How to Remove Empty Lists from a List of Lists in Python?

Short answer: You can remove all empty lists from a list of lists by using the list comprehension statement [x for x in list if x] to filter the list.

In the following, you’ll learn about the two methods using list comprehension and the filter() function to remove all empty lists from a list of lists.

But before that, feel free to play with the code yourself:

Method 1: List Comprehension

How can you remove all empty lists from a list of lists? Say, you’ve got a list of lists

[[1, 2, 3], [1, 2], [], [], [], [1, 2, 3, 4], [], []]

and you want all empty lists removed to obtain the list of lists

[[1, 2, 3], [1, 2], [1, 2, 3, 4]].

Solution: Use list comprehension [x for x in list if x] to filter the list and remove all lists that are empty.

lst = [[1, 2, 3], [1, 2], [], [], [], [1, 2, 3, 4], [], []]
print([x for x in lst if x])
# [[1, 2, 3], [1, 2], [1, 2, 3, 4]]

The condition if x evaluates to False only if the list x is empty. In all other cases, it evaluates to True and the element is included in the new list.

You can visualize the execution flow here by clicking the “Next” button:

Method 2: filter()

An alternative is to use the filter() function to remove all empty lists from a list of lists:

lst = [[1, 2, 3], [1, 2], [], [], [], [1, 2, 3, 4], [], []]
print(list(filter(lambda x: x, lst)))

The filter() function takes two arguments:

  • the filter decision function to check for each element whether it should be included in the filtered iterable (it returns a Boolean value), and
  • the iterable to be filtered.

As filter decision function, you use the identity function that just passes the list through. Why does this work? Because only an empty list will be evaluated to False. All other lists will be evaluated to True (and, thus, pass the filtering test).

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