nth, first & last R Functions of dplyr Package (4 Examples)


On this page, I’ll explain how to extract certain values from a vector with the nth, first, and last functions of the dplyr package in the R programming language.

The page will consist of four examples for the extraction of specific vector elements. To be more specific, the page looks as follows:

So now the part you have been waiting for – the examples:


Creation of Example Data

The examples of this R tutorial are based on the following vector:

x <- letters[1:10]               # Create example vector
# "a" "b" "c" "d" "e" "f" "g" "h" "i" "j"

Our example vector is a character vector and contains ten letters.

In order to be able to use the nth, first, and last functions, we also need to install and load the dplyr package to R:

install.packages("dplyr")        # Install & load dplyr

Now, we can move on to the application of the functions…


Example 1: nth Function

Example 1 explains how to apply the nth function of the dplyr package. The nth function is used to extract a vector element somewhere in the middle of a vector.

Let’s assume that we want to extract the fifth element of our vector, then we can use the nth function as follows:

nth(x, 5)                        # Apply nth function
# "e"

The RStudio console output is “e”, i.e. the fifth element of our example vector is the character “e”.


Example 2: nth Function with Negative Value

We can also use the nth function from the end of a vector. We simply have to put a minus sign in front of our position:

nth(x, - 3)                      # nth function with negative
# "h"

The character “h” is the third last value of our example vector.


Example 3: first Function

The first function works similar as the nth function, but this R function returns just the first element of an input vector:

first(x)                         # Apply first function
# "a"

The first element of our vector is “a”.


Example 4: last Function

The last command does the opposite as the first function: It returns the last element of a vector to the RStudio console:

last(x)                          # Apply last function
# "j"

The character “j” is the last entry of our vector.


Video & Further Resources

Do you need more info on the dplyr package? Then you may have a look at the following video of my YouTube channel. I’m explaining other commands of the dplyr package in the video.


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Furthermore, you might read some of the other tutorials of this website:


To summarize: In this R tutorial you learned how to get the first, last, or nth value from a vector or array. In case you have any additional comments or questions, please let me know in the comments section.


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