As a challenge to myself, I wrote a solution to this Stack Overflow question. For completeness, the bulk of the question is as follows:



  ['key1', 'value1'],
       ['key3', 'value3'],
       ['key5', 'value5']
  ['key6', 'value6'],


  "key1": "value1",
  "key2": {
     "key3": "value3",
     "key4": ...,
     "key5": "value5"
  "key6": "value6"


Please note that this is my first attempt.

import pprint

def main():
    lt = [ \
            ['key1', 'value1'], \
            ['key2', \
                [ \
                    ['key3', 'value3'], \
                    ['key4',  \
                        ['key7','value7'] \
                    ], \
                    ['key5', 'value5'] \
                ] \
            ], \
            ['key6', 'value6'] \
    pp = pprint.PrettyPrinter(indent=4)
    dt = lists2dict(lt, pp)
    print('-' * 80)

def lists2dict(lt, pp):
    # form a dict from a list of lists,
    # if a key's value is a single-element list, just add the element
    dt = {l[0]: l[1:] if len(l[1:]) > 1 else l[1] for l in lt}
    # print('-' * 70)
    # pp.pprint(dt)
    for k,v in dt.items(): # step through the dict, looking for places to recurse
        # print('k=%r, v=%r' %(k,v))
        if isinstance(v, list): # a value which is a list needs to be converted to a dict
            if isinstance(v[1], list): # only recurse if a to-be-parsed value has a list
                dt[k] = lists2dict(v, pp)
            else: # just a single k/v pair to parse
                dt[k] = {v[0]: v[1]}
    return dt

if __name__ == '__main__':

If anyone has improvements, or a more efficient and/or Pythonic implementation, please share it.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Argh! All the \ you are using when defining the input are useless. Also you should never us \ to continue a line since you can wrap whatever expression you are writing in parenthesis ( and ). \$\endgroup\$
    – Bakuriu
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ All brackets in Python ((, [, and {) begin implicit line continuation. There is no need to use `` to continue a line so long as it's enclosed in a pair of matching brackets. \$\endgroup\$
    – Iguananaut
    Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 19:28

1 Answer 1


You could simplify your function:

def nested_pairs2dict(pairs):
    d = {}
    for k, v in pairs:
        if isinstance(v, list): # assumes v is also list of pairs
           v = nested_pairs2dict(v)
        d[k] = v
    return d

It seems to work.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You could also shorten it further to def nested_pairs2dict(pairs): return dict((k, nested_pairs2dict(v) if isinstance(v, list) else v) for k, v in pairs) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 21:13
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @200_success: I find such one-liners less readable. \$\endgroup\$
    – jfs
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 21:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Locally I get an error: for k,v in pairs // ValueError: too many values to unpack \$\endgroup\$
    – kevlar1818
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 21:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kevlar1818 Then you are not passing a list of 2-element lists to the function. \$\endgroup\$
    – poke
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 22:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd also stick with the full version for long term maintenance. This example illustrates a great python principle: doing it right is usually shorter and cleaner than doing it wrong :) \$\endgroup\$
    – theodox
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 1:29

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