deparse {base}R Documentation

Expression Deparsing


Turn unevaluated expressions into character strings.


deparse(expr, width.cutoff = 60,
        backtick = mode(expr) %in% c("call", "expression", "("),
        control = "showAttributes")


expr any R expression.
width.cutoff integer in [20, 500] determining the cutoff at which line-breaking is tried.
backtick logical indicating whether symbolic names should be enclosed in backticks if they don't follow the standard syntax.
control character vector of deparsing options. See .deparseOpts.


This function turns unevaluated expressions (where “expression” is taken in a wider sense than the strict concept of a vector of mode "expression" used in expression) into character strings (a kind of inverse parse).

A typical use of this is to create informative labels for data sets and plots. The example shows a simple use of this facility. It uses the functions deparse and substitute to create labels for a plot which are character string versions of the actual arguments to the function myplot.

The default for the backtick option is not to quote single symbols but only composite expressions. This is a compromise to avoid breaking existing code.

Using control = "all" comes closest to making deparse() an inverse of parse(). However, not all objects are deparseable even with this option and a warning will be issued if the function recognizes that it is being asked to do the impossible.


To avoid the risk of a source attribute out of sync with the actual function definition, the source attribute of a function will never be deparsed as an attribute.


Becker, R. A., Chambers, J. M. and Wilks, A. R. (1988) The New S Language. Wadsworth & Brooks/Cole.

See Also

substitute, parse, expression.


deparse(args(lm), width = 500)
myplot <-
function(x, y) {
    plot(x, y, xlab=deparse(substitute(x)),
e <- quote(`foo bar`)
deparse(e, backtick=TRUE)
e <- quote(`foo bar`+1)
deparse(e, control = "all")

[Package base version 2.1.0 Index]