Syntax is a set of rules that defines the structure of a specific language. Python is a popular, versatile, and beginner-friendly programming language. It is often regarded as one of the best programming languages because of its simple syntax. Subsequently, since Python is a highly readable language, it is a favorite of both beginners and expert programmers.

Another feature that sets Python aside from other programming languages is the wide variety of powerful libraries. These libraries make it easy even for newcomers to write code for automating repetitive activities like web data extraction.

Regardless of the simplicity of Python syntax and the availability of powerful libraries, some errors may occur. One of the most common is Python syntax error, which will hinder your code from running. Therefore, this guide will explore Python syntax error, what causes them, how to avoid them, and best practices to prevent them.

What is Python Syntax?

Python syntax can be defined as a set of rules that tells you how the statements should be written and structured. Subsequently, the syntax ensures that the computer can understand and execute the instructions so your program can run. 

Python, like any other language, has its own syntax, which must be followed if you want your code to be valid. In addition, Python syntax is similar to English, which makes it easier to write, read, and understand, unlike other popular languages like Java or C. 

What is Python Syntax Error?What is Python Syntax

In programming, each language has a predefined set of rules that guide the structure of the code. Failure to adhere to these rules makes it impossible for the interpreter to understand the code. As a result, you are left with a syntax error. 

Also known as parsing errors, syntax errors can occur during parsing of the code. If a set of code do not adhere to the syntax of Python, the computer cannot understand or parse it. This is similar to grammar in the English language- improper use of tenses, punctuations, and other elements makes it difficult for you to grasp the concept of the message. 

After writing your Python script, the interpreter turns it into Python bytecode before execution. In the incidence of a syntax error, the interpreter stops running the program. Subsequently, it provides a traceback or an error message that highlights the line of code where the error occurred, as well as a description of the error. The traceback is essentially a detailed error report, but it could be confusing, especially for those new to Python. Therefore, paying attention to these error messages is critical in resolving a Python syntax error. 

The traceback contains various elements that make it easier to identify, understand, and resolve the Python syntax error in your code. They include:

  • The filename where the interpreter encountered the Python syntax error
  • The line number where the interpreter faced the error
  • A caret (^) on the line under the reproduced code to indicate where the code has a problem
  • The error message helps you determine the nature of the syntax error. It is often accompanied by additional information that may help you solve the invalid syntax.

Types of Python Syntax Error

To optimize your Python code, you must know how to identify syntax errors. In addition, every developer requires a basic understanding of how to fix these issues. 

Here are some common causes of invalid syntax in Python and how to address them:

Misusing or misspelling Python keywords

Python keywords are words with unique meanings in the Python syntax. Therefore, you cannot use them as function names, variables, or identifiers in your code. Subsequently, you can only use these keywords in the context of Python syntax. As a result, any incidence of misuse or misspelling of these keywords will generate a Python syntax error. 

Python version 3.8 has about 35 keywords, and they include:

  1. False
viii. except xv. return
  1. await
ix. in xvi. and
  1. else
x. raise xvii. for
  1. import
xi. True xviii. as
  1. pass
xii. class xix. del
  1. None
xiii. finally xx. if
  1. break
xiv. is xxi. async


To prevent a Python syntax error, be sure to place the keywords in the correct syntactical order and adhere to the rules of the keyword.

Missing brackets, parentheses, and braces

A Python syntax error can occur due to missing parentheses (), brackets [], and braces {}. The parentheses are used in function calls and definitions, while brackets are for list and dictionary indexing. On the other hand, curly braces are used for defining sets and dictionaries. 

Mismatching or forgetting to use these symbols is a common cause of syntax errors. For example, if you open a parentheses when calling a function but forget to close it, it can generate a Python syntax error.

Misusing the assignment operator

Assignment operators are critical aspects of the Python syntax. They are used to perform operations and assign values to the operator’s left side. Here are some assignment operations and their function:

S/N Assignment operator Function
Equal Sign ( = ) It assigns the right side’s expression value to the left side operand.
Add and Assign ( += ) It adds the right side operand with the left side operand and then assigns it to the left operand.
Subtract AND ( -= ) This operator subtracts the right operand from the left operand and assigns it to the left operand if both operands are equal.
Multiply AND ( *= ) It multiplies the left operand with the right and then assigns it to the left operand.
Divide AND ( /= ) This operator divides the left operand by the right operand and assigns it to the left operand.

Using the wrong indentation

Indentation represents a block of code, so Python syntax uses it to determine how statements are grouped. Subsequently, a Python syntax error can occur when the code is incorrectly indented. Likewise, failure to indent the code inside a conditional statement, function, or loop can produce an IndentionError. In other words, this error occurs when you don’t have the right number of spaces in the code block.

Another indentation error is TabError, which occurs if a line uses spaces when the rest of the file uses tabs or vice versa. It is easy to miss TabError, especially when the tab size is the same width as the number of spaces.

Switching Python versions

Python has several versions, and they come with upgrades. Therefore, if you are familiar with working with a particular version but get an upgraded one, you need to read the syntax documentation again. For example, in Python version 2, the print statement was a keyword. However, in version 3, it became an in-built function. Therefore, you will get a Python syntax error if you use the version 2 syntax for version 3.

Invalid syntax errors

Invalid syntax errors occur when the parser cannot understand a certain line of code. Some situations that make it difficult for the parser to understand code include:

  • Missing colon at the end of a function definition or IF statement
  • Using a Python keyword for a variable name
  • Using a symbol that is invalid in the present context

String errors with single and double quotes

Strings, in Python syntax, can be defined by using quotes, either single or double ones. A common cause of Python syntax error is starting with one type of quote and ending with another type. Therefore, it becomes crucial to close a string with proper quotes to avoid a syntax error.

Relationship between how Python Interprets Code and Syntax ErrorsRelationship between how Python Interprets Code and Syntax Errors

A fundamental understanding of how Python interprets codes is essential to identifying and resolving syntax errors. Here is a basic process of how it works:


Lexical analysis, also called lexing, is the first stage of the interpretation or compilation of Python code. Subsequently, the interpreter reads the source code as a sequence of characters and translates it into a sequence of lexical units. However, each lexical unit represents a meaningful character with semantic meaning in the Python syntax like operations, identifiers, keywords, etc. 


The second stage regarding how a Python code is interpreted is parsing. This phase involves the application of the rules of Python syntax to the sequence of lexical units generated in the first phase. A significant aspect of parsing is the organization of the lexical units into a more complex structure, which represents the syntactic structure of the program.

This structure is often called a parse tree or an Abstract Syntax Tree (AST) because it is a data structure in the form of a tree. While there are various parsing techniques, Python interprets codes via the LL (1) parsing technique. It works by parsing the code from the top to the bottom and from left to right. However, a Python syntax error can occur during parsing when the sequence of the lexical units does not correspond to any valid application of the syntax rules. 

For example, if you wrote b = 4 / but did not include the second operand for the / operator, you would get a syntax error response. This is because the statement is not valid according to Python’s coding rules. 


After the source code has been lexed and parsed into an Abstract Syntax Tree (AST), the next phase is compilation. The compiling phase involves transforming the AST into a lower-level form- bytecode. 

Bytecode is a simple, platform-independent form of machine code that can easily be executed by the Python interpreter. Subsequently, the instructions in bytecode match simple operations that the Python interpreter can execute, such as calling a function or performing a mathematical operation.

The compiler works by translating each node in the AST into one or more bytecode instructions. For example, a division operation in the AST may be compiled into bytecode instructions to load the operands onto a stack, perform the division, and store the output into a variable.

Since Python is a high-level programming language, you don’t really have to break a sweat regarding the bytecode. This is because the interpreter has the capacity to compile your code into bytecode and execute it. Therefore, this allows you to focus on the logic and structure of the code to identify and fix any inconsistency. 


The final stage of how Python runs and interprets code is interpreting. In the initial steps, the source code is lexed into units, parsed into an AST, and compiled into bytecode. Moving on, the bytecode is fed into the Python Virtual Machine (PVM) for execution. The Python Virtual Machine is basically a big loop that iterates through the bytecode instructions one after the other and performs the specified operations such as memory assignments, mathematical computations, etc. 

The primary significance of this bytecode interpretation is that the process is platform-independent. Therefore, the same Python bytecode can be interpreted and executed on any platform, including Windows, macOS, Linus, or any operating system, via a Python interpreter. 

Subsequently, this process makes Python an interpreted language. On the other hand, languages like C or C++ are compiled languages because they compile source codes directly into machine code that can run directly on the computer’s hardware. However, using an interpreter, as with Python, makes writing and debugging code easier. Consequently, you can quickly identify and fix a Python syntax error so your code can run effectively. The downside to using the interpreter is that the code runs slower compared to a similar code written in a compiled language. Subsequently, Python was designed to cater more to your coding productivity rather than speed without a meaningful result.

Strategies to Resolve Python Syntax Error

Python syntax errors can be annoying. However, you can resolve them with the right strategies. Here are some practices that can help you fix syntax errors:

Understanding syntax error messages 

The first strategy is to read and understand syntax error messages. When the interpreter encounters an error, it stops running and produces an output known as traceback, which contains relevant information on the location and nature of the error. However, this information will not be useful if you don’t understand it. The traceback includes file name, line number, indicator, code snippet, error type and message.

We have covered the components of the traceback in the earlier aspects of this guide. Therefore, reading and understanding these errors allows you to identify and fix them without using a debugger. In addition, error messages can be misleading or confusing, especially for beginners. Therefore, if you are having trouble comprehending a syntax error message, you can seek help from the online community.

Debugging tools

A useful strategy for fixing a Python syntax error is using debugging tools. These tools optimize the process of identifying and resolving syntax errors in your code. Here are some popular debugging tools:

Python built-in debugger 

Python has a feature that can debug the code. Also known as pdb, the module defines an interactive source code debugger for Python codes. Subsequently, it allows you to step through the code, preview it, and run code in the context of any stack frame. In addition, you can use this feature to change the execution of your program. 


Linters are tools that can analyze code to identify possible syntax errors. Flake8 and pylint are some popular Python linters.

Flake8 is an excellent option for checking your code against coding style, cyclomatic complexity and programming errors. It encompasses several tools, including pycodestyle, Ned Batchelder’s McCabe script and PyFlakes.

On the other hand, pylint is a very flexible tool for checking the standard of your Python code. Subsequently, it is easy to configure and comes with great features, including checking if variable names are well-formed, checking the line code length and more.

Code formatters 

This tool can automatically format your code so it adheres to a certain style. Subsequently, code formatters are time savers because they automatically fix a Python syntax error as well as other formatting issues that may cause inconsistencies in your code. Some of the popular code formatters used in Python are autopep8 and Black. 

autopep8 is a code formatting tool that automatically formats Python code to conform to the PEP 8 style guide. Subsequently, it leverages the pycodestyle utility to identify the aspect of the code that requires formatting. 

On the other hand, Black is a code formatting tool that takes total control of your Python code but in an uncompromising manner. When you run Black on your codebase, it automatically reformat all your code.

Integrated Development Environments (IDEs)

IDEs are virtual environments that could have a significant impact on the outcome of Python code. Popular examples of integrated Development Environments include Visual Studio Code, PyCharm, and Jupyter Notebook. These IDEs offer features such as real-time error checking and syntax highlighting, which help you identify and resolve syntax errors while you write code. Moreso, they come with built-in debuggers that are crucial to step through your code line by line and check the state of the code.

Online resources 

The web holds a wealth of information. Therefore, online resources become extremely important when dealing with a Python syntax error. Python is one of the most popular programming languages. Apart from its simple syntax, it stands out because of its active communities and extensive documentation. Subsequently, you can leverage this documentation and community to resolve your programming errors. 

Some useful online resources include:

  1. Python documentation: Python offers extensive documentation on several aspects of using the language. Therefore, if you are encountering syntax errors, you need to review the documentation to ensure you’re using the appropriate syntax.
  2. Community forums: Python has active communities on several platforms. Subsequently, if you encounter a syntax error, you can seek clarification on these forums. 

iii. Online tutorials and courses: Websites like Udemy, Coursera, Khan Academy, and others offer online courses that can help you update your coding skills. Some other websites provide useful tutorials on various topics related to Python, which you can access for free, which provides additional knowledge for you. 

  1. Stack overflow: This is one of the most popular platforms where programmers interact. You can find solutions to programming errors on this platform. In addition, you can ask a direct question and you’ll receive responses from experts. However, remember to keep it simple and short, as well as adhere to the platform’s rules.

These resources function beyond a means to find a solution for your current challenges. It also provides an avenue to learn and connect with experts in the field. 

Best Practices to Prevent Python Syntax ErrorBest Practices to Prevent Python Syntax Error

Avoiding Python syntax error is primarily about following good coding practices. Here are some practices that can help you write error-free codes:

Adhere to the PEP 8 style guide

Python Enhancement Proposal (PEP) 8 is the official style guide for writing codes in Python. Before you dive into using Python, be sure to read the PEP official documentation to understand the syntax. Subsequently, this improves the readability of your code and minimizes errors.

Here are some of the instructions from the PEP 8 style guide:

  • Use four spaces per indentation level.
  • Write comments as complete sentences. Therefore, the first word should begin with a capital letter unless it is an identifier, which should start with small letters.
  • Limit all lines to 79 characters. However, for flowing long blocks of text like comments or docstrings, keep the line length to 72 characters.
  • Imports should be on a separate line and at the top of the file. It should be before module globals and constants but after any module docstrings and comments.

Your code should be simple and easy to understand 

Regardless of the programming language you are working with, it is imperative that your code is simple, clear, and easy to understand. This optimizes its readability and maintainability as well as reducing the chances of missing errors. Here are some tips for writing clear and simple codes:

  • Avoid long lines of code because they are difficult to read. Therefore, try to keep your lines of code short, within 79 characters, as recommended by PEP 8. 
  • Use descriptive names for classes, variables, and functions. Subsequently, the names you choose should tell the meaning of the function. This improves Python’s code readability and makes it easier to spot errors.
  • When writing codes, your focus should be more on its readability status. Although there are some tricks to get something done with fewer lines of code, consider how it affects readability. 
  • If a function becomes complex, break it down into smaller, simpler chunks that are easy to understand.
  • Try to avoid deep nesting codes because they are difficult to read and understand. 
  • Consistency in writing your code is a straightforward way to keep it simple and clear. Python syntax error usually arises from inconsistencies in spacing, indentation, parenthesis, and braces.

Code formatters and linters

 Code formatters and linters, as we have discussed earlier, are critical to identifying and fixing a Python syntax error. They are often integrated into IDEs and text editors to automatically format the code and highlight syntax errors.

Code formatters can automatically format your code such that it adheres to Python’s PEP 8 style guide. Subsequently, this will prevent syntax errors because the code is well structured.

On the other hand, linters can analyze the code and provide warnings about possible errors. Linters also ensure the code follows the PEP 8 style guide before you run the program to minimize the chances of getting an error output. Subsequently, linters play a significant role in maintaining a consistent coding style.

Frequently test your Python code

Frequent code testing is necessary to ensure the program is working, and you can catch errors early to prevent complications at the end of coding. The purpose of testing the codes is to ensure the code is working as intended. Here are some areas to consider when testing your Python code:

Continuous testing 

 A critical type of test to ensure the Python code runs as intended is continuous testing. It involves running a test every time there you change something in the code. You can automate this process by leveraging a continuous integration service that runs a test every time you make changes to the code. Subsequently, this form of testing allows you to catch errors as they are introduced to the Python code.

Unit testing

Unit testing involves testing individual components of the code, such as methods or functions, separately. Subsequently, unit testing is useful in shedding light on components that are not working well. In addition, Python has a built-in unit test module that you can use for testing the components of your code.

Regression testing

Regression testing is critical once you add a new feature or fix a bug in the code. Subsequently, this type of test helps you determine the effect of the changes on the overall performance of the program. In addition, regression testing helps to identify regression errors that may occur when a change disrupts something that was previously working fine.

Version control

Version control is a system that records changes to a file so that you can view older versions later. Here are some of its significance in preventing Python syntax errors:


One of the advantages of using version control is the backup and restore feature. There is a backup for every change you have ever made to the code, so you can easily recover the code from any point. For example, if you identify a syntax error but cannot trace its origin, you can simply recover the older version and build on it.

Track changes

Another feature of version control is track changes, which allows you to keep a history of all the changes to the Python code. This feature is especially useful when you are trying to find a bug in the code. All you have to do is check the previous changes you made, and you’ll find the error in no time.


Version control makes it easy to use different methods for experimentation. Subsequently, you can use it to create separate branches of your code and apply various conditions to them without directly affecting the main branch. Once you are satisfied with the functions, you can merge the separate branches into the main one.


Version control is essential when working with a team. It allows team members to work on the same codebase without overwriting the other person’s changes. In addition, it allows you to see who made which changes to the code.

Introduction to NetNut Proxies

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This guide has examined Python syntax errors, which occur when the interpreter encounters a line of code that does not follow Python rules. The most common causes of Python errors are misusing keywords, missing brackets, parenthesis, braces, using wrong indentation, misusing assignment operators, and more. 

You can avoid syntax errors when you have a good understanding of Python’s syntax rules. Other practices include writing clear codes, using code formatters and linters, and frequently testing the code to ensure new changes do not generate syntax errors that could hinder automated activities like web scraping. 

Contact us today to discuss how our experts can help you with your data needs. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some tips to prevent Python syntax errors?

Python syntax errors are quite common, and there is no 100% guaranteed way to prevent them. However, there are some basic tips to avoid them, and they include:

  • Python code strings need the same type of quotes on both ends.
  • Always use colons when defining loops, functions, and conditions.
  • Use consistent spacing and indentation in your Python code.
  • Tracebacks are quite helpful but are not always 100% precise. Therefore, you may need to start at the traceback and carefully look through the code to find the source of the syntax error.
  • Python syntax does not permit assigning a reserved keyword to a variable.
  • For Python syntax, keyword arguments should follow positional arguments.

How does the interpreter help to prevent Python syntax errors?

The interpreter plays a significant role in the identification of Python syntax errors. It does this by checking your code against Python’s syntax rules as it reads, parses, and executes it. While the interpreter is building the parse tree, it ensures it aligns with the syntax rules. Subsequently, the interpreter cannot build a parse tree if there is a syntax error in the code. 

For example, if you do not add a closing parenthesis on a line of code, the interpreter generates a syntax error. 

Are comments and docstrings essential in preventing Python syntax errors?

Yes, comments and docstrings are essential in preventing Python syntax errors. They make it easy for you and others to read and understand the code. Comments are lines of text in your code that the interpreter ignores. In simpler terms, they are used to provide additional context to the meaning of a code. Comments in Python begin with the #character.

Documentation strings or docstrings are a type of comment that explains the purpose of a module, method, function or class. In addition, they are enclosed in triple quotes (“””).

A Comprehensive Guide To Python Syntax Error- NetNut
Full Stack Developer
Ivan Kolinovski is a highly skilled Full Stack Developer currently based in Tel Aviv, Israel. He has over three years of experience working with cutting-edge technology stacks, including MEAN/MERN/LEMP stacks. Ivan's expertise includes Git version control, making him a valuable asset to NetNut's development team.