5 Best Ways to Check if a Sublist Sum is Strictly Greater than the Total Sum of a Given List in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: This article highlights methods to determine if there exists a sublist within a given list whose sum is strictly greater than the total sum of the original list. For instance, given the list [1, 2, -5, 3, 4], we aim to find a method that identifies if any contiguous subset, such as [3, 4], has a sum which is greater than the total sum of the list, which is 5.

Method 1: Brute Force Approach

This method involves checking the sum of all possible sublists to see if any have a sum greater than the total sum of the list. It is not efficient for large lists due to its O(n^2) time complexity but is straightforward to implement.

Here’s an example:

def has_greater_sublist_sum(lst):
    total_sum = sum(lst)
    for i in range(len(lst)):
        for j in range(i, len(lst)):
            if sum(lst[i:j+1]) > total_sum:
                return True
    return False

print(has_greater_sublist_sum([1, 2, -5, 3, 4]))

Output: True

The function has_greater_sublist_sum iterates through all possible sublists, calculating their sums, and compares each to the overall sum of the list. When it finds a sublist with a sum greater, it immediately returns True. If no such sublist is found, it returns False.

Method 2: Sort and Select Approach

By first sorting the list, we can then sum the largest elements and compare to the total sum. This method is more efficient if the list can be modified and the sorting cost is acceptable.

Here’s an example:

def has_greater_sublist_sum_sorted(lst):
    total_sum = sum(lst)
    sublist_sum = 0
    for num in lst:
        sublist_sum += num
        if sublist_sum > total_sum:
            return True
    return False

print(has_greater_sublist_sum_sorted([1, 2, -5, 3, 4]))

Output: True

The function has_greater_sublist_sum_sorted sorts the list in descending order and cumulatively adds elements to sublist_sum, checking after each addition whether it exceeds total_sum. It’s more efficient than the brute force method but alters the original list, which might not be desirable.

Method 3: Kadane’s Algorithm Variation

Kadane’s Algorithm can be adapted for this problem by comparing the maximum sublist sum it finds with the entire list sum. It’s very efficient with a linear runtime complexity, best suited for large datasets.

Here’s an example:

def kadanes_algorithm(lst):
    max_sublist_sum = lst[0]
    current_sum = lst[0]
    for num in lst[1:]:
        current_sum = max(num, current_sum + num)
        max_sublist_sum = max(max_sublist_sum, current_sum)
    return max_sublist_sum > sum(lst)

print(kadanes_algorithm([1, 2, -5, 3, 4]))

Output: True

The kadanes_algorithm function computes the maximum sum of any sublist and then checks if it’s greater than the total sum of the list. Its strength lies in its single pass through the data and no extra space requirement.

Method 4: Prefix Sum Array

A prefix sum array can help identify sublists with sums greater than the total sum by doing precalculations, allowing for O(n) time complexity during the check.

Here’s an example:

def has_greater_sublist_sum_prefix(lst):
    total_sum = sum(lst)
    prefix_sum = [0]
    for num in lst:
        prefix_sum.append(prefix_sum[-1] + num)
    for i in range(len(prefix_sum)):
        for j in range(i+1, len(prefix_sum)):
            if prefix_sum[j] - prefix_sum[i] > total_sum:
                return True
    return False

print(has_greater_sublist_sum_prefix([1, 2, -5, 3, 4]))

Output: True

Within the has_greater_sublist_sum_prefix function, a prefix sum array is constructed to quickly compute the sum of sublists. However, the check still requires a nested iteration, which is better than the brute force method but not as efficient as Kadane’s.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: List Comprehension with itertools

This one-line solution uses itertools to create all possible sublists and a list comprehension to find if any sublist sum is greater. This is an elegant solution but not recommended for long lists.

Here’s an example:

from itertools import combinations

def has_greater_sublist_sum_itertools(lst):
    total_sum = sum(lst)
    return any(sum(sublst) > total_sum for i in range(len(lst)) for sublst in combinations(lst, i))

print(has_greater_sublist_sum_itertools([1, 2, -5, 3, 4]))

Output: True

The one-liner function has_greater_sublist_sum_itertools utilizes Python’s itertools.combinations to generate all possible sublists and then checks if any of their sums are greater than the total sum. It is very concise but computationally expensive.


  • Method 1: Brute Force Approach. Comprehensive but slow for large lists. High time complexity.
  • Method 2: Sort and Select. More efficient than brute force, but it mutates the list. Sorting cost must be considered.
  • Method 3: Kadane’s Algorithm Variation. Best for performance. Fast and space-efficient but tricky to implement correctly.
  • Method 4: Prefix Sum Array. Faster precalculation but still slower checks than Kadane’s. Balances between precomputation and searching.
  • Method 5: List Comprehension with itertools. Elegant and concise but not practical for long lists due to high computational complexity.