Why is a double semicolon a SyntaxError in Python?
I know that semicolons are unnecessary in Python, but they can be used to cram multiple statements onto a single line, e.g.
>>> x = 42; y = 54
I always thought that a semicolon was equivalent to a line break. So I was a bit surprised to learn (h/t Ned Batchelder on Twitter) that a double semicolon is a SyntaxError:
>>> x = 42 >>> x = 42; >>> x = 42;; File "<stdin>", line 1 x = 42;; ^ SyntaxError: invalid syntax
I assumed the last program was equivalent to
x = 42\n\n. I’d have thought the statement between the semicolons was treated as an empty line, a no-op. Apparently not.
Why is this an error?
From the Python grammar, we can see that
; is not defined as
\n. The parser expects another statement after a
;, except if there's a newline after it:
Semicolon w/ statement Maybe a semicolon Newline \/ \/ \/ \/ simple_stmt: small_stmt (';' small_stmt)* [';'] NEWLINE
x=42;; doesn't work; because there isn't a statement between the two semicolons, as "nothing" isn't a statement. If there was any complete statement between them, like a
pass or even just a
0, the code would work.
x = 42;0; # Fine x = 42;pass; # Fine x = 42;; # Syntax error if x == 42:; print("Yes") # Syntax error - "if x == 42:" isn't a complete statement