False | object2 |

This also applies when we combine usual Boolean values and objects in Boolean expressions.

If the expression contains at least one value that is considered to be `True`

, the value of the expression is `True`

, but the return value can vary based on the first `True`

element in it.

If the first `True`

operand to be found in the expression is a simple Boolean value, the return value will be `True`

, but if the first `True`

element is some sort of an object, the return value will be that object itself. For example, the following expression will return `True`

:

```
0 or True
```

And the following expression will return `[1, 2, 3]`

, which is the first `True`

operand found:

```
False or [1, 2, 3]
```

On the other hand, if a Boolean expression is `False`

, meaning that no `True`

operand was found, its return value will be its last operand, either object or `False`

:

```
{} or 0.0 or [] or False or ()
```

### Conclusion

In this guide, we’ve explained the usage of the `or`

operator in Python. We’ve introduced the syntax in Python and described how the `or`

operator evaluates Boolean expressions and how it determine the proper return value based on the operands.

Besides its primary usage for evaluating Boolean expressions, the `or`

operator can also be pretty useful in some other use cases.

Its features make it a good choice when you need to set default values for some variables or a default return value of a function and much more, but those special use cases are far beyond the scope of this article, so we’ll let you explore all the use cases that the `or`

operator can be utilized in.