How exactly does the python any() function work?

In the python docs page for any, the equivalent code for the any() function is given as:

    def any(iterable):
        for element in iterable:
            if element:
                return True
        return False

How does this function know what element I wanna test if call it in this form?

    any(x > 0 for x in list)

From the function definition, all I can see is that I'm passing an iterable object. How does the for loop know I am looking for something > 0?

If you use any(lst) you see that lst is the iterable, which is a list of some items. If it contained [0, False, '', 0.0, [], {}, None] (which all have boolean values of False) then any(lst) would be False. If lst also contained any of the following [-1, True, "X", 0.00001] (all of which evaluate to True) then any(lst) would be True.

In the code you posted, x > 0 for x in lst, this is a different kind of iterable, called a generator expression. Before generator expressions were added to Python, you would have created a list comprehension , which looks very similar, but with surrounding []'s: [x > 0 for x in lst]. From the lst containing [-1, -2, 10, -4, 20], you would get this comprehended list : [False, False, True, False, True]. This internal value would then get passed to the any function, which would return True, since there is at least one True value.

But with generator expressions , Python no longer has to create that internal list of True(s) and False(s), the values will be generated as the any function iterates through the values generated one at a time by the generator expression. And , since any short-circuits, it will stop iterating as soon as it sees the first True value. This would be especially handy if you created lst using something like lst = range(-1,int(1e9)) (or xrange if you are using Python2.x ). Even though this expression will generate over a billion entries, any only has to go as far as the third entry when it gets to 1, which evaluates True for x>0, and so any can return True.

If you had created a list comprehension , Python would first have had to create the billion-element list in memory, and then pass that to any. But by using a generator expression , you can have Python's builtin functions like any and all break out early, as soon as a True or False value is seen.