Dealing with Syntax Errors

SyntaxError, and its subclasses, IndentationError and TabError, are particular cases in that arise when a file cannot be parsed properly by Python. Such files cannot be imported by pytest. In order to create test cases, we need a two-step process.

In what follows, I assume that you are already familiar with how to add test cases for other exceptions, and I will only focus on differences from the other situation.



The following are the required steps before a pull request. Each item is explained in a different section below. If you find the instructions unclear, please do not hesitate to reach out.

  • File an issue indicating that you are planning to work on a given exception.

  • Add test case
    • Add file

    • Add file

  • Add generic information

  • Add specific information

  • Execute and confirm visually it works as expected

  • Run pytest and confirm that your new test is included

  • Make a pull request

Adding a test case

After you have filed an issue indicating that you wished to adding coverage for an exception that is not previously covered, you need to start by adding a test case. As an example throughout, I will use the existing one for

Note that tests for these exceptions are found in the tests/syntax/ directory.

Raising an exception

Your test file name should start with raise_, such as Here is the content of that file:

'''Should raise IndentationError'''

if True:

As you can see, it contains invalid code.

For this project, pytest has been configured such that it only includes files whose names begin with test_ or catch_. Therefore, it will ignore this file.

You can nonetheless test it directly, by doing:

python -m friendly_traceback tests.syntax.raise_indentation_error1

from the root directory of the repository.

Catching an exception

Now that we have script that can raise an exception, we need to create a script that will catch it, and can also be used by pytest which we use as our test runner. Here’s only part of the content of, with some numbered comments added, to which we refer below:

import friendly_traceback
import sys

def test_indentation_error1():
            from . import raise_indentation_error1  # 1 for pytest
        except ImportError:
            import raise_indentation_error1
    except Exception:
        friendly_traceback.explain(*sys.exc_info(), redirect="capture")
    result = friendly_traceback.get_output()
    assert "IndentationError: expected an indented block" in result  # 2
    return result

if __name__ == "__main__":
  1. Importing a test using pytest is done differently than importing it when running this file as standalone

  2. There are three possible cases of IndentationError. We try to be as specific as possible in terms of which case will be indicated by Python.

At this point, running pytest from the root directory should work, and you should see your test case included. You can also run this test directly, using:

python tests/syntax/

Adding generic information

This has already been done for SyntaxError and its subclasses. Feel free to suggest improvements to the explanation given.

Add specific information

This is the tricky part.

The three possible causes of IndentationError are already covered; this is also the case for TabError.

For SyntaxError, we actually need to get access to the offending code, analyze it and see if we can make an educated guess as to the cause of the error and give proper feedback.


Add code example for providing specific information for SyntaxError