Difference between `@staticmethod` and `@classmethod` function decorators in Python

David Y.

The Problem

What is the difference between a function decorated with @staticmethod and one decorated with @classmethod in Python?

The Solution

Python programmers who have used classes will know that standard methods inside a class receive the called instance as their first argument. This is conventionally called self and must be specified as a parameter, per the Python principle that “explicit is better than implicit”. The following code snippet shows an example of this:

class Greeter:

    def __init__(self, name):
        self.name = name

    def say_hello(self):
        print(f"Hello, my name is {self.name}.")

alice = Greeter("Alice")
alice.say_hello()  # will print "Hello, my name is Alice."

Functions decorated by @staticmethod or @classmethod provide alternatives to this behavior. We can decorate a function with @staticmethod to prevent Python from passing an instance of the object to it, as below.

class Greeter:

    def __init__(self, name):
        self.name = name

    def say_hello_static(name):  # <-- no self parameter
        print(f"Hello {name}, how are you?")

alice = Greeter("Alice")
alice.say_hello_static("Bob")  # will print "Hello Bob, how are you?"

This can be useful when we have functionality that logically belongs in a given class, but does not do anything with the instance it’s called on.

By contrast, the @classmethod decorator will make Python pass the class of the instance it’s called on as the first argument. By convention, the first parameter of a class method is called cls. Class methods can also be called on classes directly.

class Greeter:

    def say_hello_class(cls):  # <-- cls instead of self
        print(f"Hello, I am a {cls.__name__}.")

Greeter.say_hello_class()  # will print "Hello, I am a Greeter."

alice = Greeter()
alice.say_hello_class()  # will print "Hello, I am a Greeter."

Class methods are useful when we want to define behaviors that affect a class as a whole, rather than single instances. A common use case is creating factory methods.

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