Python types#

Available wrappers#

All major Python types are available as thin C++ wrapper classes. These can also be used as function parameters – see Python objects as arguments.

Available types include handle, object, bool_, int_, float_, str, bytes, tuple, list, dict, slice, none, capsule, iterable, iterator, function, buffer, array, and array_t.


Be sure to review the Gotchas before using this heavily in your C++ API.

Instantiating compound Python types from C++#

Dictionaries can be initialized in the dict constructor:

using namespace pybind11::literals; // to bring in the `_a` literal
py::dict d("spam"_a=py::none(), "eggs"_a=42);

A tuple of python objects can be instantiated using py::make_tuple():

py::tuple tup = py::make_tuple(42, py::none(), "spam");

Each element is converted to a supported Python type.

A simple namespace can be instantiated using

using namespace pybind11::literals;  // to bring in the `_a` literal
py::object SimpleNamespace = py::module_::import("types").attr("SimpleNamespace");
py::object ns = SimpleNamespace("spam"_a=py::none(), "eggs"_a=42);

Attributes on a namespace can be modified with the py::delattr(), py::getattr(), and py::setattr() functions. Simple namespaces can be useful as lightweight stand-ins for class instances.

Casting back and forth#

In this kind of mixed code, it is often necessary to convert arbitrary C++ types to Python, which can be done using py::cast():

MyClass *cls = ...;
py::object obj = py::cast(cls);

The reverse direction uses the following syntax:

py::object obj = ...;
MyClass *cls = obj.cast<MyClass *>();

When conversion fails, both directions throw the exception cast_error.

Accessing Python libraries from C++#

It is also possible to import objects defined in the Python standard library or available in the current Python environment (sys.path) and work with these in C++.

This example obtains a reference to the Python Decimal class.

// Equivalent to "from decimal import Decimal"
py::object Decimal = py::module_::import("decimal").attr("Decimal");
// Try to import scipy
py::object scipy = py::module_::import("scipy");
return scipy.attr("__version__");

Calling Python functions#

It is also possible to call Python classes, functions and methods via operator().

// Construct a Python object of class Decimal
py::object pi = Decimal("3.14159");
// Use Python to make our directories
py::object os = py::module_::import("os");
py::object makedirs = os.attr("makedirs");

One can convert the result obtained from Python to a pure C++ version if a py::class_ or type conversion is defined.

py::function f = <...>;
py::object result_py = f(1234, "hello", some_instance);
MyClass &result = result_py.cast<MyClass>();

Calling Python methods#

To call an object’s method, one can again use .attr to obtain access to the Python method.

// Calculate e^π in decimal
py::object exp_pi = pi.attr("exp")();

In the example above pi.attr("exp") is a bound method: it will always call the method for that same instance of the class. Alternately one can create an unbound method via the Python class (instead of instance) and pass the self object explicitly, followed by other arguments.

py::object decimal_exp = Decimal.attr("exp");

// Compute the e^n for n=0..4
for (int n = 0; n < 5; n++) {

Keyword arguments#

Keyword arguments are also supported. In Python, there is the usual call syntax:

def f(number, say, to):
    ...  # function code

f(1234, say="hello", to=some_instance)  # keyword call in Python

In C++, the same call can be made using:

using namespace pybind11::literals; // to bring in the `_a` literal
f(1234, "say"_a="hello", "to"_a=some_instance); // keyword call in C++

Unpacking arguments#

Unpacking of *args and **kwargs is also possible and can be mixed with other arguments:

// * unpacking
py::tuple args = py::make_tuple(1234, "hello", some_instance);

// ** unpacking
py::dict kwargs = py::dict("number"_a=1234, "say"_a="hello", "to"_a=some_instance);

// mixed keywords, * and ** unpacking
py::tuple args = py::make_tuple(1234);
py::dict kwargs = py::dict("to"_a=some_instance);
f(*args, "say"_a="hello", **kwargs);

Generalized unpacking according to PEP448 is also supported:

py::dict kwargs1 = py::dict("number"_a=1234);
py::dict kwargs2 = py::dict("to"_a=some_instance);
f(**kwargs1, "say"_a="hello", **kwargs2);

See also

The file tests/test_pytypes.cpp contains a complete example that demonstrates passing native Python types in more detail. The file tests/test_callbacks.cpp presents a few examples of calling Python functions from C++, including keywords arguments and unpacking.

Implicit casting#

When using the C++ interface for Python types, or calling Python functions, objects of type object are returned. It is possible to invoke implicit conversions to subclasses like dict. The same holds for the proxy objects returned by operator[] or obj.attr(). Casting to subtypes improves code readability and allows values to be passed to C++ functions that require a specific subtype rather than a generic object.

#include <pybind11/numpy.h>
using namespace pybind11::literals;

py::module_ os = py::module_::import("os");
py::module_ path = py::module_::import("os.path");  // like 'import os.path as path'
py::module_ np = py::module_::import("numpy");  // like 'import numpy as np'

py::str curdir_abs = path.attr("abspath")(path.attr("curdir"));
py::print(py::str("Current directory: ") + curdir_abs);
py::dict environ = os.attr("environ");
py::array_t<float> arr = np.attr("ones")(3, "dtype"_a="float32");
py::print(py::repr(arr + py::int_(1)));

These implicit conversions are available for subclasses of object; there is no need to call obj.cast() explicitly as for custom classes, see Casting back and forth.


If a trivial conversion via move constructor is not possible, both implicit and explicit casting (calling obj.cast()) will attempt a “rich” conversion. For instance, py::list env = os.attr("environ"); will succeed and is equivalent to the Python code env = list(os.environ) that produces a list of the dict keys.

Handling exceptions#

Python exceptions from wrapper classes will be thrown as a py::error_already_set. See Handling exceptions from Python in C++ for more information on handling exceptions raised when calling C++ wrapper classes.


Default-Constructed Wrappers#

When a wrapper type is default-constructed, it is not a valid Python object (i.e. it is not py::none()). It is simply the same as PyObject* null pointer. To check for this, use static_cast<bool>(my_wrapper).

Assigning py::none() to wrappers#

You may be tempted to use types like py::str and py::dict in C++ signatures (either pure C++, or in bound signatures), and assign them default values of py::none(). However, in a best case scenario, it will fail fast because None is not convertible to that type (e.g. py::dict), or in a worse case scenario, it will silently work but corrupt the types you want to work with (e.g. py::str(py::none()) will yield "None" in Python).