Puts Print And Return Readme


We'll cover how the puts and printcommands display Ruby code to the console, and then explain the concept of return values in Ruby.


  1. Define and distinguish puts from print.
  2. Identify implicit return values in Ruby syntax.
  3. Distinguish between the display outputs of puts and printfrom their return values.
  4. Use the explicit return keyword.

puts and print

The puts (short for "out*put s*tring") and print commands are both used to display in the console the results of evaluating Ruby code. The primary difference between them is that puts adds a new line after executing, and print does not.

3.times { print "Hello!" }
# > Hello!Hello!Hello!

3.times { puts "Hello!" }
# > Hello!
# > Hello!
# > Hello!

By default, Ruby doesn't display any output. The methods puts and print are a great way to explicitly tell the program to display specific information. Without these printing methods, Ruby will read the line, but not print anything out.

Bonus: How Puts and Print put and print

How do the puts and print methods actually output text to your console? They use the $stdout global variable provided to us by Ruby. (You don't need to worry about writing global variables right now.) For the purposes of understanding how puts and print work, we just need to understand the following:

Ruby uses the $stdout global variable to communicate with your computers standard output stream (this happens through various other intermediaries which we won't delve into now). So in a basic sense, puts and print actually use the $stdout variable to send the information to the output stream on your computer which communicates with your operating system and outputs that information to the console.

You can absolutely employ puts and print without understanding everything that was just described. But if you do understand it, then you now have a basic sense of what is happening under the hood of these methods.

Returning Values

While methods like puts and print allow us to output to the console, this is different from Ruby's concept of a return value.

A return value is the data returned to the program by the execution of a method, the assignment of a variable, actually...

Everything in Ruby has a return value!

For instance:

Code Return Value
"Hello world" "Hello world"
6 + 3 9
president = "Obama" "Obama"
total = 6 + 3 9
puts "hello world" nil
print "hello world" nil

You may notice that the puts and print methods, when run in IRB, print values on the screen and then display a line like this: => nil. This is because puts and print may print the value you want, but instead of returning that value, they return nil.

Return Values of Methods

Methods are like vending machines. When you use a vending machine you just put in two arguments, the number (C7) and your money. We already know how to use arguments, but then your vending machine might do two things. One, it will make a noise saying that everything worked, beep beep. Then it gives you the soda. The soda is the return type. But those beeps? Are you able to do anything with them? Nope! That's like puts: it just tells you stuff and then goes into the ether! Gone forever.

Every method in Ruby returns a value by default. This returned value will be the value of the last statement.

For example, let's look at this method called restaurant:

def restaurant
  restaurant_name = "Guy's American Kitchen & Bar"
  cuisine = "american"
  motto = "Welcome to Flavor Town!"

The return value of the restaurant method is "Welcome to Flavor Town!" because that was the last statement evaluated.

Say you're the best chef in the world, Guy Fieri. To make a method that just prints your name and returns nil, you could write:

def print_name
  puts "Guy Fieri"

To write a method that returns your name but doesn't print anything, you could write:

def return_name
  "Guy Fieri"

To both print and return your name, you could write:

def print_and_return_name
  puts "Guy Fieri"
  "Guy Fieri"

If you accidentally switched the order of the lines inside the method:

def broken_print_and_return_name
  "Guy Fieri"
  puts "Guy Fieri"

The method would instead print "Guy Fieri" and return nil. This is because the last line that was evaluated was puts ... and the return value of a puts, as seen in the table above, is always nil.

The Return Keyword

There is one other way to return a value from a method and that is to use the return keyword.

Let's take a look:

def stylish_chef
  best_hairstyle = "Guy Fieri"
  return "Martha Stewart"
  "Guy Fieri"

What do you expect the return value of the above method to be? Go into IRB, copy and paste the above method and call it. Go on, I'll wait.


You may have expected the return value to be "Guy Fieri". His name is the last line of the method and it is true that he does have the best style (you can't beat sunglasses on the back of the head, sorry).

However, the return value of the above method is actually => Martha Stewart! (Note: if you aren't getting "Martha Stewart" as the return value remember you need to call the method in IRB.)

The return keyword will disrupt the execution of your method. If you employ it, your method will return whatever you have explicitly told it to (in this case, "Martha Stewart"), and terminate.

The explicit use of the return keyword is generally avoided by many Rubyists, but there are instances where you might want to use return instead of relying on implicit returns. In the following method, we create a variable name. For fun, let's see the name reversed. The method puts out the reversed name; however, because we use return, the return value of the method will be the original name unchanged.

def change_my_name
  name = "Frank"
  puts name.reverse
  return name

Code Along Exercise: Practicing Return Values

Let's try it out once more together. In your terminal, drop into IRB. Then, follow the steps below:

  1. In IRB, type: 6 + 3

    • You should see a return value of => 9
  2. Now, set a variable total equal to 6 + 3.

    • You've just stored the return value of adding 6 and 3 and you can now grab that return value 9 by referencing the total variable.
  3. Set another variable, new_total equal to total + 10.

    • You should see a return value of 19.
  4. Copy and paste the below method definitions in IRB and hit return.

First Method

def print_one_plus_one
  puts 1+1

print_one_plus_one #this invokes the method

You should see the following output:

=> nil

In the first method, the method outputs 2 to the terminal then returns nil, because puts always returns nil.

Second Method

def one_plus_one

one_plus_one #this invokes the method

You should see the following output:

 => 2

In the second method, the method simply returns the value of 1+1, which is 2.

Why Return Values Matter

Return values are how different parts of your program communicate with one another. You don't have to worry too much about this for now, but as you start to build more complicated programs, you'll find that the return value of one method might be operated on by a subsequent method.

Let's look at a very basic example. Earlier, in IRB, we set a variable total equal to the return value of adding 6 + 3. First, return to IRB. Then re-create your total variable as the sum of 6 + 3.

On the next line, execute total + 17. You should see a return value of => 26. Thus, the return value of one operation (6 + 3) was used to execute further operations (the addition of 17).

As we've just done, you'll find that we will often store return values in variables so that we can use them later.

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