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1. Introduction

This reference manual describes the Python programming language. It is not intended as a tutorial.

While I am trying to be as precise as possible, I chose to use English rather than formal specifications for everything except syntax and lexical analysis. This should make the document more understandable to the average reader, but will leave room for ambiguities. Consequently, if you were coming from Mars and tried to re-implement Python from this document alone, you might have to guess things and in fact you would probably end up implementing quite a different language. On the other hand, if you are using Python and wonder what the precise rules about a particular area of the language are, you should definitely be able to find them here. If you would like to see a more formal definition of the language, maybe you could volunteer your time -- or invent a cloning machine :-).

It is dangerous to add too many implementation details to a language reference document -- the implementation may change, and other implementations of the same language may work differently. On the other hand, there is currently only one Python implementation in widespread use (although a second one now exists!), and its particular quirks are sometimes worth being mentioned, especially where the implementation imposes additional limitations. Therefore, you'll find short ``implementation notes'' sprinkled throughout the text.

Every Python implementation comes with a number of built-in and standard modules. These are not documented here, but in the separate Python Library Reference document. A few built-in modules are mentioned when they interact in a significant way with the language definition.





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