Prime Number in Python

Published on 17 January 2019 (Updated: 17 January 2019)

Prime Number in Python

In this article, we’ll be tackling prime number checking in Python.

How to Implement the Solution

At this point, let’s dig into the code a bit. The following sections break down the checking if numbers are prime in Python.

Solution

#!/usr/bin/env python
import sys
from math import sqrt, ceil


def is_prime(x):
    if (x % 2 == 0 and x is not 2) or (x == 1):
        return False
    return not bool([n for n in range(3, int(ceil(sqrt(x))+1)) if x % n == 0])


def exit_with_error():
    print('Usage: please input a non-negative integer')
    sys.exit(1)


def main(args):
    try:
        x = int(args[0])
        if x <= 0:
            exit_with_error()
        print(is_prime(x))
    except (IndexError,ValueError):
        exit_with_error()


if __name__ == "__main__":
    main(sys.argv[1:])

The Main Function

Breaking down this solution bottom up,

if __name__ == "__main__":
    main(sys.argv[1:])

This bit of code checks to see if this is the main module run. If it is, then it calls the main function. In this case the user input would be a natural number greater than 1.

def main(args):
    try:
        x = int(args[0])
        if x < 0:
            exit_with_error()
        print(is_prime(x))
    except (IndexError,ValueError):
        exit_with_error()

The first thing the main function does is it tries to parse the user input. All the user inputs are passed in the args variable as a list. In this example we only want the first parameter which we expect to be a natural number.

The arg will be a string so we should convert them to an integer first x = int(args[0]). If the integer is less than 0 it’s not a valid input so we return an error by calling the exit_with_error() function.

We then call the main part of our program print(is_prime(x)) which will check if the integer is prime and print this out on the terminal for the user

Finally we wrap this entire block in a try … except, and we catch two exceptions: IndexError and ValueError. IndexError will be thrown if args isn’t a list, and we try to access args[0]. ValueError will be thrown if we try to convert a non-integer string into an integer. For example if args[0] was “a” -> int("a"). If any exceptions are raised, then we call the exit_with_error() function.

Throw Errors

def exit_with_error():
    print('Usage: please input a non-negative integer')
    sys.exit(1)

This function prints a message and then exits the script with an error, sys.exit(1). If any non-zero value is returned then the program didn’t complete properly. This function is called if the user input isn’t correct.

Prime Numbers

def is_prime(x):
    if (x % 2 == 0 and x is not 2) or (x == 1):
        return False
    return not bool([n for n in range(3, int(ceil(sqrt(x))+1)) if x % n == 0])

Now onto the main part of the program. This is the function that actually checks if the integer is prime:

if (x % 2 == 0 and x is not 2) or (x == 1):
    return False

This part of the code checks if the integer is divisible by 2 (and not equal 2), if a number can be divided by 2 it cannot be prime however 2 is a prime number. Or if the integer is 1, it also cannot be prime by definition.

The % is called the modulo operator which returns the remainder of a division, for example 10 % 2 = 0 because 2 divides into 10 five times evenly (2 * 5 = 10). However if we had 11 % 2 = 1 because 2 divides into 11 five times with one remaining (2 * 5 + 1 = 11).

This x % 2 == 0 is used to check if a number is even, because if it can be evenly divided by 2 it cannot be prime. If integer is not 1 or divisible by two then we have do a more thorough check.

return not bool([n for n in range(3, int(ceil(sqrt(x))+1)) if x % n == 0])

This is an example of list comprehension which is a way to generate lists in Python (usually as “one-liners”).

Lets break this down.

for n in range(3, int(ceil(sqrt(x))+1))

This range(3, int(ceil(sqrt(x))+1)) generates a list of integers from 3 to the ceiling of the square of the integer + 1. Ok that sounds complicated but lets take a look at an example if x was 17, sqrt(17) = 4.12310..... -> ceil(4.1231) = 4.0 + 1 = 5.0 then we convert 5.0 to an integer int(5.0) = 5. So if x is 17 the range function looks like range(3, 5) = [3, 4, 5]. We can do this because of some clever maths which means we only have to check factors up to the square root of the x (17) to see if it has any other factors besides itself and 1. So then for n in range(3, int(ceil(sqrt(x))+1)) will loop through every number in that list. So n will be 3, 4, 5. The range starts at 3 because x will always be divisible by 1 and we already checked if it’s divisible by 2.

[n for n in range(3, int(ceil(sqrt(x))+1))]

This on it’s own would create a list of the values of n so if x was 17 then the line above would generate the list [3, 4, 5].

[n for n in range(3, int(ceil(sqrt(x))+1)) if x % n == 0]

Taking a look at the whole list comprehension including if x % n == 0 means the current n is only added to the list if the if statement evaluates to True, which is this case is true if n divides in x evenly. This would make n a factor of x

So taking a look at our example if x is 17 then the list to loop though would be [3, 4, 5].

1st Iteration

2nd Iteration

3rd Iteration

So the final generated list for x = 17 would be [] since none of the number 3, 4, 5 divide evenly into 17.

Taking a look at the entire line return not bool([n for n in range(3, int(ceil(sqrt(x))+1)) if x % n == 0]). The bool() function converts an object into a True or False boolean value. The not bool(...) then reverses this value, if bool("a") = True then not bool("a") = False. Then we return this value return not bool(...).

Using our x = 17 example again [n for n in range(3, int(ceil(sqrt(x))+1)) if x % n == 0] = []. So return not bool([]) = return not False = return True, so 17 is prime.

The list that gets generated stores all factors of x except 1 and 17. So if the list is empty x must be prime. If it contains any factors then it cannot be prime.

How to Run Solution

If we want to run this program, we should probably download a copy of Prime Numbers in Python. After that, we should make sure we have the latest Python interpreter. From there, we can run the following command in the terminal:

python prime-number.py 3

Alternatively, we can copy the solution into an online Python interpreter and hit run.