5 Best Ways to Determine If a Typecode is Lower or Equal in the Type Hierarchy in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: When working with data types in Python, it’s common to need to check if one data type is the same as or a more specific instance compared to another data type. This article explores several methods to determine if the first argument (a typecode) is lower than or equal to a second argument typecode in the type hierarchy. For example, passing int as the first argument and object as the second should return True because int is a subclass of object.

Method 1: Using issubclass() Function

This method involves using the built-in issubclass() function, which checks if the first type is a subclass of the second type. It’s a straightforward and readable approach to establish the relationship in the type hierarchy.

Here’s an example:

print(issubclass(int, object))  # Should return True

The output of this example is True.

This code snippet demonstrates the direct usage of issubclass() to verify that int is indeed a subclass of object, fulfilling our condition of low or equal in the hierarchy.

Method 2: Using isinstance() with type() Function

This approach checks if an instance of the first argument type is also an instance of the second argument type. This works because isinstance() accepts a type instance as its first argument.

Here’s an example:

print(isinstance(type(3), type(object)))  # Should return True

The output of this code is True.

Here, we create an instance of the first argument using type(3) which yields int, and use isinstance() to check if int is an instance of the second argument type.

Method 3: Using Object Inheritance Checking

Python types have a special attribute called __mro__, which is a tuple listing a type’s ancestors. We can check if the second argument typecode is in the __mro__ of the first argument typecode to determine hierarchy positioning.

Here’s an example:

print(object in int.__mro__)  # Should return True

The output is True.

This snippet checks the method resolution order (MRO) of the int type for the presence of object to confirm that int is a subclass or equal to object.

Method 4: Manual Typecode Comparison Function

When you require a customizable solution, you can write a function that manually traverses through the __bases__ attribute (a tuple of base classes) to recursively check if one typecode is a subtype of another.

Here’s an example:

def is_subtype(type1, type2):
    if type1 == type2:
        return True
    return any(is_subtype(base, type2) for base in type1.__bases__)

print(is_subtype(int, object)) # Should return True

The output is True

This custom function works by checking if the provided typecodes match or if any base types of the first typecode lead to the second typecode, handling custom type hierarchy checks.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Using <<= Operator with Types

This compact one-liner takes advantage of the lexicographical comparison functionality present in Python’s type objects, where the <<= operator can be used to compare the order of types within Python’s type hierarchy.

Here’s an example:

print(int <= object)  # Should return True

The output of this line is True.

The <<= operator succinctly checks whether int is a subclass of or equal to object, confirming the hierarchy requirement in a minimalist fashion.


  • Method 1: issubclass(). Simple and built-in. May not handle complex inheritance structures involving metaclasses.
  • Method 2: isinstance() with type(). Versatile and built-in. May be less direct for type comparisons.
  • Method 3: Object Inheritance Checking. Direct access to inheritance information. Requires knowledge of special type attributes.
  • Method 4: Manual Typecode Comparison Function. Highly customizable. May be overkill for simple checks and is less efficient.
  • Method 5: Using <<= Operator. Extremely concise. May be opaque to readers unfamiliar with type object comparison semantics.