What does "sys.argv[1]" mean? (What is sys.argv, and where does it come from?)


I’m currently teaching myself Python and was just wondering (In reference to my example below) in simplified terms what the sys.argv[1] represents. Is it simply asking for an input?


# import modules used here -- sys is a very standard one
import sys

# Gather our code in a main() function
def main():
  print ('Hello there', sys.argv[1])
  # Command line args are in sys.argv[1], sys.argv[2] ..
  # sys.argv[0] is the script name itself and can be ignored

# Standard boilerplate to call the main() function to begin
# the program.
if __name__ == '__main__':

You may have been directed here because you were asking about an IndexError in your code that uses sys.argv. The problem is not in your code; the problem is that you need to run the program in a way that makes sys.argv contain the right values. Please read the answers to understand how sys.argv works.

If you have read and understood the answers, and are still having problems on Windows, check if Python Script does not take sys.argv in Windows fixes the issue. If you are trying to run the program from inside an IDE, you may need IDE-specific help – please search, but first check if you can run the program successfully from the command line.

Asked By: Switchkick



sys.argv[1] contains the first command line argument passed to your script.

For example, if your script is named hello.py and you issue:

$ python3.1 hello.py foo


$ chmod +x hello.py  # make script executable
$ ./hello.py foo

Your script will print:

Hello there foo
Answered By: Frédéric Hamidi

sys.argv is a list containing the script path and command line arguments; i.e. sys.argv[0] is the path of the script you’re running and all following members are arguments.

Answered By: TartanLlama

Just adding to Frederic’s answer, for example if you call your script as follows:

./myscript.py foo bar

sys.argv[0] would be “./myscript.py”
sys.argv[1] would be “foo” and
sys.argv[2] would be “bar” … and so forth.

In your example code, if you call the script as follows ./myscript.py foo , the script’s output will be “Hello there foo”.

Answered By: CodeWombat

I would like to note that previous answers made many assumptions about the user’s knowledge. This answer attempts to answer the question at a more tutorial level.

For every invocation of Python, sys.argv is automatically a list of strings representing the arguments (as separated by spaces) on the command-line. The name comes from the C programming convention in which argv and argc represent the command line arguments.

You’ll want to learn more about lists and strings as you’re familiarizing yourself with Python, but in the meantime, here are a few things to know.

You can simply create a script that prints the arguments as they’re represented. It also prints the number of arguments, using the len function on the list.

from __future__ import print_function
import sys
print(sys.argv, len(sys.argv))

The script requires Python 2.6 or later. If you call this script print_args.py, you can invoke it with different arguments to see what happens.

> python print_args.py
['print_args.py'] 1

> python print_args.py foo and bar
['print_args.py', 'foo', 'and', 'bar'] 4

> python print_args.py "foo and bar"
['print_args.py', 'foo and bar'] 2

> python print_args.py "foo and bar" and baz
['print_args.py', 'foo and bar', 'and', 'baz'] 4

As you can see, the command-line arguments include the script name but not the interpreter name. In this sense, Python treats the script as the executable. If you need to know the name of the executable (python in this case), you can use sys.executable.

You can see from the examples that it is possible to receive arguments that do contain spaces if the user invoked the script with arguments encapsulated in quotes, so what you get is the list of arguments as supplied by the user.

Now in your Python code, you can use this list of strings as input to your program. Since lists are indexed by zero-based integers, you can get the individual items using the list[0] syntax. For example, to get the script name:

script_name = sys.argv[0] # this will always work.

Although interesting, you rarely need to know your script name. To get the first argument after the script for a filename, you could do the following:

filename = sys.argv[1]

This is a very common usage, but note that it will fail with an IndexError if no argument was supplied.

Also, Python lets you reference a slice of a list, so to get another list of just the user-supplied arguments (but without the script name), you can do

user_args = sys.argv[1:] # get everything after the script name

Additionally, Python allows you to assign a sequence of items (including lists) to variable names. So if you expect the user to always supply two arguments, you can assign those arguments (as strings) to two variables:

user_args = sys.argv[1:]
fun, games = user_args # len(user_args) had better be 2

So, to answer your specific question, sys.argv[1] represents the first command-line argument (as a string) supplied to the script in question. It will not prompt for input, but it will fail with an IndexError if no arguments are supplied on the command-line following the script name.

Answered By: Jason R. Coombs

sys.argv is a list.

This list is created by your command line, it’s a list of your command line arguments.

For example:

in your command line you input something like this,

python3.2 file.py something

sys.argv will become a list [‘file.py’, ‘something’]

In this case sys.argv[1] = 'something'

Answered By: user2205939

Adding a few more points to Jason’s Answer :

For taking all user provided arguments: user_args = sys.argv[1:]

Consider the sys.argv as a list of strings as (mentioned by Jason). So all the list manipulations will apply here. This is called "List Slicing". For more info visit here.

The syntax is like this: list[start:end:step]. If you omit start, it will default to 0, and if you omit end, it will default to length of list.

Suppose you only want to take all the arguments after 3rd argument, then:

user_args = sys.argv[3:]

Suppose you only want the first two arguments, then:

user_args = sys.argv[0:2]  or  user_args = sys.argv[:2]

Suppose you want arguments 2 to 4:

user_args = sys.argv[2:4]

Suppose you want the last argument (last argument is always -1, so what is happening here is we start the count from back. So start is last, no end, no step):

user_args = sys.argv[-1]

Suppose you want the second last argument:

user_args = sys.argv[-2]

Suppose you want the last two arguments:

user_args = sys.argv[-2:]

Suppose you want the last two arguments. Here, start is -2, that is second last item and then to the end (denoted by :):

user_args = sys.argv[-2:]

Suppose you want the everything except last two arguments. Here, start is 0 (by default), and end is second last item:

user_args = sys.argv[:-2]

Suppose you want the arguments in reverse order:

user_args = sys.argv[::-1]
Answered By: Rahul

To pass arguments to your python script
while running a script via command line

> python create_thumbnail.py test1.jpg test2.jpg

script name – create_thumbnail.py,
argument 1 – test1.jpg,
argument 2 – test2.jpg

With in the create_thumbnail.py script i use


which give me the list of arguments i passed in command line as
['test1.jpg', 'test2.jpg']

Answered By: JBJ

sys.argv will display the command line args passed when running a script or you can say sys.argv will store the command line arguments passed in python while running from terminal.

Just try this:

import sys
print sys.argv

argv stores all the arguments passed in a python list. The above will print all arguments passed will running the script.

Now try this running your filename.py like this:

python filename.py example example1

this will print 3 arguments in a list.

sys.argv[0] #is the first argument passed, which is basically the filename. 

Similarly, argv[1] is the first argument passed, in this case 'example'.

Answered By: geekidharsh

sys.argv is a attribute of the sys module. It says the arguments passed into the file in the command line. sys.argv[0] catches the directory where the file is located. sys.argv[1] returns the first argument passed in the command line. Think like we have a example.py file.


import sys # Importing the main sys module to catch the arguments
print(sys.argv[1]) # Printing the first argument

Now here in the command prompt when we do this:

python example.py

It will throw a index error at line 2. Cause there is no argument passed yet. You can see the length of the arguments passed by user using if len(sys.argv) >= 1: # Code.
If we run the example.py with passing a argument

python example.py args

It prints:


Because it was the first arguement! Let’s say we have made it a executable file using PyInstaller. We would do this:

example argumentpassed

It prints:


It’s really helpful when you are making a command in the terminal. First check the length of the arguments. If no arguments passed, do the help text.

Answered By: Jaidee
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