Python Absolute Value: A Step-By-Step Guide (2023)

The Python abs() method returns the absolute value of a number. The absolute value of a number is the number’s distance from 0. This makes any negative number positive, while positive numbers are unaffected. For example, abs(-9) would return 9, while abs(2) would return 2.

An absolute value is the distance between a number and 0 on the number line. These values are useful in a number of mathematical equations. For instance, absolute values are used in distance calculations.

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That’s where the abs() built-in function comes in. The abs() method can be used to calculate the absolute value of a particular number.

In this tutorial, we will discuss how to use the abs() method in Python. We will also explore a few examples that illustrate the function in action.

Absolute Value in Python: An Explanation

In math, an absolute value refers to how far away a number is from zero on the number line. Regardless of whether a number is positive or negative, that number’s absolute value will always be positive.

For example, the absolute value of 5 is 5. The absolute value of -5 is also 5. This is the case because both 5 and -5 are five spaces away from on the number line. Here’s an example number line to illustrate how this works:


-5 is 5 spaces away from zero, and 5 is also 5 spaces away from zero.

Absolute value is an important concept in both mathematics and physics, and it has a wide variety of applications in these fields. Absolute values are also often used in data analysis.

Python Absolute Value

The Python abs() method calculates the absolute value of a number. The abs() method takes in one parameter: the number whose absolute value you want to calculate.

Here’s the syntax for the abs() method:


The abs() method returns either a floating-point number or an integer depending on the value you pass through the method:

  • -9 would return 9.
  • -2.2 would return 2.2.

The floating-point value is 2.2, denoted by the period that appears in the number. Because abs() accepts both integers and floating-points, no numerical conversion is necessary to use this method.

abs() works with zero values and positive numbers (including floating numbers and integers). However, the abs() function will return the same value as the value initially parsed through the function. This is positive numbers and zero values are not negative numbers.

Let’s use an example to illustrate how the abs() method works.

Python abs() Method Example

Let’s say that you are working for the local police department. They ask you to build an app that calculates whether drivers on a certain road are due for a speeding ticket. On this road, drivers should be going at around the same speed as the average driver.

The police department does not want people exceeding this limit because there was a series of accidents on the road. Many of the accidents were due to excessive speed variability among drivers.

Driving over 10 miles (ca. 16 km) per hour (ca. 16 km/h) faster or slower than the average driver presents a hazard. Drivers who exceed this limit should receive a ticket.

Evaluating the Speed

We’re going to build a program to determine whether a driver should receive a ticket based on their speed:

average_speed = 50current_speed = 38difference_between_average_and_current_speed = average_speed - current_speedabsolute_value = abs(difference_between_average_and_current_speed)print(absolute_value)

Our code returns: 12.

On the first line of code, we declared a Python variable. This variable stores the average speed of cars on the road, which in this case was 50 mph (ca. 80 km/h). Then, we declared a variable that stores a specific driver’s current speed—38 mph (ca. 61 km/h) in this case.

On the next line, we calculated the difference between the specific drivers’ current speed and the average speed of cars on the road. Then, we took this value and used the abs() method to get the absolute value.

Technically, the difference between the driver’s speed and the average speed is -12 mph (ca. 19 km/h). But, we only wanted to know the difference between the specific driver’s speed and the average speed of cars on the road. We used abs() to convert our value into an absolute value, and our program returned 12.

Displaying a Message

We want our program to display a message if a driver is due a ticket. To do this, we can add a Python if statement to the end of our last program”

print("Speed Difference: " + absolute_value)if absolute_value > 10:print("This driver is exceeding the speed limit. Write them a ticket.")else:print("This driver is not exceeding the speed limit.")

First, we print the driver’s speed difference to the console. Then, we use an if statement to evaluate whether the driver is exceeding the speed limit. A different Python print statement executes depending on whether the driver exceeds or is driving within the speed limit.

Absolute Value Python: Distance Calculations

Absolute values are commonly used in distance calculations.

Let’s say that we are trying to travel somewhere 20 miles (ca. 32 km) away from our home. We accidentally travel 31 miles.

If we wanted to know how many miles we have left until we reach our destination, we would end up with a negative number. In order to convert that negative number to a positive one, we could use abs().

Python Absolute Value: A Step-By-Step Guide (1)

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Here’s the code for an example that uses the abs() function in Python:

miles_from_home = 20travelled = 31miles_left = miles_from_home - travelledprint(abs(miles_left))

Our code returns: 11.

If we had not specified abs(), our program would have returned -11 because the difference between 20 and 31 is -11. However, because we used abs(), our program returned an absolute value.


The abs() method in Python can be used to convert a floating-point number or an integer into an absolute value. This is especially useful when you want to know the difference between two values.

In this tutorial, we explored how to use abs() in Python, with reference to two examples.

Do you want to advance your Python knowledge? Check out our complete How to Learn Python guide. In this guide, you’ll find advice on how to learn Python and a list of top learning resources to look at.


How to do an absolute value on Python? ›

Getting the absolute value of a value in Python is quick and easy to do using the abs() function. The abs() function works with integers, floats, and complex numbers, so it should keep you covered in any situation where you may need to apply it.

What is the fastest way to calculate absolute value? ›

On most CPUs and all compilers x = (x>=0)? x:-x; is fastest way to get absolute value, but in fact, often standard functions already offer this solution (e.g. fabs()). It is compiled into compare followed by conditional assignment instruction(CMOV), not into conditional jump.

What is the algorithm for calculating absolute value? ›

Algorithm/ Steps

The steps to find the absolute value of a number are as follows: Take the number (say A) as input. If the number A is greater than or equal to 0, A is our answer. If the number A is less than 0, then multiply A by -1 and then, the result is our answer.

How to take the absolute value of all elements in an array Python? ›

To get absolute values of Two- Dimensional array elements, just pass the two dimensional array tot he absolute() function. It returns the array in same shape as input.

What does += mean in Python? ›

The plus-equals operator += provides a convenient way to add a value to an existing variable and assign the new value back to the same variable. In the case where the variable and the value are strings, this operator performs string concatenation instead of addition.

How do you get the absolute path in Python script? ›

To find an absolute path in Python you import the os module then you can find the current working directory using os. path. abspath("insert-file-name-here") in your Python script.

How do you write an absolute value equation? ›

Generally, we can represent the absolute value function as, f(x) = a |x - h| + k, where a represents how far the graph stretches vertically, h represents the horizontal shift and k represents the vertical shift from the graph of f(x) = |x|.

How do you find the maximum absolute value in a list in Python? ›

We can use the abs() function to work out the largest absolute value from a list of numbers.

How to do absolute value in Python with NumPy? ›

To return the absolute value of float values, use the numpy. fabs() method in Python Numpy. This function returns the absolute values (positive magnitude) of the data in x. Complex values are not handled, use absolute to find the absolute values of complex data.

How do you find the absolute value of a vector in Python? ›

To calculate the absolute value, we can use two methods, fabs() and absolute(). To return the absolute value element-wise, use the numpy. fabs() method in Python Numpy. This displays the output in float.

What does _ and __ mean in Python? ›

Single Trailing Underscore var_ : Used by convention to avoid naming conflicts with Python keywords. Double Trailing Underscore __var__ : Indicates special methods defined by Python language. Underscore _ : Used as a name for temporary variables.

What are the 7 operators in Python? ›

Python Operators
  • Arithmetic operators.
  • Assignment operators.
  • Comparison operators.
  • Logical operators.
  • Identity operators.
  • Membership operators.
  • Bitwise operators.

What is += 1 in Python? ›

In Python += is used for incrementing, and -= for decrementing. In some other languages, there is even a special syntax ++ and -- for incrementing or decrementing by 1. Python does not have such a special syntax. To increment x by 1 you have to write x += 1 or x = x + 1 .

What is absolute path command? ›

An absolute path is the full path to a file or directory. It is relative to the root directory ( / ). Note that it is a best practice to use absolute paths when you use file paths inside of scripts. For example, the absolute path to the ls command is: /usr/bin/ls . If it's not absolute, then it's a relative path.

What is Abspath in Python? ›


This function takes the path as an argument, and it returns the normalized pathname of the given path. It returns the complete path of the file in the system.

What is the difference between relative path and absolute path? ›

A relative path describes the location of a file relative to the current (working) directory*. An absolute path describes the location from the root directory. When learning to access data files through programming, we regularly use relative file paths.

What are the 4 steps to solving an equation? ›

We have 4 ways of solving one-step equations: Adding, Substracting, multiplication and division.

What are the rules of absolute value functions? ›

For absolute value equations multiplied by a constant (for example,y=a| x |),if 0<a<1, then the graph is compressed, and if a>1, it is stretched. Also, if a is negative, then the graph opens downward, instead of upwards as usual. More generally, the form of the equation for an absolute value function is y=a| x−h |+k.

Can absolute value be simplified? ›

We treat absolute value bars just like we treat parentheses in the order of operations. We simplify the expression inside first.

What are two ways to solve absolute value equations? ›

To solve an equation containing absolute value, isolate the absolute value on one side of the equation. Then set its contents equal to both the positive and negative value of the number on the other side of the equation and solve both equations.

What is the third step in solving the absolute value inequalities and equations? ›

Step 1: Isolate the absolute value. Step 2: Identify the case and apply the appropriate theorem. Step 3: Solve the resulting equation or inequality.

Does absolute value have 2 answers? ›

Absolute values will have two solutions when they are equations, functions, in the inequalities that will give a set of results. For a specific number with an absolute value, it will only have one result which will always be positive.

How do you find the maximum value of an object in Python? ›

To find out the max value of an object we have to provide the key argument to the Python max() function.

How do you find the maximum value of a list in Python by loop? ›

The following is an example code for finding the maximum element of a list using the max() function.
  1. list1 = [1, 0, 4, 5, 100] print("Largest element of the list is:", max(list1))
  2. list1 = [100, 1, 5, 80, 20] list1. ...
  3. the_list = [54, 57, 827, 74, 91, 74, 62] the_list.
Nov 8, 2022

How do you find the maximum value of a column list in Python? ›

To find the maximum value of a column and to return its corresponding row values in Pandas, we can use df. loc[df[col]. idxmax()].

How do you get absolute value in Pandas Python? ›

Return a Series/DataFrame with absolute numeric value of each element. This function only applies to elements that are all numeric. Series/DataFrame containing the absolute value of each element.

What is the difference between NumPy abs and absolute in Python? ›

abs and np. absolute are completely identical. It doesn't matter which one you use. There are several advantages to the short names: They are shorter and they are known to Python programmers because the names are identical to the built-in Python functions.

How do you find a value in Python? ›

Python String find()
  1. find() Syntax. The syntax of the find() method is: str.find(sub[, start[, end]] )
  2. find() Parameters. The find() method takes maximum of three parameters: ...
  3. find() Return Value. The find() method returns an integer value: ...
  4. Working of find() method. ...
  5. Example 1: find() With No start and end Argument.

How do you print negative to positive in Python? ›

In Python, positive numbers can be changed to negative numbers with the help of the in-built method provided in the Python library called abs (). When abs () is used, it converts negative numbers to positive. However, when -abs () is used, then a positive number can be changed to a negative number.

How do you take absolute value in pandas Python? ›

Pandas Series: abs() function

The abs() function is used to get a Series/DataFrame with absolute numeric value of each element. This function only applies to elements that are all numeric. Returns: Series/DataFrame containing the absolute value of each element.

How do you get a positive value in Python? ›

The abs() function is used to get the absolute (positive) value of a given number. The argument may be an integer or a floating point number. If the argument is a complex number, its magnitude is returned. Numeric value.

How do you check if a number is positive or negative in Python? ›

Python Code:

n = float(input("Input a number: ")) if n >= 0: if n == 0: print("It is Zero! ") else: print("Number is Positive number. ") else: print("Number is Negative number. ")

How to convert negative number to positive in Python without abs? ›

# Convert a negative number to a positive using max()

The max() function will change the number to positive by returning the largest value between the positive and negative counterparts of the number. Copied! The max() function returns the largest item in an iterable or the largest of two or more arguments.

How to generate random positive and negative numbers in Python? ›

Use a random.randint() function to get a random integer number from the inclusive range. For example, random.randint(0, 10) will return a random number from [0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ,9, 10]. Use a random.randrange() function to get a random integer number from the given exclusive range by specifying the increment.

Is 0 a positive or negative? ›

The number zero is neither positive nor negative. Positive and negative numbers are sometimes called signed numbers. a. Positive numbers can be written with or without a plus sign.

How do you find the absolute value of a column in Python? ›

In pandas, we use the abs() function to obtain the absolute numeric values of each element of a DataFrame or a Series object. We can describe an absolute numeric value as the non-negative value of a number where we ignore its sign. For example, the absolute value of -1 is 1, and the absolute value of -10 is 10.

How do you convert a column to absolute value in Python? ›

You can call abs() on multiple columns too.
  1. df[['col1', 'col2']] = df[['col1', 'col2']]. abs()
  2. df = df.copy() df['count'] = df['count']. abs()
  3. df = df.assign(count=df['count']. abs())
Mar 16, 2015

What is the absolute difference in Python 3? ›

Python 3 - Number abs() Method

The abs() method returns the absolute value of x i.e. the positive distance between x and zero.

How do you add all positive numbers in Python? ›

Visualize Python code execution:

sum_num = (n * (n + 1)) / 2: The range() function is then used to generate a sequence of integers from 0 to n inclusive, which is passed as an argument to the sum() function. The sum() function calculates the sum of the sequence and stores the result in the variable result.

How do you get only positive values in a list Python? ›

  1. positives = [x for x in A if x >= 0] ...
  2. A = [-1, 2, 3] B = [val for val in A if val > 0] print(B) ...
  3. Wouldn't removing all the negative values from a list just be an empty list? ...
  4. Possible duplicate of only positive numbers in list comprehension in python.
Dec 31, 2017

How do you check whether a number is positive or not? ›

If a number is greater than zero, it is a positive number. If a number is less than zero, it is a negative number. If a number equals to zero, it is zero.

How to find positive difference between two numbers in Python? ›

Alternatively, we can use the abs() function to find the mod value of the difference of the two numbers such that, the difference is always positive. 3. Even without using the "diff" variable, we can directly find the difference inside the print function by specifying abs(n1 - n2) in place of "diff".


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