What is the Difference Between del, pop and remove in Python?

This tutorial will help you to modify, delete, or retrieve elements from the data structures. We can learn about this concept by understanding a blog post and comment on a website. Python’s del, pop, and remove function shapes the content’s structure by ensuring the website functions properly. For instance, pop manages user comments, removes to handle post deletions, and del to optimize data storage. Python empowers developers to construct user-friendly websites by efficiently managing data structures and content. However, this article will comprehensively compare the three based on their syntax, usage, and other factors.

The Difference between the del, pop, and remove Operations in Python

Python provides several methods for list manipulation, and among them, the most common are pop(), del(), and remove(). In Python, del, pop, and remove deletes, modifies, or retrieves items from various data structures like lists, strings, dictionaries, etc. 

Here are the differences between pop(), del, and remove() in Python:

FunctionalityRemoves and returns either the last element or an element based on the specified index.Removes and returns an element by index using the del keyword.Removes the first occurrence of a specified value.
UsesWhen you need to remove and retrieve the removed value.When you know the index of the element to be removed.When you want to remove an element by its value.
Syntaxlist_name.pop(index)del list_name[index]list_name.remove(value)
Error HandlingIndices that are not in range raise IndexError.When the index has gone out of range, it raises an IndexError.Raises ValueError if the value is not found.
Time ComplexityO(1) for the last element, O(n) for the specified index.O(n)O(n)

Additional differences between pop(), del, and remove() in Python:

  • In the absence of the parameter (index), pop() removes the last element without raising an error.
  • remove() throws a TypeError if the parameter (value) is not passed.
  • The del doesn’t raise an error without an index; it just deletes the entire list.

Using The Del keyword within a loop in Python

In Python, the del operation deletes objects or elements. Its specific behavior depends on what you are trying to delete. The del keyword can delete a slice of elements from the list. For example, del list_name[1:3] will remove elements at index 1 and 2.

However, in the following example, we are trying to remove multiple keys and their corresponding values from a dictionary in Python. Since it is the concise approach to use the del statement within a loop to remove multiple keys from the dictionaries. 

When you use the del statement to remove keys from a dictionary, it not only removes the keys but preserves the other keys and their values in the dictionary.

Here’s how you can use the del operator in Python to delete the element. 

# Define the original dictionary with comment details
comment_dict = {
    'user1': 'Great!',
    'user2': 'I have a query.',
    'user3': 'Nice!',
    'user4': 'inappropriate content - delete!'

# Specify the keys (usernames) to be removed due to spam or inappropriate content
removing_keys = ["user4"]
# Iterate through the keys to remove
for username in removing_keys:
    # Check if the username exists in the dictionary
    if username in comment_dict:
        # If it exists, delete the username and their corresponding comment
        del comment_dict[username]
# Print the updated dictionary after removing keys (spam comments)
print("Updated Dictionary after removing keys: \n", comment_dict)
Updated Dictionary after removing keys: 
 {'user1': 'Great!', 'user2': 'I have a query.', 'user3': 'Nice!'}

The above example controls the dictionary of comments and removes specific usernames marked as spam or inappropriate content. However, It iterates through the list within the for loop, deleting entries with matching usernames from the original dictionary. The if…in conditionally targets only valid usernames within the dictionary for removal. Ultimately, it modifies an original dictionary, which is now free from unwanted comments, enhancing the content quality of the platform.

Moreover, the del keyword within the for loop removes multiple keys from the original dictionary while simultaneously modifying the original dictionary’s contents. 

Using The pop() function and pop method in Python

As an alternative to using the del() statement, Python’s pop() function removes items from dictionaries. Specifying the key as an argument will remove a specific pair of keys from the dictionary. What sets pop() apart is that it removes the item and returns its associated value, making it especially handy when you need to manipulate or work with the removed data. On the contrary, the del statement removes the associated value with a particular key. 

However, if the specified key is not found in the dictionary, it raises a KeyError by default unless you provide a default value. However, It will raise an IndexError as the list is empty, and no element is passed to the pop function.

Let’s consider an example that uses the pop() function to retrieve and remove specific employees from the list of dictionaries. The following example will help to manage records efficiently.

# Creating a list of employee data
employees = [
    {'ID': 'John', 'Post': 'Project Manager' },
    {'ID': 'Bob', 'Post': 'Data Analyst'},
    {'ID': 'Charlie', 'Post': 'Content Creator'},
    {'ID': 'David', 'Post': 'Developer'},
    {'ID': 'Eve', 'Post': 'Coordinator'}

# List of employees who left the company
departed_employees = ['Charlie', 'Eve']

# Removing the specified employees from the list using pop()
for employee in departed_employees:
    for emp_data in employees:
        if emp_data['ID'] == employee:

# Displaying the modified list of employee data
for emp_data in employees:
    print(f"ID: {emp_data['ID']}, 'Role': {emp_data['Post']}")
ID: John, 'Role': Project Manager
ID: Bob, 'Role': Data Analyst
ID: David, 'Role': Developer

In the above example, the `pop()` effectively removes employees who have left the company. This process integrates the `pop()` function with a `for` loop, which allows us to eliminate specific keys from the dictionary. As a result, the resulting dictionary exclusively contains information about employees still in the organization. 

It removes these keys and retrieves and returns their corresponding values. There is, however, one important point to keep in mind: if the specified key does not exist in the dictionary, the `pop()` method will raise a `KeyError`. Without proper handling, this could lead to program termination in cases where the key is missing.

Use the pop() function to handle keyerror

Other scenarios in which you want to remove a key if it exists but avoid triggering a KeyError when the key cannot be found can be resolved by employing the pop() method with a default value. Using this method, you can successfully handle situations in which keys are either present in the dictionary or are not present, ensuring the smooth operation of your program.

# Creating a list of employee data
employees = {'John': 'Project Manager' ,
             'Bob': 'Data Analyst',
             'Charlie': 'Content Creator',
             'David': 'Developer',
             'Eve': 'Coordinator'}
# List of employees who left the company
departed_employees = ['Charlie', 'Eve']
# Removing the specified employees from the list using pop(key, None)
for employee in departed_employees:
    employees.pop(employee, None)
{'John': 'Project Manager', 'Bob': 'Data Analyst', 'David': 'Developer'}

Since the above program deletes employees’ names from the company data and displays the updated dictionaries, using .pop(key, None). However, the .pop(key, None) handles missing employee names efficiently, ensuring error-free execution. Note that pop() takes None arguments only for dictionaries. It doesn’t support the lists.

Using The remove() function in Python

The remove() method in Python makes elements disappear from lists. It operates by erasing the first occurrence of a specified value within the list. However, it takes the value you want to remove as its target and throws it from the list.

When it finds a match, that value’s first instance gets removed from the list. But here’s the twist: if duplicates have the same value, only the first one gets the disappearing act – it’s a one-at-a-time operation. However, the method will raise a TypeError if the value you seek is not listed. Moreover, remove() will remove only the first occurrence of the specified value. To remove all occurrences, you need to use a loop.

Let’s consider a courier’s delivered and to-be-delivered orders as an example to understand the idea of the remove() function. The following example shows a list of courier orders represented as dictionaries. We also have another list representing orders that have been delivered.

# Creating a list of courier orders
# Creating a list of courier orders
orders = [
    {'order_id': 'Sushi', 'status': 'Delivered'},
    {'order_id': 'Hamburger', 'status': 'To Be Delivered'},
    {'order_id': 'Pizza', 'status': 'Delivered'},
    {'order_id': 'Applepie', 'status': 'To Be Delivered'},
    {'order_id': 'HotDogs', 'status': 'Delivered'}
# List of orders that have been delivered
delivered_orders = ['Sushi', 'Pizza', 'HotDogs']
# Removing the specified delivered orders from the list
for order_id in delivered_orders:
    for order_data in orders:
        if order_data['order_id'] == order_id and order_data['status'] == 'Delivered':

# Displaying the modified list of courier orders
for order_data in orders:
    print(f"order_id: {order_data['order_id']}, Status: {order_data['status']}")
order_id: Hamburger, Status: To Be Delivered
order_id: Applepie, Status: To Be Delivered

The code iterates through the delivered_orders list and uses the remove() method to eliminate delivered orders from the original list, ensuring that orders are only removed if their status is ‘Delivered‘ using the ‘==’ operator. The remove() function will search the target and remove it from the data, but as discussed, it’s a one-at-a-time operation. After execution, the program returns the updated list of courier orders that contains the data of the deliveries to be ordered.

Choosing Between ‘del,’ ‘pop,’ and ‘remove: Which is the best option in Python? 

However, the choice of method depends on your specific use case. If you know the index of the element you want to remove and don’t need the value, use del. However, If you know the value but not the index, use remove(). Moreover, If you want to remove the last element or need the removed value, use pop().

Del vs Pop vs Remove in Python

The Python “remove” method can remove a specific element from a list. A “pop” method indicates that a list’s last element removes and returnes, and a “del” statement indicates that a specific element or slice deletes without returning.

And in this, some support dictionaries, but some are not. However, when handling data with the pop() function, you can use negative indices to remove elements from the end of the list. However, negative indices are not valid with remove().


In conclusion, developers can better choose the most appropriate method for removing elements from a list in Python by understanding the differences between del, pop, and remove. Python developers can efficiently manage lists and optimize their code for various scenarios by considering syntax, time complexity, return values, and error handling. Further, developers with this knowledge can make informed decisions and optimize their Python programs’ performance. For any queries, contact us.

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