In Python, we can change the way operators work for user-defined types. For example, the
+ operator will perform arithmetic addition on two numbers, merge two lists, or concatenate two strings. This feature in Python that allows the same operator to have different meaning according to the context is called operator overloading.
Example: + Operator Overloading
Suppose if we have a class called Complex that represents complex numbers, we could overload the
+ operator to add two Complex objects together. For example,
class Complex: def __init__(self, real, imag): self.real = real self.imag = imag # add two objects def __add__(self, other): return self.real + other.real, self.imag + other.imag obj1 = Complex(1, 2) obj2 = Complex(3, 4) obj3 = obj1 + obj2 print(obj3) # Output: (4, 6)
In the above example, we have used the
+ operator to add two Complex objects
__add__() method overloads the
+ operator to add the real and imaginary parts of the two complex numbers together and returns a new Complex object with the resulting values.
__str__() method returns a string representation of the complex number in the form
a + bj.
Overloading Comparison Operators
Python does not limit operator overloading to arithmetic operators only. We can overload comparison operators as well.
Here’s an example of how we can overload the
< operator to compare two objects the Person class based on their
class Person: def __init__(self, name, age): self.name = name self.age = age # overload < operator def __lt__(self, other): return self.age < other.age p1 = Person("Alice", 20) p2 = Person("Bob", 30) print(p1 < p2) # prints True print(p2 < p1) # prints False
__lt__() overloads the
< operator to compare the age attribute of two objects.
__lt__() method returns,
True– if the first object’s age is less than the second object’s age
False– if the first object’s age is greater than the second object’s age
Note: We can define similar methods to overload the other comparison operators. For example,
__gt__() to overload
__eq__() to overload
== operator and so on.
Python Special Functions
Class functions that begin with double underscore
__ are called special functions in Python.
The special functions are defined by the Python interpreter and used to implement certain features or behaviors.
They are called “double underscore” functions because they have a double underscore prefix and suffix, such as
Here are some of the special functions available in Python,
|initialize the attributes of the object|
|returns a string representation of the object|
|returns the length of the object|
|adds two objects|
|call objects of the class like a normal function|
Advantages of Operator Overloading
Here are some advantages of operator overloading,
- Improves code readability by allowing the use of familiar operators.
- Ensures that objects of a class behave consistently with built-in types and other user-defined types.
- Makes it simpler to write code, especially for complex data types.
- Allows for code reuse by implementing one operator method and using it for other operators.