Adventures in Machine Learning

Dict Attribute Errors in Python: Common Mistakes & Solutions

Are you new to Python programming and struggling with errors related to dictionaries? Fear not, as we bring to you a comprehensive guide on some of the most common ‘dict’ attribute errors in Python, and how to solve them!

Accessing a Key in a Dictionary

The most common way to access a value in a dictionary is using the bracket notation. For instance, if you have a dictionary named ‘person’, with ‘name’ as a key, you can access the value stored in that key as follows:

person = {‘name’: ‘John’}

print(person[‘name’]) # Output: John

Alternatively, you can use the dot notation to access the value as shown below: # Output: AttributeError: ‘dict’ object has no attribute ‘name’

The above code results in an AttributeError because the dot notation is not supported for dictionary objects.

Remember that it is only possible for an object to be accessed using the dot notation if it is an instance of a class.


Sometimes, the value you are trying to access via a key may not exist in the dictionary. For instance:

person = {‘name’: ‘John’}

print(person[‘age’]) # Output:

KeyError: ‘age’

In this case, Python raises a

KeyError because the ‘age’ key does not exist in the dictionary.

To avoid this error, you can use the get() method, which returns None if the key does not exist. You can also specify a default value to be returned if the key is not found, as shown below:

person = {‘name’: ‘John’}

print(person.get(‘age’)) # Output: None

print(person.get(‘age’, 25)) # Output: 25

Adding a Key-Value Pair to a Dictionary

To add a key-value pair to a dictionary, you can use the bracket notation as follows:

person = {‘name’: ‘John’}

person[‘age’] = 30

print(person) # Output: {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30}

Alternatively, you can use the items() method to add multiple key-value pairs at once as shown below:

person = {‘name’: ‘John’}

person.update({‘age’: 30, ‘gender’: ‘Male’})

print(person) # Output: {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30, ‘gender’: ‘Male’}

Checking if a Key Exists in a Dictionary

To check if a key exists in a dictionary, you can use the ‘in’ operator, as follows:

person = {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30}

print(‘name’ in person) # Output: True

print(‘gender’ in person) # Output: False

Reassigning a Variable to a Dictionary by Mistake

Sometimes, you may mistakenly reassign a variable to a dictionary object, as shown below:

person = {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30}

person = {‘gender’: ‘Male’}

print(person) # Output: {‘gender’: ‘Male’}

In the above code snippet, the second assignment overwrites the previous dictionary object. To avoid losing the original data, you can add the new key-value pairs to the existing dictionary using the update() method:

person = {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30}

person.update({‘gender’: ‘Male’})

print(person) # Output: {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30, ‘gender’: ‘Male’}

Using a Class Instead of a Dictionary

At times, you may be tempted to use a class instead of a dictionary, especially if you are developing complex projects with multiple attributes. However, doing so may lead to unnecessary complications and impact the performance of your code.

A class should only be used when there is a need for additional functionality and methods.

Checking for Attribute Existence in an Object

If you are working with objects, you can use the hasattr() function to check if an attribute exists in that object. The function takes two arguments: the object to be checked, and the name of the attribute to be checked, as shown below:

class Person:

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

self.age = age

person = Person(‘John’, 30)

print(hasattr(person, ‘name’)) # Output: True

print(hasattr(person, ‘gender’)) # Output: False

The dir() function can also be used to obtain a list of attributes and methods of an object:

class Person:

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

self.age = age

person = Person(‘John’, 30)


The output will display a list of all the attributes and methods associated with the Person class.

The has_key Method and Its Removal in Python 3

The has_key() method was used in Python 2 to check if a key exists in a dictionary. However, it has been removed in Python 3, and replaced with the in operator.


Understanding and solving ‘dict’ attribute errors in Python is essential for identifying and fixing bugs in your code. By using the approaches discussed in this article, you can handle errors like

KeyError and AttributeError, add, access, and modify dictionary values, and identify attribute existence in an object.

3) Calling the Append() Method on a Dictionary

One common mistake that Python beginners make when working with dictionaries is trying to append values to them using the ‘append() method’, which is actually a list object method. Since dictionaries are not lists, they do not have an ‘append()’ method.

Here is an example of what happens when you try to append to a dictionary:

person = {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30}

person.append({‘gender’: ‘Male’}) # Output: AttributeError: ‘dict’ object has no attribute ‘append’

To add a value to a dictionary, you need to create a new key, or update an existing one, and assign a value to it – there is no append method call required. You have two ways of doing this – using square brackets, or using the built-in ‘update()’ method.

Using square brackets:

person = {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30}

person[‘gender’] = ‘Male’

print(person) # Output: {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30, ‘gender’: ‘Male’}

Using the built-in ‘update()’ method:

person = {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30}

person.update({‘gender’: ‘Male’})

print(person) # Output: {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30, ‘gender’: ‘Male’}

To see the list of all attributes and methods available for a dictionary object, you can use the ‘dir()’ function. For instance:

person = {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30}


This will output a list of strings that represent all the dictionary’s attributes and methods.

4) Accessing the Read Attribute on a Dictionary

Another error you may encounter when working with dictionaries is an AttributeError when trying to read information from a dictionary. This error can occur when the dictionary is being improperly used as a file object.

For example:

person = {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30} # Output: AttributeError: ‘dict’ object has no attribute ‘read’

The ‘read()’ method can only be called on a file object, not on a dictionary.

One possible reason you are trying to read from a dictionary is when you are trying to deserialize JSON data that was read from a file.

In such cases, you must first load the JSON data from the file using ‘json.load()’ method, as shown below:

import json

# Sample JSON data stored in a file


“name”: “John”,

“age”: 30,

“gender”: “Male”


with open(‘example.json’, ‘r’) as file:

data = json.load(file)

print(data) # Output: {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30, ‘gender’: ‘Male’}

Here, the ‘with’ statement is used to open the file and then execute the block of code within the indented section. The dictionary ‘data’ is then assigned the value returned by the ‘json.load(file)’ method, passing in the file object as an argument.

This method reads and deserializes the JSON data from the file, returning a dictionary that can be worked with in Python. If you need to serialize data back to JSON and save it to a file, you can use the ‘json.dumps()’ method to convert the dictionary back to a JSON string, which can then be written to a file using ‘write()’ method:

import json

person = {‘name’: ‘John’, ‘age’: 30, ‘gender’: ‘Male’}

json_string = json.dumps(person)

with open(‘example.json’, ‘w’) as file:


In this code example, the ‘json.dumps()’ method is used to convert the ‘person’ dictionary into a JSON-encoded string. The ‘with’ statement is also used with the ‘open()’ method, but with ‘w’ as the mode argument which signifies write mode.

The ‘write()’ method writes the JSON-encoded string to the file. If the JSON data in the file is malformed or has a different structure than expected, you might encounter a ‘JSONDecodeError’ when trying to deserialize it.

In this case, you can catch the error and handle it using a ‘try’ and ‘except’ block.


By reading this article, you should now be well-equipped to identify and solve ‘dict’ attributes errors in Python. In particular, you learned about a common error that occurs when trying to append to a dictionary, and how to properly add new key-value pairs to dictionaries.

You also discovered how to properly read data from a file and deserialize JSON data using the ‘json.load()’ method, as well as how to serialize the dictionary back to JSON and save it to a file using ‘json.dumps()’ method. The key takeaway is to always closely examine the attribute or method being called and ensure that it is suitable to the object being worked with.

In summary, this article covered common ‘dict’ attribute errors in Python and how to solve them. The article highlighted errors like

KeyError, AttributeError, and ‘dict’ object has no attribute ‘append’ and provided solutions and workarounds for these errors.

We also discussed how to deserialize JSON data from a file and serialize dictionary back into a file. The takeaway from this article is the importance of closely examining the attribute or method being called and ensuring that it is suitable for the object being worked with.

Remember to use the right method or attribute for correct data manipulation.

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