How to Use str_count in R (With Examples)

Spread the love

The str_count function in R, from the stringr package, is a versatile and valuable function used to count the number of matches of a pattern in a string. This can be especially useful when dealing with textual data in various data analysis and data manipulation tasks in R. This article delves deeply into the utilization of the str_count function, providing examples and applications.

Basic Usage of str_count

The str_count( ) from the stringr package is used to count the number of matches in a string. The basic usage of str_count involves two arguments: the string and the pattern to be matched. Here’s a simple illustration:

# Load the stringr package

# Counting the number of occurrences of 'a' in a string
str_count("banana", "a")
# Output: 3

Counting Multiple Patterns

For counting multiple patterns in a string, the user can input a vector of patterns.

# Counting the number of occurrences of 'a' and 'b' in a string
str_count("banana", c("a", "b"))
# Output: 3 1

Using Regular Expressions

str_count allows the use of regular expressions, providing flexibility to match complex patterns in strings. For example, if you want to count the number of vowels in a string, you can use the following regular expression:

str_count("banana", "[aeiou]")
# Output: 3

Case Insensitivity

str_count is case-sensitive by default. However, you can make it case-insensitive using the regex() function with the ignore_case parameter.

str_count("Banana", regex("b", ignore_case = TRUE))
# Output: 1

Counting Patterns in a Vector of Strings

When dealing with a vector of strings, str_count efficiently counts the occurrences of a pattern in each string of the vector.

fruits <- c("apple", "banana", "cherry")
str_count(fruits, "a")
# Output: 1 3 0

Counting Patterns in a Data Frame

In data frames, str_count can be used to count occurrences of patterns within specific columns, offering insight into the distribution of patterns across different rows.

# Creating a sample data frame
my_data <- data.frame(
  text = c("apple", "banana", "cherry"),
  stringsAsFactors = FALSE

# Using str_count with dplyr to create a new column with count of 'a'
my_data <- my_data %>%
  mutate(a_count = str_count(text, "a"))

Applications in Text Analysis

The str_count function is particularly crucial in text analysis where understanding the frequency of specific words, characters, or patterns can yield insights into the text data.

Example: Analyzing Word Frequencies

Suppose we have a corpus of text and we want to analyze the frequency of specific words within this corpus.

# Sample text corpus
corpus <- "R is a programming language and environment for statistical computing and graphics. R is highly extensible."

# Counting the occurrences of the word 'R'
str_count(corpus, "\\bR\\b")
# Output: 2

\\bR\\b is used as the pattern to match. Here, \\b is a word boundary in regular expressions, and R is the word you are counting. This ensures that it only counts occurrences of “R” as a word and not as a part of other words.

Handling Special Characters

When the pattern includes characters that are special in regex, they need to be escaped with double backslashes \\.

# Counting the occurrences of '+' in a string
str_count("C++ is a programming language.", "\\+")
# Output: 2

Performance Considerations

When dealing with large textual datasets, performance is a key consideration. The str_count function is optimized for performance and is generally more efficient compared to using gsub and nchar in base R to count occurrences.


The str_count function in R’s stringr package is an indispensable tool for string manipulation and analysis, allowing users to count the occurrences of patterns within strings. It caters to a range of use cases, from simple string matching to complex text analysis using regular expressions, and offers optimized performance for dealing with large datasets.

By integrating str_count with other functions and packages in R, such as dplyr for data manipulation or utilizing it in tandem with other stringr functions, users can extract valuable insights from text data, build comprehensive data analysis pipelines, and create informative textual data representations.

Posted in RTagged

Leave a Reply