[R] how to test for the empty set

G. Jay Kerns gkerns at ysu.edu
Mon Nov 24 18:41:25 CET 2008

Dear R-help,

I first thought that the empty set (for a vector) would be NULL.

x <- c()

However, the documentation seems to make clear that there _many_ empty
sets depending on the vector's mode, namely, numeric(0), character(0),
logical(0), etc.  This is borne out by

y <- letters[1:3]
z <- letters[4:6]

which, of course, is non-NULL:

is.null(character(0))   # FALSE

So, how can we test if a vector is, say, character(0)?  The following
doesn't (seem to) work:

x <- character(0)
x == character(0)  # logical(0)

More snooping led to the following:


and at the bottom of the page it says "logical(0) is an empty set,
thus is TRUE".  However, I get

isTRUE(logical(0))   # FALSE

but, on the other hand,

all.equal(x, character(0))  # TRUE

This would seem to be the solution, but am I missing something? and in
particular, is there an elegant way to check in the case that the mode
of the vector is not already known?

Thanks in advance for any insight you may have.


G. Jay Kerns, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Mathematics & Statistics
Youngstown State University
Youngstown, OH 44555-0002 USA
Office: 1035 Cushwa Hall
Phone: (330) 941-3310 Office (voice mail)
-3302 Department
-3170 FAX
E-mail: gkerns at ysu.edu

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