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Repair: "RecursionError: most recursion depth exceeded" in Python


Python is understood for its simplicity and readability. Though, even in Python, you might sometimes encounter errors that do not make quite a lot of sense at first look. A type of errors is the RecursionError: most recursion depth exceeded.

This Byte goals that can assist you perceive what this error is, why it happens, and how one can repair it. A fundamental understanding of Python programming, significantly features, is advisable.

Recursion in Python

Recursion is a elementary idea in laptop science the place a operate calls itself in its definition. It is a highly effective idea that may simplify code for the best downside, making it cleaner and extra readable. Nevertheless, it may possibly additionally result in some tough errors if not dealt with fastidiously.

Let’s check out a easy recursive operate in Python:

def factorial(n):
    """Calculate the factorial of a quantity utilizing recursion"""
    if n == 1:
        return 1
        return n * factorial(n-1)


While you run this code, it is going to prints 120, which is the factorial of 5. The operate factorial calls itself with a unique argument every time till it reaches the bottom case (n == 1), at which level it begins returning the outcomes again up the decision stack.

The RecursionError

So what occurs if a recursive operate does not have a correct base case or the bottom case is rarely reached? Let’s modify the above operate to seek out out:

def endless_recursion(n):
    """A recursive operate with out a correct base case"""
    return n * endless_recursion(n-1)


# RecursionError: most recursion depth exceeded

While you run this code, you may encounter the RecursionError: most recursion depth exceeded. However why does this occur?

Be aware: Python has a restrict on the depth of recursion to stop a stack overflow. The utmost depth is platform-dependent however is often round 1000. When you exceed this restrict, Python raises a RecursionError.

Causes of RecursionError

The RecursionError: most recursion depth exceeded is a security mechanism in Python. It prevents your program from coming into an infinite loop and utilizing up all of the stack area. This error normally happens when:

  1. The bottom case of a recursive operate shouldn’t be outlined accurately, or
  2. The recursive operate does not attain the bottom case inside the most recursion depth.

Within the endless_recursion operate above, there isn’t a base case, which causes the operate to name itself indefinitely and ultimately exceed the utmost recursion depth.

Fixing the RecursionError

While you get a RecursionError, you most likely now perceive that your code has gone too deep into recursion. So, how can we repair this?

At the start, you may must overview your code and perceive why it is inflicting infinite recursion. Usually, the issue lies within the base case of your recursive operate. Be sure that your operate has a situation that stops the recursion.

Going again to our earlier instance that causes a RecursionError:

def endless_recursion(n):
    """A recursive operate with out a correct base case"""
    return n * endless_recursion(n-1)


To repair this, we have to add a base case that stops the recursion when n is lower than or equal to 0:

def endless_recursion(n):
    if n <= 0:
        return n
    return n * endless_recursion(n-1)


Generally, regardless of having a base case, you may nonetheless exceed the utmost recursion depth. This could occur whenever you’re coping with massive inputs. In such instances, you possibly can enhance the recursion restrict utilizing sys.setrecursionlimit().

import sys


def recursive_function(n):
    if n <= 0:
        return n
    return recursive_function(n-1)


Warning: Be cautious when altering the recursion restrict. Setting it too excessive can result in a stack overflow and crash your program. All the time stability the necessity for deeper recursion towards the out there system sources.

Most Recursion Depth in Python

Python’s sys module permits us to entry the default most recursion depth. You’ll find out the present setting with the getrecursionlimit() operate. Here is how one can test it:

import sys


This may usually output 1000, though it could fluctuate relying on the platform.

Modifying the Most Recursion Depth

We briefly touched on this earlier, however it’s value entering into a bit extra depth. Whereas it is typically not advisable, you possibly can modify the utmost recursion depth utilizing the setrecursionlimit() operate from the sys module.

import sys


This units the recursion restrict to 2000 calls, permitting for deeper recursion.

Rising the recursion depth permits your recursive features to make extra calls, which could be helpful for algorithms that naturally require deep recursion. Nevertheless, this comes at the price of elevated reminiscence utilization and potential system instability.

Lowering the recursion depth could make your program extra conservative by way of useful resource utilization, however it may possibly additionally make it extra liable to RecursionError even when the recursion is logically right.

Utilizing Recursion Depth in Debugging

One approach to debug these sorts of points is to print the present depth of every recursive name. This may also help you see in case your operate is approaching the utmost restrict or if the recursion is not making progress towards the bottom case as anticipated.

def factorial(n, depth=1):
    print(f"Present recursion depth: {depth}")
    if n == 1:
        return 1
        return n * factorial(n-1, depth + 1)


On this instance, the depth argument is used to maintain observe of the present recursion depth. This type of debug output could be actually helpful when making an attempt to know why a RecursionError is happening.

Utilizing this together with getrecursionlimit() may also help you observe precisely how shut you’re to the restrict when profiling your code.


On this Byte, we have seemed into the RecursionError: most recursion depth exceeded in Python. We have explored tips on how to repair this error and shared tips about avoiding it sooner or later. We have additionally talked the Python stack and the idea of recursion depth.

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