5 Best Ways to Restrict Argument Values Using Choice Options in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: Python functions often require argument values to be limited to a predefined set of valid options. For instance, a function to select a difficulty level for a game should only accept ‘easy’, ‘medium’, or ‘hard’ as inputs and should raise an error for any other values. This article explores effective methods to restrict argument values using choice options to ensure functions receive valid input.

Method 1: Using Conditionals to Validate Choices

An easy method to restrict argument values is by using conditionals to check if the provided argument is within an acceptable set of choices. If the condition fails, raise a ValueError with a meaningful message. It’s a commonly used approach due to its simplicity and directness.

Here’s an example:

def set_difficulty(level):
    valid_levels = ['easy', 'medium', 'hard']
    if level not in valid_levels:
        raise ValueError(f"Invalid difficulty level. Choose from: {valid_levels}")
    return f"Difficulty set to: {level}"

# Trying to set difficulty


Difficulty set to: medium

The provided code defines a function set_difficulty() that only accepts a predefined set of difficulty levels. If the level argument is not included in the valid_levels list, the function raises a ValueError with a clear explanation, effectively restricting the input values.

Method 2: Enumerations for Static Choice Sets

Python’s enum module can be used to define a set of named constants, providing a clear, readable way to handle choice values. Enums ensure that only predefined constants are accepted, and they also add clarity to the code by replacing arbitrary strings or numbers with meaningful labels.

Here’s an example:

from enum import Enum

class Difficulty(Enum):
    EASY = 1
    MEDIUM = 2
    HARD = 3

def set_difficulty(level):
    if not isinstance(level, Difficulty):
        raise ValueError("Invalid difficulty level. Only Enum values allowed.")
    return f"Difficulty set to: {level.name}"

# Setting difficulty with Enum


Difficulty set to: MEDIUM

The example demonstrates the use of an Enum class Difficulty to define valid choices. The set_difficulty() function checks if the provided level belongs to the Difficulty Enum, providing type safety and preventing invalid values from being passed to the function.

Method 3: Using Type Annotations with Enums

Type annotations combined with Enums can be used to clearly indicate the expected type for a variable, specifically as a choice from an Enum set, enhancing code readability and providing upfront choices during development (e.g., when using IDEs with type hinting).

Here’s an example:

from enum import Enum

class Color(Enum):
    RED = 1
    GREEN = 2
    BLUE = 3

def pick_color(color: Color) -> str:
    return f"Color chosen: {color.name}"

# Picking a color using Enum


Color chosen: BLUE

In this code, the pick_color() function’s parameter color is type-annotated to indicate that it should be an instance of the Color Enum. This helps developers understand the function’s interface and limits the argument to valid choices, preventing invalid input.

Method 4: ArgumentParser for Command-Line Applications

When building command-line applications in Python, the argparse module can be used to parse command-line arguments. This module has a feature that allows specifying a set of valid choices for a particular argument, simplifying validation and error handling.

Here’s an example:

import argparse

parser = argparse.ArgumentParser(description="Set the server mode.")
parser.add_argument('mode', choices=['development', 'staging', 'production'], help='Set the server mode')
args = parser.parse_args()

print(f"Server is running in {args.mode} mode.")

Here, the argparse.ArgumentParser is used to create a command-line interface that accepts a ‘mode’ argument. The valid choices are defined directly within the add_argument method, utilizing the module’s built-in handling of invalid inputs.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Conditional Assignment

For a quick and concise validation of choices inside functions or anywhere in your code, use a conditional assignment that raises an error if the choice is not valid. This one-liner combines the check and assignment for brevity.

Here’s an example:

def select_option(option):
    return option if option in ["yes", "no", "maybe"] else ValueError("Invalid option")

# Selecting option



The select_option() function in this snippet returns the option provided by the user only if it is one of the valid choices; otherwise, it raises a ValueError. This is a concise approach for simple checks within functions.


  • Method 1: Using Conditionals. Simple and straightforward. Less scalable for large sets of choices.
  • Method 2: Enumerations. Offers clear and organized code. Requires knowledge of the enum module.
  • Method 3: Type Annotations with Enums. Improves code readability and upfront clarity. May not be as intuitive for those new to type hints.
  • Method 4: ArgumentParser. Ideal for command-line interfaces. Not suitable for scenarios outside of command-line argument parsing.
  • Method 5: Conditional Assignment One-Liner. Great for succinct code. Error handling isn’t as clear compared to a full conditional block.