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The else Statement: Providing a Fallback Option in Python

Updated: at 05:12 AM

The else statement in Python provides a way to execute an alternate block of code when the condition in an if statement evaluates to False. Adding an else clause to an if statement ensures your code accounts for multiple scenarios and provides a fallback option for when the condition is not met.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover the syntax, usage, and examples of the else statement in Python. We will examine how to use else with if, elif, for and while loops. We will also discuss some common pitfalls and best practices when using else clauses to handle fallback logic in your Python programs.

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Syntax of the else Statement

The syntax of the else clause in Python is straightforward:

if condition:
   # execute this block if condition is True
   # execute this block if condition is False

The else statement always goes after the if statement and corresponding indented block. It provides an alternate path of execution when the condition in the if statement evaluates to False.

Here are some key points about Python’s else syntax:

So in summary, the else allows you to specify what should happen if the condition being evaluated is False, providing a fallback path for your code.

Simple If/Else Example

Let’s look at a simple example to illustrate how if/else works:

age = 15

if age >= 18:
  print("You are eligible to vote")
  print("You are not eligible to vote yet")

Here we check if the value of age meets the condition age >= 18. If so, we print a message that the person is eligible to vote. Otherwise, we inform them they are not eligible yet using the else clause.

The output would be:

You are not eligible to vote yet

Since 15 is less than 18, the if condition evaluates to False. So the else block is executed instead, printing the fallback message.

Else Clause Order

It’s important to note the order of if, elif, and else clauses in conditional logic:

if condition1:
  # do something
elif condition2:
  # do something else
  # fallback

The if is checked first, then elif, and else is always last. The conditions are evaluated in order, and the first one that evaluates to True triggers that code block to run. Once one block executes, the rest are skipped.

So the else clause will run if and only if all previous conditions were False. This provides a final fallback to handle all other cases.


As with all Python code blocks, proper indentation is crucial when using if, elif, else. The colon (:) starts the indented code blocks, with consistent indentation levels for each section:

if x > 0:
  print("Positive number")
  print("Negative number") # this line is indented to match if statement

Mixing indentation levels or using inconsistent tabs/spaces will cause errors:

if x > 0:
print("Positive number") # INCORRECT: not indented
     print("Negative number") # INCORRECT: inconsistent indentation

So take care to indent your if/else blocks correctly to avoid problems.

Multi-way if/elif/else

The if statement allows chaining together multiple conditions using elif (short for else if) clauses. Here is an example:

age = 12

if age < 4:
  ticket_price = 0
elif age < 18:
  ticket_price = 10
elif age < 65:
  ticket_price = 20
  ticket_price = 15

This sets the ticket_price variable based on different age ranges. We check each elif condition until one evaluates to True. When that happens, the code under that block runs and the rest of the elif/else sections are skipped.

The else at the end provides a final fallback value for any other age supplied. This is a complete conditional chain that accounts for all possibilities.

Else with Loops

The else clause can also be used with for and while loops in Python. It executes after the loop finishes normally without hitting a break statement.

Here is an example with for:

for i in range(5):
  if i == 3:
  print("Loop finished normally")

This else block after the for loop will run only if the loop exits normally without hitting the break. This can be useful for code that should execute at the end of a loop as long as it wasn’t stopped prematurely.

And here is an example with while:

count = 0
while count < 5:
  count += 1
  print("Loop finished")

The else block here will execute after the while loop finishes normally. But if we put a break inside the loop, it would not run.

Using else with loops like this provides a way to take final action after iteration without needing extra conditional logic.

Handling Exceptions

A common use case for else clauses is when handling exceptions in Python. Using a try/except block, you can have an else that executes only if no exceptions were caught:

  num = int(input("Please enter a number: "))
except ValueError:
  print("That was not a valid number!")
  print(f"You entered the number {num}")

Here the code inside try will be checked for exceptions, and except will catch any ValueError raised. But if no exceptions occur, the else block after it will run to print the valid input.

This provides a way to take action for the “happy path” scenario where no exceptions occur, while still accounting for and handling possible exceptions in the except block.

Else vs Additional If

A common question is when to use else versus just adding an additional if condition.

For example:

if x > 0:
  print("Positive number")

if x < 0:
  print("Negative number")


if x > 0:
  print("Positive number")
  print("Negative number")

In this case, the else clause makes the intention more clear and concise. We are covering the two mutually exclusive cases - either x is positive or negative. The single if/else chain communicates this effectively.

In general, use else when:

And use separate if statements when:

Consider which strategy makes your code clearest in each unique situation.

Common Pitfalls

There are some common pitfalls and bad practices to avoid when using else clauses:

Forgetting the Colon

It’s easy to forget the colon (:) after the else, which will result in an indentation error:

if x > 0
else # Colon missing

Always include that colon after else!

Using Else Without If

Don’t use an else without a corresponding if statement. This will not work:


else: # Can't have else here without if
  print("In else block")

The else needs an if before it for the conditions to be valid.

Dangling Else

Because Python uses indentation rather than brackets, it has issues with the “dangling else” problem.

This can happen if you intend an else to apply to one if statement, but because it’s aligned incorrectly, it attaches to an outer one instead.

For example:

if x > 0:
  if y > 0:
    print("Both positive")
    print("Only x is positive") # Bug: associates with wrong if

The else here is accidentally aligned with the outer if rather than the inner one. So it behaves incorrectly.

Careful indentation is key to avoiding this issue!

Unnecessary Else

There are times when an else clause is redundant and unnecessary:

if x > 0:
  # Doesn't do anything

If the else block doesn’t contain meaningful code, it’s often clearer to omit it entirely:

if x > 0:

Like all aspects of coding, keep your conditional logic as simple and clear as possible. Don’t use else just out of habit!

Best Practices

To use Python’s else statement most effectively, keep these best practices in mind:

Following these tips will help you write clean Python code using else clauses effectively!


The else statement in Python provides an important fallback execution path in your code. Using else with if, elif, for, while, and try/except blocks gives you greater control over conditional logic.

Key takeaways:

With proper usage, else allows you to account for all eventualities in your Python programs. You can provide fallback values, handle errors, and write clean conditional logic using if..else chains.

So remember to leverage else to make your Python code more robust, readable, and bug-free!