How to Select Columns that Do Not Start with String in dplyr


You can use the following functions from the dplyr package in R to select columns that do not start with a specific string:

Method 1: Select Columns that Do Not Start with One Specific String

df %>%
  select(-starts_with("string1"))

Method 2: Select Columns that Do Not Start with One of Several Strings

df %>%
  select(-starts_with(c("string1", "string2", "string3")))

The following examples show how to use each of these methods in practice with the following data frame in R:

#create data frame
df <- data.frame(store1_sales=c(12, 10, 14, 19, 22, 25, 29),
                 store1_returns=c(3, 3, 2, 4, 3, 2, 1),
                 store2_sales=c(8, 8, 12, 14, 15, 13, 12),
                 store2_returns=c(1, 2, 2, 1, 2, 1, 3),
                 promotions=c(0, 1, 1, 1, 0, 0, 1))

#view data frame
df

  store1_sales store1_returns store2_sales store2_returns promotions
1           12              3            8              1          0
2           10              3            8              2          1
3           14              2           12              2          1
4           19              4           14              1          1
5           22              3           15              2          0
6           25              2           13              1          0
7           29              1           12              3          1

Example 1: Select Columns that Do Not Start with One Specific String

The following code shows how to use the -starts_with() function to select only the columns that do not start with “store1” in the data frame:

library(dplyr)

#select all columns that do not start with "store1"
df %>%
  select(-starts_with("store1"))

  store2_sales store2_returns promotions
1            8              1          0
2            8              2          1
3           12              2          1
4           14              1          1
5           15              2          0
6           13              1          0
7           12              3          1

Notice that the two columns that start with “store1” are not returned.

Example 2: Select Columns that Do Not Start with One of Several Strings

The following code shows how to use the -starts_with() function to select only the columns that do not start with “store1” or “prom” in the data frame:

library(dplyr)

#select all columns that do not start with "store1" or "prom"
df %>%
  select(-starts_with(c("store1", "prom")))

  store2_sales store2_returns
1            8              1
2            8              2
3           12              2
4           14              1
5           15              2
6           13              1
7           12              3

Notice that any columns that start with “store1” or “prom” are not returned.

Note: By default, the starts_with() function is case-insensitive. To make the function case-sensitive, use the ignore.case=FALSE argument within the function.

Additional Resources

The following tutorials explain how to perform other common tasks using dplyr:

How to Select Columns by Name Using dplyr
How to Select Columns by Index Using dplyr
How to Use select_if with Multiple Conditions in dplyr

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