Skip to content

Converting text to data

At the heart of Marvin is the ability to convert natural language to native Python types and structured objects. This is one of its simplest but most powerful features, and forms the basis for almost every other tool.

The primary tool for creating structured data is the cast function, which takes a natural language string as its input, as well as a type to which the text should be converted.

What it does

The cast function transforms natural language text into a Python type or structured object.


import marvin
from pydantic import BaseModel

class Location(BaseModel):
    city: str
    state: str

marvin.cast("the big apple", target=Location)


Location(city="New York", state="NY")

How it works

Marvin creates a schema from the provided type and instructs the LLM to use the schema to format its JSON response.

In Python, the JSON representation is hydrated into a "full" instance of the type.

Supported types

The cast function supports conversion almost all builtin Python types, plus Pydantic models and Python's Literal, and TypedDict. When called, the LLM will take all available information into account, performing deductive reasoning if necessary, to determine the best output. The result will be a Python object of the provided type.


Sometimes the cast operation is obvious, as in the "big apple" example above. Other times, it may be more nuanced. In these cases, the LLM may require guidance or examples to make the right decision. You can provide natural language instructions when calling cast() in order to steer the output.

In a simple case, instructions can be used independent of any type-casting. Here, we want to keep the output a string, but get the 2-letter abbreviation of the state.

marvin.cast('California', target=str, instructions="The state's abbreviation")
# "CA"

marvin.cast('The sunshine state', target=str, instructions="The state's abbreviation")
# "FL"

marvin.cast('Mass.', target=str, instructions="The state's abbreviation")
# MA


One way of classifying text is by casting it to a constrained type, such as an Enum or bool. This forces the LLM to choose one of the provided options.

Marvin provides a dedicated classify function for this purpose. As a convenience, cast will automatically switch to classify when given a constrained target type. However, you may prefer to use the classify function to make your intent more clear to other developers.

AI models

In addition to providing Pydantic models as cast targets, Marvin has a drop-in replacement for Pydantic's BaseModel that permits instantiating the model with natural language. These "AI Models" can be created in two different ways:

  1. Decorating a BaseModel with @marvin.model.
  2. Subclassing the marvin.Model class

Though these are roughly equivalent, we recommend the decorator as it will make the intent more clear to other developers (in particular, it will not hide that the model is a BaseModel).

Here is the class decorator:

import marvin

class Location:
    city: str
    state: str

# Location(city="Chicago", state="IL")

And here is the equivalent subclass:

import marvin

class Location(marvin.Model):
    city: str
    state: str

# Location(city="Chicago", state="IL")

Model parameters

You can pass parameters to the underlying API via the model_kwargs argument of cast or @model. These parameters are passed directly to the API, so you can use any supported parameter.

Async support

If you are using marvin in an async environment, you can use cast_async:

result = await marvin.cast_async("one", int) 

assert result == 1