CodeQL documentation

CodeQL library for Python

When you need to analyze a Python program, you can make use of the large collection of classes in the CodeQL library for Python.

About the CodeQL library for Python

The CodeQL library for each programming language uses classes with abstractions and predicates to present data in an object-oriented form.

Each CodeQL library is implemented as a set of QL modules, that is, files with the extension .qll. The module python.qll imports all the core Python library modules, so you can include the complete library by beginning your query with:

import python

The CodeQL library for Python incorporates a large number of classes. Each class corresponds either to one kind of entity in Python source code or to an entity that can be derived from the source code using static analysis. These classes can be divided into four categories:

  • Syntactic - classes that represent entities in the Python source code.
  • Control flow - classes that represent entities from the control flow graphs.
  • Data flow - classes that represent entities from the data flow graphs.
  • API graphs - classes that represent entities from the API graphs.

The first two categories are described below. For a description of data flow and associated classes, see “Analyzing data flow in Python”. For a description of API graphs and their use, see “Using API graphs in Python.”

Syntactic classes

This part of the library represents the Python source code. The Module, Class, and Function classes correspond to Python modules, classes, and functions respectively, collectively these are known as Scope classes. Each Scope contains a list of statements each of which is represented by a subclass of the class Stmt. Statements themselves can contain other statements or expressions which are represented by subclasses of Expr. Finally, there are a few additional classes for the parts of more complex expressions such as list comprehensions. Collectively these classes are subclasses of AstNode and form an Abstract syntax tree (AST). The root of each AST is a Module. Symbolic information is attached to the AST in the form of variables (represented by the class Variable). For more information, see Abstract syntax tree and Symbolic information on Wikipedia.


A Python program is a group of modules. Technically a module is just a list of statements, but we often think of it as composed of classes and functions. These top-level entities, the module, class, and function are represented by the three CodeQL classes Module, Class and Function which are all subclasses of Scope.

  • Scope
    • Module
    • Class
    • Function

All scopes are basically a list of statements, although Scope classes have additional attributes such as names. For example, the following query finds all functions whose scope (the scope in which they are declared) is also a function:

import python

from Function f
where f.getScope() instanceof Function
select f

Many codebases use nested functions.


A statement is represented by the Stmt class which has about 20 subclasses representing the various kinds of statements, such as the Pass statement, the Return statement or the For statement. Statements are usually made up of parts. The most common of these is the expression, represented by the Expr class. For example, take the following Python for statement:

for var in seq:
    return 0

The For class representing the for statement has a number of member predicates to access its parts:

  • getTarget() returns the Expr representing the variable var.
  • getIter() returns the Expr resenting the variable seq.
  • getBody() returns the statement list body.
  • getStmt(0) returns the pass Stmt.
  • getOrElse() returns the StmtList containing the return statement.


Most statements are made up of expressions. The Expr class is the superclass of all expression classes, of which there are about 30 including calls, comprehensions, tuples, lists and arithmetic operations. For example, the Python expression a+2 is represented by the BinaryExpr class:

  • getLeft() returns the Expr representing the a.
  • getRight() returns the Expr representing the 2.

As an example, to find expressions of the form a+2 where the left is a simple name and the right is a numeric constant we can use the following query:

Finding expressions of the form “a+2”

import python

from BinaryExpr bin
where bin.getLeft() instanceof Name and bin.getRight() instanceof Num
select bin

Many codebases include examples of this pattern.


Variables are represented by the Variable class in the CodeQL library. There are two subclasses, LocalVariable for function-level and class-level variables and GlobalVariable for module-level variables.

Other source code elements

Although the meaning of the program is encoded by the syntactic elements, Scope, Stmt and Expr there are some parts of the source code not covered by the abstract syntax tree. The most useful of these is the Comment class which describes comments in the source code.


Each syntactic element in Python source is recorded in the CodeQL database. These can be queried via the corresponding class. Let us start with a couple of simple examples.

1. Finding all finally blocks

For our first example, we can find all finally blocks by using the Try class:

Find all finally blocks

import python

from Try t
select t.getFinalbody()

Many codebases include examples of this pattern.

2. Finding except blocks that do nothing

For our second example, we can use a simplified version of a query from the standard query set. We look for all except blocks that do nothing.

A block that does nothing is one that contains no statements except pass statements. We can encode this as:

not exists(Stmt s | s = ex.getAStmt() | not s instanceof Pass)

where ex is an ExceptStmt and Pass is the class representing pass statements. Instead of using the double negative, “no statements that are not pass statements”, this can also be expressed positively, “all statements must be pass statements.” The positive form is expressed using the forall quantifier:

forall(Stmt s | s = ex.getAStmt() | s instanceof Pass)

Both forms are equivalent. Using the positive expression, the whole query looks like this:

Find pass-only except blocks

import python

from ExceptStmt ex
where forall(Stmt s | s = ex.getAStmt() | s instanceof Pass)
select ex

Many codebases include pass-only except blocks.


The most commonly used standard classes in the syntactic part of the library are organized as follows:

Module, Class, Function, Stmt, and Expr - they are all subclasses of AstNode.

Abstract syntax tree

  • AstNode
    • Module – A Python module
    • Class – The body of a class definition
    • Function – The body of a function definition
    • Stmt – A statement
      • Assert – An assert statement
      • Assign – An assignment
        • AssignStmt – An assignment statement, x = y
        • ClassDef – A class definition statement
        • FunctionDef – A function definition statement
      • AugAssign – An augmented assignment, x += y
      • Break – A break statement
      • Continue – A continue statement
      • Delete – A del statement
      • ExceptStmt – The except part of a try statement
      • Exec – An exec statement
      • For – A for statement
      • If – An if statement
      • Pass – A pass statement
      • Print – A print statement (Python 2 only)
      • Raise – A raise statement
      • Return – A return statement
      • Try – A try statement
      • While – A while statement
      • With – A with statement
    • Expr – An expression
      • Attribute – An attribute, obj.attr
      • Call – A function call, f(arg)
      • IfExp – A conditional expression, x if cond else y
      • Lambda A lambda expression
      • Yield – A yield expression
      • Bytes – A bytes literal, b"x" or (in Python 2) "x"
      • Unicode – A unicode literal, u"x" or (in Python 3) "x"
      • Num – A numeric literal, 3 or 4.2
        • IntegerLiteral
        • FloatLiteral
        • ImaginaryLiteral
      • Dict – A dictionary literal, {'a': 2}
      • Set – A set literal, {'a', 'b'}
      • List – A list literal, ['a', 'b']
      • Tuple – A tuple literal, ('a', 'b')
      • DictComp – A dictionary comprehension, {k: v for ...}
      • SetComp – A set comprehension, {x for ...}
      • ListComp – A list comprehension, [x for ...]
      • GenExpr – A generator expression, (x for ...)
      • Subscript – A subscript operation, seq[index]
      • Name – A reference to a variable, var
      • UnaryExpr – A unary operation, -x
      • BinaryExpr – A binary operation, x+y
      • Compare – A comparison operation, 0 < x < 10
      • BoolExpr – Short circuit logical operations, x and y, x or y


  • Variable – A variable
    • LocalVariable – A variable local to a function or a class
    • GlobalVariable – A module level variable


  • Comment – A comment

Control flow classes

This part of the library represents the control flow graph of each Scope (classes, functions, and modules). Each Scope contains a graph of ControlFlowNode elements. Each scope has a single entry point and at least one (potentially many) exit points. To speed up control and data flow analysis, control flow nodes are grouped into basic blocks. For more information, see Basic block on Wikipedia.


If we want to find the longest sequence of code without any branches, we need to consider control flow. A BasicBlock is, by definition, a sequence of code without any branches, so we just need to find the longest BasicBlock.

First of all we introduce a simple predicate bb_length() which relates BasicBlocks to their length.

int bb_length(BasicBlock b) {
    result = max(int i | exists(b.getNode(i))) + 1

Each ControlFlowNode within a BasicBlock is numbered consecutively, starting from zero, therefore the length of a BasicBlock is equal to one more than the largest index within that BasicBlock.

Using this predicate we can select the longest BasicBlock by selecting the BasicBlock whose length is equal to the maximum length of any BasicBlock:

Find the longest sequence of code without branches

import python

int bb_length(BasicBlock b) {
    result = max(int i | exists(b.getNode(i)) | i) + 1

from BasicBlock b
where bb_length(b) = max(bb_length(_))
select b


The special underscore variable _ means any value; so bb_length(_) is the length of any block.


The classes in the control-flow part of the library are:

  • ControlFlowNode – A control-flow node. There is a one-to-many relation between AST nodes and control-flow nodes.
  • BasicBlock – A non branching list of control-flow nodes.
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