How to join (merge) data frames (inner, outer, left, right)


Question

Given two data frames:

df1 = data.frame(CustomerId = c(1:6), Product = c(rep("Toaster", 3), rep("Radio", 3)))
df2 = data.frame(CustomerId = c(2, 4, 6), State = c(rep("Alabama", 2), rep("Ohio", 1)))

df1
#  CustomerId Product
#           1 Toaster
#           2 Toaster
#           3 Toaster
#           4   Radio
#           5   Radio
#           6   Radio

df2
#  CustomerId   State
#           2 Alabama
#           4 Alabama
#           6    Ohio

How can I do database style, i.e., sql style, joins? That is, how do I get:

  • An inner join of df1 and df2:
    Return only the rows in which the left table have matching keys in the right table.
  • An outer join of df1 and df2:
    Returns all rows from both tables, join records from the left which have matching keys in the right table.
  • A left outer join (or simply left join) of df1 and df2
    Return all rows from the left table, and any rows with matching keys from the right table.
  • A right outer join of df1 and df2
    Return all rows from the right table, and any rows with matching keys from the left table.

Extra credit:

How can I do a SQL style select statement?

1
1113
3/29/2019 5:14:34 PM

Accepted Answer

By using the merge function and its optional parameters:

Inner join: merge(df1, df2) will work for these examples because R automatically joins the frames by common variable names, but you would most likely want to specify merge(df1, df2, by = "CustomerId") to make sure that you were matching on only the fields you desired. You can also use the by.x and by.y parameters if the matching variables have different names in the different data frames.

Outer join: merge(x = df1, y = df2, by = "CustomerId", all = TRUE)

Left outer: merge(x = df1, y = df2, by = "CustomerId", all.x = TRUE)

Right outer: merge(x = df1, y = df2, by = "CustomerId", all.y = TRUE)

Cross join: merge(x = df1, y = df2, by = NULL)

Just as with the inner join, you would probably want to explicitly pass "CustomerId" to R as the matching variable. I think it's almost always best to explicitly state the identifiers on which you want to merge; it's safer if the input data.frames change unexpectedly and easier to read later on.

You can merge on multiple columns by giving by a vector, e.g., by = c("CustomerId", "OrderId").

If the column names to merge on are not the same, you can specify, e.g., by.x = "CustomerId_in_df1", by.y = "CustomerId_in_df2" where CustomerId_in_df1 is the name of the column in the first data frame and CustomerId_in_df2 is the name of the column in the second data frame. (These can also be vectors if you need to merge on multiple columns.)

1217
10/30/2018 12:40:14 AM

I would recommend checking out Gabor Grothendieck's sqldf package, which allows you to express these operations in SQL.

library(sqldf)

## inner join
df3 <- sqldf("SELECT CustomerId, Product, State 
              FROM df1
              JOIN df2 USING(CustomerID)")

## left join (substitute 'right' for right join)
df4 <- sqldf("SELECT CustomerId, Product, State 
              FROM df1
              LEFT JOIN df2 USING(CustomerID)")

I find the SQL syntax to be simpler and more natural than its R equivalent (but this may just reflect my RDBMS bias).

See Gabor's sqldf GitHub for more information on joins.


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