Common Object Structures

There are a large number of structures which are used in the definition of object types for Python. This section describes these structures and how they are used.

Base object types and macros

All Python objects ultimately share a small number of fields at the beginning of the object's representation in memory. These are represented by the PyObject and PyVarObject types, which are defined, in turn, by the expansions of some macros also used, whether directly or indirectly, in the definition of all other Python objects. Additional macros can be found under reference counting.

type PyObject
Part of the Limited API. (Only some members are part of the stable ABI.)

All object types are extensions of this type. This is a type which contains the information Python needs to treat a pointer to an object as an object. In a normal "release" build, it contains only the object's reference count and a pointer to the corresponding type object. Nothing is actually declared to be a PyObject, but every pointer to a Python object can be cast to a PyObject*. Access to the members must be done by using the macros Py_REFCNT and Py_TYPE.

type PyVarObject
Part of the Limited API. (Only some members are part of the stable ABI.)

This is an extension of PyObject that adds the ob_size field. This is only used for objects that have some notion of length. This type does not often appear in the Python/C API. Access to the members must be done by using the macros Py_REFCNT, Py_TYPE, and Py_SIZE.

PyObject_HEAD

This is a macro used when declaring new types which represent objects without a varying length. The PyObject_HEAD macro expands to:

PyObject ob_base;

See documentation of PyObject above.

PyObject_VAR_HEAD

This is a macro used when declaring new types which represent objects with a length that varies from instance to instance. The PyObject_VAR_HEAD macro expands to:

PyVarObject ob_base;

See documentation of PyVarObject above.

int Py_Is(PyObject *x, PyObject *y)
Part of the Stable ABI since version 3.10.

Test if the x object is the y object, the same as x is y in Python.

Nouveau dans la version 3.10.

int Py_IsNone(PyObject *x)
Part of the Stable ABI since version 3.10.

Test if an object is the None singleton, the same as x is None in Python.

Nouveau dans la version 3.10.

int Py_IsTrue(PyObject *x)
Part of the Stable ABI since version 3.10.

Test if an object is the True singleton, the same as x is True in Python.

Nouveau dans la version 3.10.

int Py_IsFalse(PyObject *x)
Part of the Stable ABI since version 3.10.

Test if an object is the False singleton, the same as x is False in Python.

Nouveau dans la version 3.10.

PyTypeObject *Py_TYPE(PyObject *o)

Get the type of the Python object o.

Return a borrowed reference.

Use the Py_SET_TYPE() function to set an object type.

Modifié dans la version 3.11: Py_TYPE() is changed to an inline static function. The parameter type is no longer const PyObject*.

int Py_IS_TYPE(PyObject *o, PyTypeObject *type)

Return non-zero if the object o type is type. Return zero otherwise. Equivalent to: Py_TYPE(o) == type.

Nouveau dans la version 3.9.

void Py_SET_TYPE(PyObject *o, PyTypeObject *type)

Set the object o type to type.

Nouveau dans la version 3.9.

Py_ssize_t Py_SIZE(PyVarObject *o)

Get the size of the Python object o.

Use the Py_SET_SIZE() function to set an object size.

Modifié dans la version 3.11: Py_SIZE() is changed to an inline static function. The parameter type is no longer const PyVarObject*.

void Py_SET_SIZE(PyVarObject *o, Py_ssize_t size)

Set the object o size to size.

Nouveau dans la version 3.9.

PyObject_HEAD_INIT(type)

This is a macro which expands to initialization values for a new PyObject type. This macro expands to:

_PyObject_EXTRA_INIT
1, type,
PyVarObject_HEAD_INIT(type, size)

This is a macro which expands to initialization values for a new PyVarObject type, including the ob_size field. This macro expands to:

_PyObject_EXTRA_INIT
1, type, size,

Implementing functions and methods

type PyCFunction
Part of the Stable ABI.

Type of the functions used to implement most Python callables in C. Functions of this type take two PyObject* parameters and return one such value. If the return value is NULL, an exception shall have been set. If not NULL, the return value is interpreted as the return value of the function as exposed in Python. The function must return a new reference.

The function signature is:

PyObject *PyCFunction(PyObject *self,
                      PyObject *args);
type PyCFunctionWithKeywords
Part of the Stable ABI.

Type of the functions used to implement Python callables in C with signature METH_VARARGS | METH_KEYWORDS. The function signature is:

PyObject *PyCFunctionWithKeywords(PyObject *self,
                                  PyObject *args,
                                  PyObject *kwargs);
type _PyCFunctionFast

Type of the functions used to implement Python callables in C with signature METH_FASTCALL. The function signature is:

PyObject *_PyCFunctionFast(PyObject *self,
                           PyObject *const *args,
                           Py_ssize_t nargs);
type _PyCFunctionFastWithKeywords

Type of the functions used to implement Python callables in C with signature METH_FASTCALL | METH_KEYWORDS. The function signature is:

PyObject *_PyCFunctionFastWithKeywords(PyObject *self,
                                       PyObject *const *args,
                                       Py_ssize_t nargs,
                                       PyObject *kwnames);
type PyCMethod

Type of the functions used to implement Python callables in C with signature METH_METHOD | METH_FASTCALL | METH_KEYWORDS. The function signature is:

PyObject *PyCMethod(PyObject *self,
                    PyTypeObject *defining_class,
                    PyObject *const *args,
                    Py_ssize_t nargs,
                    PyObject *kwnames)

Nouveau dans la version 3.9.

type PyMethodDef
Part of the Stable ABI (including all members).

Structure used to describe a method of an extension type. This structure has four fields:

Champ

Type C

Signification

ml_name

const char *

name of the method

ml_meth

PyCFunction

pointer to the C implementation

ml_flags

int

flag bits indicating how the call should be constructed

ml_doc

const char *

points to the contents of the docstring

The ml_meth is a C function pointer. The functions may be of different types, but they always return PyObject*. If the function is not of the PyCFunction, the compiler will require a cast in the method table. Even though PyCFunction defines the first parameter as PyObject*, it is common that the method implementation uses the specific C type of the self object.

The ml_flags field is a bitfield which can include the following flags. The individual flags indicate either a calling convention or a binding convention.

There are these calling conventions:

METH_VARARGS

This is the typical calling convention, where the methods have the type PyCFunction. The function expects two PyObject* values. The first one is the self object for methods; for module functions, it is the module object. The second parameter (often called args) is a tuple object representing all arguments. This parameter is typically processed using PyArg_ParseTuple() or PyArg_UnpackTuple().

METH_VARARGS | METH_KEYWORDS

Methods with these flags must be of type PyCFunctionWithKeywords. The function expects three parameters: self, args, kwargs where kwargs is a dictionary of all the keyword arguments or possibly NULL if there are no keyword arguments. The parameters are typically processed using PyArg_ParseTupleAndKeywords().

METH_FASTCALL

Fast calling convention supporting only positional arguments. The methods have the type _PyCFunctionFast. The first parameter is self, the second parameter is a C array of PyObject* values indicating the arguments and the third parameter is the number of arguments (the length of the array).

Nouveau dans la version 3.7.

Modifié dans la version 3.10: METH_FASTCALL is now part of the stable ABI.

METH_FASTCALL | METH_KEYWORDS

Extension of METH_FASTCALL supporting also keyword arguments, with methods of type _PyCFunctionFastWithKeywords. Keyword arguments are passed the same way as in the vectorcall protocol: there is an additional fourth PyObject* parameter which is a tuple representing the names of the keyword arguments (which are guaranteed to be strings) or possibly NULL if there are no keywords. The values of the keyword arguments are stored in the args array, after the positional arguments.

Nouveau dans la version 3.7.

METH_METHOD | METH_FASTCALL | METH_KEYWORDS

Extension of METH_FASTCALL | METH_KEYWORDS supporting the defining class, that is, the class that contains the method in question. The defining class might be a superclass of Py_TYPE(self).

The method needs to be of type PyCMethod, the same as for METH_FASTCALL | METH_KEYWORDS with defining_class argument added after self.

Nouveau dans la version 3.9.

METH_NOARGS

Methods without parameters don't need to check whether arguments are given if they are listed with the METH_NOARGS flag. They need to be of type PyCFunction. The first parameter is typically named self and will hold a reference to the module or object instance. In all cases the second parameter will be NULL.

The function must have 2 parameters. Since the second parameter is unused, Py_UNUSED can be used to prevent a compiler warning.

METH_O

Methods with a single object argument can be listed with the METH_O flag, instead of invoking PyArg_ParseTuple() with a "O" argument. They have the type PyCFunction, with the self parameter, and a PyObject* parameter representing the single argument.

These two constants are not used to indicate the calling convention but the binding when use with methods of classes. These may not be used for functions defined for modules. At most one of these flags may be set for any given method.

METH_CLASS

The method will be passed the type object as the first parameter rather than an instance of the type. This is used to create class methods, similar to what is created when using the classmethod() built-in function.

METH_STATIC

The method will be passed NULL as the first parameter rather than an instance of the type. This is used to create static methods, similar to what is created when using the staticmethod() built-in function.

One other constant controls whether a method is loaded in place of another definition with the same method name.

METH_COEXIST

The method will be loaded in place of existing definitions. Without METH_COEXIST, the default is to skip repeated definitions. Since slot wrappers are loaded before the method table, the existence of a sq_contains slot, for example, would generate a wrapped method named __contains__() and preclude the loading of a corresponding PyCFunction with the same name. With the flag defined, the PyCFunction will be loaded in place of the wrapper object and will co-exist with the slot. This is helpful because calls to PyCFunctions are optimized more than wrapper object calls.

Accessing attributes of extension types

type PyMemberDef
Part of the Stable ABI (including all members).

Structure which describes an attribute of a type which corresponds to a C struct member. Its fields are, in order:

const char *name

Name of the member. A NULL value marks the end of a PyMemberDef[] array.

The string should be static, no copy is made of it.

Py_ssize_t PyMemberDef.offset

The offset in bytes that the member is located on the type’s object struct.

int type

The type of the member in the C struct. See Member types for the possible values.

int flags

Zero or more of the Member flags, combined using bitwise OR.

const char *doc

The docstring, or NULL. The string should be static, no copy is made of it. Typically, it is defined using PyDoc_STR.

By default (when flags is 0), members allow both read and write access. Use the Py_READONLY flag for read-only access. Certain types, like Py_T_STRING, imply Py_READONLY. Only Py_T_OBJECT_EX (and legacy T_OBJECT) members can be deleted.

For heap-allocated types (created using PyType_FromSpec() or similar), PyMemberDef may contain a definition for the special member "__vectorcalloffset__", corresponding to tp_vectorcall_offset in type objects. These must be defined with Py_T_PYSSIZET and Py_READONLY, for example:

static PyMemberDef spam_type_members[] = {
    {"__vectorcalloffset__", Py_T_PYSSIZET,
     offsetof(Spam_object, vectorcall), Py_READONLY},
    {NULL}  /* Sentinel */
};

(You may need to #include <stddef.h> for offsetof().)

The legacy offsets tp_dictoffset and tp_weaklistoffset can be defined similarly using "__dictoffset__" and "__weaklistoffset__" members, but extensions are strongly encouraged to use Py_TPFLAGS_MANAGED_DICT and Py_TPFLAGS_MANAGED_WEAKREF instead.

Modifié dans la version 3.12: PyMemberDef is always available. Previously, it required including "structmember.h".

PyObject *PyMember_GetOne(const char *obj_addr, struct PyMemberDef *m)
Part of the Stable ABI.

Get an attribute belonging to the object at address obj_addr. The attribute is described by PyMemberDef m. Returns NULL on error.

Modifié dans la version 3.12: PyMember_GetOne is always available. Previously, it required including "structmember.h".

int PyMember_SetOne(char *obj_addr, struct PyMemberDef *m, PyObject *o)
Part of the Stable ABI.

Set an attribute belonging to the object at address obj_addr to object o. The attribute to set is described by PyMemberDef m. Returns 0 if successful and a negative value on failure.

Modifié dans la version 3.12: PyMember_SetOne is always available. Previously, it required including "structmember.h".

Member flags

The following flags can be used with PyMemberDef.flags:

Py_READONLY

Not writable.

Py_AUDIT_READ

Emit an object.__getattr__ audit event before reading.

Modifié dans la version 3.10: The RESTRICTED, READ_RESTRICTED and WRITE_RESTRICTED macros available with #include "structmember.h" are deprecated. READ_RESTRICTED and RESTRICTED are equivalent to Py_AUDIT_READ; WRITE_RESTRICTED does nothing.

Modifié dans la version 3.12: The READONLY macro was renamed to Py_READONLY. The PY_AUDIT_READ macro was renamed with the Py_ prefix. The new names are now always available. Previously, these required #include "structmember.h". The header is still available and it provides the old names.

Member types

PyMemberDef.type can be one of the following macros corresponding to various C types. When the member is accessed in Python, it will be converted to the equivalent Python type. When it is set from Python, it will be converted back to the C type. If that is not possible, an exception such as TypeError or ValueError is raised.

Unless marked (D), attributes defined this way cannot be deleted using e.g. del or delattr().

Macro name

Type C

Python type

Py_T_BYTE

char

int

Py_T_SHORT

short

int

Py_T_INT

int

int

Py_T_LONG

long

int

Py_T_LONGLONG

long long

int

Py_T_UBYTE

unsigned char

int

Py_T_UINT

unsigned int

int

Py_T_USHORT

unsigned short

int

Py_T_ULONG

unsigned long

int

Py_T_ULONGLONG

unsigned long long

int

Py_T_PYSSIZET

Py_ssize_t

int

Py_T_FLOAT

float

float

Py_T_DOUBLE

double

float

Py_T_BOOL

char (written as 0 or 1)

bool

Py_T_STRING

const char* (*)

str (RO)

Py_T_STRING_INPLACE

const char[] (*)

str (RO)

Py_T_CHAR

char (0-127)

str (**)

Py_T_OBJECT_EX

PyObject*

object (D)

(*): Zero-terminated, UTF8-encoded C string. With Py_T_STRING the C representation is a pointer; with Py_T_STRING_INLINE the string is stored directly in the structure.

(**): String of length 1. Only ASCII is accepted.

(RO): Implies Py_READONLY.

(D): Can be deleted, in which case the pointer is set to NULL. Reading a NULL pointer raises AttributeError.

Nouveau dans la version 3.12: In previous versions, the macros were only available with #include "structmember.h" and were named without the Py_ prefix (e.g. as T_INT). The header is still available and contains the old names, along with the following deprecated types:

T_OBJECT

Like Py_T_OBJECT_EX, but NULL is converted to None. This results in surprising behavior in Python: deleting the attribute effectively sets it to None.

T_NONE

Always None. Must be used with Py_READONLY.

Defining Getters and Setters

type PyGetSetDef
Part of the Stable ABI (including all members).

Structure to define property-like access for a type. See also description of the PyTypeObject.tp_getset slot.

const char *PyGetSetDef.name

attribute name

getter PyGetSetDef.get

C funtion to get the attribute.

setter PyGetSetDef.set

Optional C function to set or delete the attribute, if omitted the attribute is readonly.

const char *PyGetSetDef.doc

optional docstring

void *PyGetSetDef.closure

Optional function pointer, providing additional data for getter and setter.

The get function takes one PyObject* parameter (the instance) and a function pointer (the associated closure):

typedef PyObject *(*getter)(PyObject *, void *);

It should return a new reference on success or NULL with a set exception on failure.

set functions take two PyObject* parameters (the instance and the value to be set) and a function pointer (the associated closure):

typedef int (*setter)(PyObject *, PyObject *, void *);

In case the attribute should be deleted the second parameter is NULL. Should return 0 on success or -1 with a set exception on failure.