# How to make a flat list out of a list of lists

Given a list of lists `t`,

```flat_list = [item for sublist in t for item in sublist]

```

which means:

```flat_list = []
for sublist in t:
for item in sublist:
flat_list.append(item)

```

is faster than the shortcuts posted so far. (`t` is the list to flatten.)

Here is the corresponding function:

```def flatten(t):
return [item for sublist in t for item in sublist]

```

As evidence, you can use the `timeit` module in the standard library:

```\$ python -mtimeit -s't=[[1,2,3],[4,5,6], , [8,9]]*99' '[item for sublist in t for item in sublist]'
10000 loops, best of 3: 143 usec per loop
\$ python -mtimeit -s't=[[1,2,3],[4,5,6], , [8,9]]*99' 'sum(t, [])'
1000 loops, best of 3: 969 usec per loop
\$ python -mtimeit -s't=[[1,2,3],[4,5,6], , [8,9]]*99' 'reduce(lambda x,y: x+y,t)'
1000 loops, best of 3: 1.1 msec per loop

```

Explanation: the shortcuts based on `+` (including the implied use in `sum`) are, of necessity, `O(T**2)` when there are T sublists — as the intermediate result list keeps getting longer, at each step a new intermediate result list object gets allocated, and all the items in the previous intermediate result must be copied over (as well as a few new ones added at the end). So, for simplicity and without actual loss of generality, say you have T sublists of k items each: the first k items are copied back and forth T-1 times, the second k items T-2 times, and so on; total number of copies is k times the sum of x for x from 1 to T excluded, i.e., `k * (T**2)/2`.

The list comprehension just generates one list, once, and copies each item over (from its original place of residence to the result list) also exactly once.