3 quick notes about type checking in Python

I’m going to give you three quick pieces of information about type checking in Python.

# 1. Forward references

Forward references help you refer to a type even when that has not been declared yet. They are string literals expressing a type. They are mostly used when a class needs to refer to itself, eg.:

Example - a row of houses in a street:

class RowHouse:
    def __init__(self, left_neighbor: 'RowHouse', right_neighbor: 'RowHouse'):

# 2. Stub files

You might have encountered the word stub files while working with mypy. Stub files help the type checker analyse the code statically, but they are not run by the interpreter. Their syntax is the same as for regular Python code.

There are a few reasons why one might need stub files, most importantly when working with third-party modules where type hints have not been written yet.

# 3. Structural subtyping

You might have read about “duck typing”. The good news is that Python allows “static duck typing”, also known as structural subtyping, which means that a class doesn’t necessarily have to inherit from a parent class to be considered a subclass - if it implements the same methods, it will be considered a structural subclass.

from typing_extensions import Protocol

class MyType(Protocol):
    def boom(self):

class MyOtherType:
    def boom(self):

def my_function(arg: MyType) -> None:

other_type = MyOtherType()


Note that mypy will not complain about the last line, because MyOtherType implements the MyType protocol, even without inheriting from it. This is similar to abstract base classes, except that a protocol has no implementation (an abstract base class can define implentations of the methods), and while Protocols are not enforced at runtime, while abstract base classes provide runtime safety.


Written on November 27, 2022

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