# [Rd] Documentation of model.frame() and get_all_vars()

Martin Maechler maechler at stat.math.ethz.ch
Mon Mar 27 10:44:42 CEST 2017

>>>>> Thomas J Leeper <thosjleeper at gmail.com>
>>>>>     on Sun, 26 Mar 2017 17:48:17 +0100 writes:

> Hi everyone,
> This is about documentation for the model.frame() page. The
> get_all_vars() function (added in R 2.5.0) is a great addition, but
> the behavior of its '...' argument is different from that of
> model.frame() with which it is documented and this creates ambiguity.

> \item{\dots}{further arguments such as \code{data}, \code{na.action},
> \code{subset}. Any additional arguments such as \code{offset} and
> \code{weights} which reach the default method are used to create
> further columns in the model frame, with parenthesised names such as
> \code{"(offset)"}.}

> This is only true for model.frame() methods but not get_all_vars().
> For get_all_vars(), arguments passed to '...' are only ever treated as
> variables to add to the data frame.

as the documentation of get_all_vars() actually does say.

But you are right:  The description of '...' should mention its
different meaning for get_all_vars().

> See for example:
>> str(model.frame(mpg ~ wt, data = mtcars, subset = am == 1), give.attr = FALSE)
> 'data.frame':   13 obs. of  2 variables:
> $mpg: num 21 21 22.8 32.4 30.4 33.9 27.3 26 30.4 15.8 ... >$ wt : num  2.62 2.88 2.32 2.2 1.61 ...

>> str(get_all_vars(mpg ~ wt, data = mtcars, subset = am == 1), give.attr = FALSE)
> 'data.frame':   32 obs. of  3 variables:
> $mpg : num 21 21 22.8 21.4 18.7 18.1 14.3 24.4 22.8 19.2 ... >$ wt    : num  2.62 2.88 2.32 3.21 3.44 ...
> $subset: logi TRUE TRUE TRUE FALSE FALSE FALSE ... > The behavior of '...' thus differs in the two functions. This is (I > think) a quite problematic ambiguity and one that might best be > resolved by adding data, na.action, and subset as formal arguments to > all current model.frame() methods and the generic to resolve the > ambiguity of '...' (with docs updated accordingly), but that would > require a more thorough patch and testing. Hmm, I agree with the very last part, however I don't understand why you claim this to be an important ambiguity to be resolved: get_all_vars() is _not_ called by any of our model.frame() methods, nor the reverse: it does not call model.frame(). I did not design or implement it but I think it does make sense to be documented on the same page as model.frame() because the functions have very similar semantics. Adding the extra arguments to the generic and all methods does not seem desirable to me. > In lieu of that, a simple documentation change could at least describe > the current behavior more accurately: > \item{\dots}{for \code{get_all_vars}, further named columns to include > in the model frame. For \code{model.frame} methods, a mix of further > arguments such as \code{data}, \code{na.action}, \code{subset} to pass > to the default method. Any additional arguments (such as \code{offset} > and \code{weights} or other named arguments) which reach the default > method are used to create further columns in the model frame, with > parenthesised names such as \code{"(offset)"}.} > That at least describes what is currently happening. I agree... and plan to commit this improved description (to R-devel and R 3.4.0 alpha). > Relatedly, it may be worth noting that additional variables passed via > '...' to get_all_vars() are subject to vector recycling whereas those > passed to model.frame.default() are not: I'll also mention the vector recycling for get_all_vars(). >> str(get_all_vars(mpg ~ wt, data = mtcars, new = 2), give.attr = FALSE) > 'data.frame': 32 obs. of 3 variables: >$ mpg: num  21 21 22.8 21.4 18.7 18.1 14.3 24.4 22.8 19.2 ...
> $wt : num 2.62 2.88 2.32 3.21 3.44 ... >$ new: num  2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 ...

>> str(get_all_vars(mpg ~ wt, data = mtcars, new = rep(2, nrow(mtcars))), give.attr = FALSE)
> 'data.frame':   32 obs. of  3 variables:
> $mpg: num 21 21 22.8 21.4 18.7 18.1 14.3 24.4 22.8 19.2 ... >$ wt : num  2.62 2.88 2.32 3.21 3.44 ...
> $new: num 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 ... >> str(model.frame.default(mpg ~ wt, data = mtcars, new = rep(2, nrow(mtcars))), give.attr = FALSE) > 'data.frame': 32 obs. of 3 variables: >$ mpg  : num  21 21 22.8 21.4 18.7 18.1 14.3 24.4 22.8 19.2 ...
> $wt : num 2.62 2.88 2.32 3.21 3.44 ... >$ (new): num  2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 ...

>> str(model.frame.default(mpg ~ wt, data = mtcars, new = 2), give.attr = FALSE)
> Error in model.frame.default(mpg ~ wt, data = mtcars, new = 2) :
> variable lengths differ (found for '(new)')

> But, maybe that's something for the "Details" section? (Or it's a bug
> - I don't really know.)

I would not want to change model.frame.default() currently as it's
too important a building block and it may be wise to require
that its callers should have done recycling.

Thank you Thomas for the suggested help file improvements!
Martin

--
Martin Maechler
ETH Zurich

> Best,
> -Thomas

> Thomas J. Leeper
> http://www.thomasleeper.com