Why cant I use the method __cmp__ in Python 3 as for Python 2?

Why cant I use the method __cmp__ in Python 3 as for Python 2?

You need to provide the rich comparison methods for ordering in Python 3, which are __lt__, __gt__, __le__, __ge__, __eq__, and __ne__. See also: PEP 207 — Rich Comparisons.

__cmp__ is no longer used.


More specifically, __lt__ takes self and other as arguments, and needs to return whether self is less than other. For example:

class Point(object):
    ...
    def __lt__(self, other):
        return ((self.x < other.x) and (self.y < other.y))

(This isnt a sensible comparison implementation, but its hard to tell what you were going for.)

So if you have the following situation:

p1 = Point(1, 2)
p2 = Point(3, 4)

p1 < p2

This will be equivalent to:

p1.__lt__(p2)

which would return True.

__eq__ would return True if the points are equal and False otherwise. The other methods work analogously.


If you use the functools.total_ordering decorator, you only need to implement e.g. the __lt__ and __eq__ methods:

from functools import total_ordering

@total_ordering
class Point(object):
    def __lt__(self, other):
        ...

    def __eq__(self, other):
        ...

This was a major and deliberate change in Python 3. See here for more details.

  • The ordering comparison operators (<, <=, >=, >) raise a TypeError exception when the operands don’t have a meaningful natural ordering. Thus, expressions like 1 < , 0 > None or len <= len are no longer valid, and e.g. None < None raises TypeError instead of returning False. A corollary is that sorting a heterogeneous list no longer makes sense – all the elements must be comparable to each other. Note that this does not apply to the == and != operators: objects of different incomparable types always compare unequal to each other.
  • builtin.sorted() and list.sort() no longer accept the cmp argument providing a comparison function. Use the key argument instead. N.B. the key and reverse arguments are now “keyword-only”.
  • The cmp() function should be treated as gone, and the __cmp__() special method is no longer supported. Use __lt__() for sorting, __eq__() with __hash__(), and other rich comparisons as needed. (If you really need the cmp() functionality, you could use the expression (a > b) - (a < b) as the equivalent for cmp(a, b).)

Why cant I use the method __cmp__ in Python 3 as for Python 2?

In Python3 the six rich comparison operators

__lt__(self, other) 
__le__(self, other) 
__eq__(self, other) 
__ne__(self, other) 
__gt__(self, other) 
__ge__(self, other) 

must be provided individually. This can be abbreviated by using functools.total_ordering.

This however turns out rather unreadable and unpractical most of the time. Still you have to put similar code pieces in 2 funcs – or use a further helper func.

So mostly I prefer to use the mixin class PY3__cmp__ shown below. This reestablishes the single __cmp__ method framework, which was and is quite clear and practical in most cases. One can still override selected rich comparisons.

Your example would just become:

 class point(PY3__cmp__):
      ... 
      # unchanged code

The PY3__cmp__ mixin class:

PY3 = sys.version_info[0] >= 3
if PY3:
    def cmp(a, b):
        return (a > b) - (a < b)
    # mixin class for Python3 supporting __cmp__
    class PY3__cmp__:   
        def __eq__(self, other):
            return self.__cmp__(other) == 0
        def __ne__(self, other):
            return self.__cmp__(other) != 0
        def __gt__(self, other):
            return self.__cmp__(other) > 0
        def __lt__(self, other):
            return self.__cmp__(other) < 0
        def __ge__(self, other):
            return self.__cmp__(other) >= 0
        def __le__(self, other):
            return self.__cmp__(other) <= 0
else:
    class PY3__cmp__:
        pass

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