identical {base}R Documentation

Test Objects for Exact Equality


The safe and reliable way to test two objects for being exactly equal. It returns TRUE in this case, FALSE in every other case.


identical(x, y)


x, y any R objects.


A call to identical is the way to test exact equality in if and while statements, as well as in logical expressions that use && or ||. In all these applications you need to be assured of getting a single logical value.

Users often use the comparison operators, such as == or !=, in these situations. It looks natural, but it is not what these operators are designed to do in R. They return an object like the arguments. If you expected x and y to be of length 1, but it happened that one of them wasn't, you will not get a single FALSE. Similarly, if one of the arguments is NA, the result is also NA. In either case, the expression if(x == y).... won't work as expected.

The function all.equal is also sometimes used to test equality this way, but was intended for something different: It allows for “reasonable” differences in numeric results.

The computations in identical are also reliable and usually fast. There should never be an error. The only known way to kill identical is by having an invalid pointer at the C level, generating a memory fault. It will usually find inequality quickly. Checking equality for two large, complicated objects can take longer if the objects are identical or nearly so, but represent completely independent copies. For most applications, however, the computational cost should be negligible.

identical sees NaN as different from as.double(NA), but all NaNs are equal (and all NA of the same type are equal).

Comparison of character strings allows for embedded nul characters. Comparison of attributes view them as a set (and not a vector, so order is not tested).


A single logical value, TRUE or FALSE, never NA and never anything other than a single value.


John Chambers


Chambers, J. M. (1998) Programming with Data. A Guide to the S Language. Springer.

See Also

all.equal for descriptions of how two objects differ; Comparison for operators that generate elementwise comparisons. isTRUE is a simple wrapper based on identical.


identical(1, NULL) ## FALSE -- don't try this with ==
identical(1, 1.)   ## TRUE in R (both are stored as doubles)
identical(1, as.integer(1)) ## FALSE, stored as different types

x <- 1.0; y <- 0.99999999999
## how to test for object equality allowing for numeric fuzz :
(E <- all.equal(x,y))
isTRUE(E) # which is simply defined to just use
identical(TRUE, E)
## If all.equal thinks the objects are different, it returns a
## character string, and the above expression evaluates to FALSE

# even for unusual R objects :
identical(.GlobalEnv, environment())

[Package base version 2.5.0 Index]