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Series.str.replace() is not actually the same as str.replace() #16808

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rosnfeld opened this Issue Jun 30, 2017 · 6 comments

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@rosnfeld
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commented Jun 30, 2017

Code Sample

In [1]: import pandas as pd

In [2]: series = pd.Series(['a', '(b)'])

In [3]: series.str.replace('a', '[a]')
Out[3]: 
0    [a]
1    (b)
dtype: object

In [4]: series.str.replace('(b)', '[b]')  # unexpected behavior
Out[4]: 
0        a
1    ([b])
dtype: object

In [5]: series.str.replace('\(b\)', '[b]')  # need to escape
Out[5]: 
0      a
1    [b]
dtype: object

In [6]: '(b)'.replace('(b)', '[b]')   # Python str.replace is different, uses literal string
Out[6]: '[b]'

Problem description

The documentation for Series.str.replace says that it takes a "string or compiled regex" ... "String can be a character sequence or regular expression." ... "When repl is a string, every pat is replaced as with str.replace()"

However, that's not what is happening - it appears it's interpreting a string as a regex, so you need to escape characters like parentheses.

Expected Output

I would expect that for vanilla strings, it works like regular Python str.replace() - using literal strings instead of regexes.

Alternatively the documentation could be updated, but I think the Python str.replace() behavior is what most users would expect.

Output of pd.show_versions()

# Paste the output here pd.show_versions() here INSTALLED VERSIONS ------------------ commit: None python: 3.6.1.final.0 python-bits: 64 OS: Linux OS-release: 4.4.0-83-generic machine: x86_64 processor: x86_64 byteorder: little LC_ALL: None LANG: en_GB.UTF-8 LOCALE: en_GB.UTF-8

pandas: 0.20.2
pytest: 3.1.2
pip: 9.0.1
setuptools: 27.2.0
Cython: 0.25.2
numpy: 1.13.0
scipy: 0.19.1
xarray: None
IPython: 6.1.0
sphinx: None
patsy: None
dateutil: 2.6.0
pytz: 2017.2
blosc: None
bottleneck: None
tables: 3.3.0
numexpr: 2.6.2
feather: None
matplotlib: 2.0.2
openpyxl: None
xlrd: None
xlwt: None
xlsxwriter: None
lxml: None
bs4: None
html5lib: 0.999
sqlalchemy: None
pymysql: None
psycopg2: None
jinja2: 2.9.6
s3fs: None
pandas_gbq: None
pandas_datareader: None

@jreback

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commented Jul 1, 2017

from the doc-string

Signature: Series.str.replace(self, pat, repl, n=-1, case=None, flags=0)
Docstring:
Replace occurrences of pattern/regex in the Series/Index with
some other string. Equivalent to :meth:str.replace or
:func:re.sub.

it is a bit ambiguous, though so is a pattern like (b), is it a regex or not? This is almost always a regex. So I suppose a case could be made for:

  • adding a .sub function which is by-definition a regex and making .replace strict
  • adding a regex=True arg to control whether to interpret this as a regex.
@rosnfeld

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commented Jul 1, 2017

I'm fine with either solution, not sure which is more intuitive or less disruptive to existing practice. I too had considered suggesting an additional "regex" param but had forgotten it when I went to write the issue up; if we go that way I'd argue for defaulting to regex=False.

For what it's worth, a user might not know they are passing a string that "looks like a regex". Maybe you got a result from some other operation and didn't inspect it, but still passed it in to series.str.replace(). I stumbled upon this issue doing something like the following: imagine an item description with a parenthetical remark - e.g. "Men's shirt (blue)" - and you try and replace all instances of that with some other text, maybe just "Men's clothing". When some of your replacements fail to take, it's pretty surprising.

In [1]: import pandas as pd

In [2]: series = pd.Series(['No parens', 'Some text (with parens)'])

In [3]: series.str.replace('No parens', 'Replaced')
Out[3]: 
0                   Replaced
1    Some text (with parens)
dtype: object

In [4]: series.str.replace('Some text (with parens)', 'Replaced') # fails to replace
Out[4]: 
0                  No parens
1    Some text (with parens)
dtype: object

In [5]: series.str.replace(series.max(), 'Replaced') # nothing gets replaced!
Out[5]: 
0                  No parens
1    Some text (with parens)
dtype: object
@Liam3851

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commented Jan 29, 2018

We just hit this issue. At this point the problem goes back at least to 0.16 and is still present in the current 0.23 dev. Problem is at

use_re = is_compiled_re or len(pat) > 1 or flags or callable(repl) 

Thus any pattern len>1 is interpreted as a regex, whether it actually can be parsed as a regex or not.

At this point, any change that made it non-default to regex would be breaking, so I think the options are:

  1. Update the documentation only. This function does not support replacing "character sequences", it supports replacing a single character OR a regex if multiple characters.

  2. Add regex=True and make the above line something like

use_re = is_compiled_re or (regex and (len(pat) > 1 or flags)) or callable(repl)

Any thoughts? Current behavior really is inconsistent with the doc.

@TomAugspurger

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commented Feb 1, 2018

+1 for adding regex=True. We have this elsewhere in, e.g. .str.contains.

Interested in making a PR @Liam3851?

@Liam3851

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commented Feb 2, 2018

I can do a PR. Question on API, though, before I write. Suppose someone gives us

ser.str.replace(re.compile('[abc]'), 'd', regex=False)

Should that raise or should we just silently use regex?

Also, while

use_re = is_compiled_re or (regex and (len(pat) > 1 or flags)) or callable(repl)

maintains back compat, it does mean that regex=True with a single character always basically implies regex=False. I suppose it could be confusing for someone to explicitly write

ser.str.replace('.', 'a', regex=True)

and have it only replace periods and not all characters. But maybe that's such a rare request anyway we can let it go for the sake of back compat?

Liam3851 added a commit to Liam3851/pandas that referenced this issue Feb 7, 2018

@jreback jreback added this to the 0.23.0 milestone Feb 8, 2018

jreback added a commit that referenced this issue Feb 28, 2018

harisbal added a commit to harisbal/pandas that referenced this issue Mar 12, 2018

Squashed commit of the following:
commit df2e361
Author: Jeff Reback <jeff@reback.net>
Date:   Sun Mar 11 18:33:25 2018 -0400

    LINT: fixing

commit f1c0b7c
Author: David Polo <delkk0@users.noreply.github.com>
Date:   Sun Mar 11 22:54:27 2018 +0100

    DOC: Improved the docstring of pandas.plotting._core.FramePlotMethods… (pandas-dev#20157)

    * DOC: Improved the docstring of pandas.plotting._core.FramePlotMethods.barh()
    - Added examples section
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    * DOC: Improved the docstring of pandas.plotting._core.FramePlotMethods.barh()
    - Adding defaults for variables.

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commit 0780193
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Date:   Sun Mar 11 22:37:37 2018 +0100

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commit 2718984
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    DOC: Update the pandas.Series.dt.round/floor/ceil docstrings (pandas-dev#20187)

    * DOC: Update the pandas.Series.dt.round/floor/ceil docstrings

    * DOC: review points fixed.

    * Add series

commit 0d86742
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    DOC: Improved pandas.plotting.bootstrap_plot docstring (pandas-dev#20166)

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    * Doc bootstrap_plot: Fixed some comments on pull requests

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    * Removed ** from kwds becuase of validation iuses

    * Fixed forgotten break line. I think that the kwds paramater now fits what expected @TomAugspurger. If not, sorry and indicate how it should be

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    DOC: update the Index.get_values docstring (pandas-dev#20231)

    * DOC: update the Index.get_values docstring

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    * See also correction

    * Multi ndim

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    DOC: update the pandas.DataFrame.all docstring (pandas-dev#20216)

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    DOC: update the Series.view docstring (pandas-dev#20220)

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    DOC: update the docstring of pandas.DataFrame.from_dict (pandas-dev#20259)

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commit 080ef0c
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    * Singular not plural

    * Update to account for use with Series. Add example using Series.

    * Update indexing.py

    * PEP8

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    DOC: update the pandas.DataFrame.diff docstring (pandas-dev#20227)

    * DOC: update the pandas.DataFrame.diff  docstring

    * DOC: update the pandas.DataFrame.diff docstring

    * DOC: update the pandas.DataFrame.diff docstring

    * DOC: update the pandas.DataFrame.diff docstring

    * DOC: update the pandas.DataFrame.diff docstring

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    DOC: update the pandas.date_range() docstring (pandas-dev#20143)

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    * flake8 errors

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    ========================================================================================== test session starts ==========================================================================================
    platform darwin -- Python 3.6.4, pytest-3.4.2, py-1.5.2, pluggy-0.6.0
    rootdir: /Users/sinayoks/dev/pandas, inifile: setup.cfg
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    ========================================================================================== 42 tests deselected ==========================================================================================
    ```

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    * DOC: updating docstring of Index.shift

    * Add See Also section to shift

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    xref pandas-dev#20031

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    xref pandas-dev#19976

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    TST: xfail some tests for mpl 2.2 compat (pandas-dev#20033)

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Author: alinde1 <32714875+alinde1@users.noreply.github.com>
Date:   Tue Mar 6 22:47:45 2018 +0100

    DOC: is confusing for ddof parameter of sem, var and std functions (pandas-dev#19986)

commit db82165
Author: Joris Van den Bossche <jorisvandenbossche@gmail.com>
Date:   Tue Mar 6 22:42:41 2018 +0100

    CLN/DOC: cache_readonly: remove allow_setting + preserve docstring (pandas-dev#19991)

commit e02f737
Author: Tom Augspurger <TomAugspurger@users.noreply.github.com>
Date:   Tue Mar 6 09:38:32 2018 -0600

    DOC: add doc on ExtensionArray and extending pandas (pandas-dev#19936)

commit 0ca77b3
Author: jbrockmendel <jbrockmendel@gmail.com>
Date:   Tue Mar 6 04:27:21 2018 -0800

    Datetimelike add/sub catch cases more explicitly, tests (pandas-dev#19912)

commit 0038bad
Author: Matthew Roeschke <emailformattr@gmail.com>
Date:   Tue Mar 6 04:25:55 2018 -0800

    month_name/day_name warnings followup (pandas-dev#20010)

commit fd63c90
Author: Ksenia <bobrovaksenia@gmail.com>
Date:   Tue Mar 6 13:25:37 2018 +0100

    TST: split series/test_indexing.py (pandas-dev#18614) (pandas-dev#20006)

commit 6366bf0
Author: Jeff Reback <jeff@reback.net>
Date:   Tue Mar 6 07:25:17 2018 -0500

    TST: clean deprecation warnings for xref pandas-dev#19980 (pandas-dev#20013)

    xfail some mpl > 2.1.2 tests

commit fe61299
Author: William Ayd <william.ayd@icloud.com>
Date:   Tue Mar 6 00:30:13 2018 -0800

    DOC: fixed dynamic import mechanics of make.py (pandas-dev#20005)

commit 8a084eb
Author: Grant Smith <grantsmith@gmail.com>
Date:   Tue Mar 6 03:29:26 2018 -0500

    CLN: deprecate the pandas.tseries.plotting.tsplot function (GH18627) (pandas-dev#19980)

commit aedbd94
Author: Jeff Reback <jeff@reback.net>
Date:   Mon Mar 5 06:36:41 2018 -0500

    TST: text correction, xref pandas-dev#19987

commit cbffd19
Author: Bhavesh Poddar <bhavesh13103507@gmail.com>
Date:   Mon Mar 5 06:34:59 2018 -0500

    fixed pytest deprecation warning (pandas-dev#19987)

commit 058a16c
Author: Matthew Roeschke <emailformattr@gmail.com>
Date:   Mon Mar 5 03:23:49 2018 -0800

    CLN: Use generators in builtin functions (pandas-dev#19989)

commit 607910b
Author: Matthew Roeschke <emailformattr@gmail.com>
Date:   Sun Mar 4 12:15:37 2018 -0800

    Add month names (pandas-dev#18164)

commit 2fad756
Author: jbrockmendel <jbrockmendel@gmail.com>
Date:   Sun Mar 4 12:00:39 2018 -0800

    transition period_helper to use pandas_datetimestruct (pandas-dev#19918)

commit 53606ff
Author: Liam3851 <david.krych@gmail.com>
Date:   Sun Mar 4 14:58:22 2018 -0500

    BUG: Compat for pre-0.20 TimedeltaIndex and Float64Index pickles pandas-dev#19939 (pandas-dev#19943)

commit 0bfb61b
Author: Joris Van den Bossche <jorisvandenbossche@gmail.com>
Date:   Fri Mar 2 22:35:45 2018 +0100

    DOC: small updates to make.py script (pandas-dev#19951)

    * enable passing verbosity flag to sphinx

    * alias api for api.rst

commit d1f3689
Author: Joris Van den Bossche <jorisvandenbossche@gmail.com>
Date:   Fri Mar 2 22:33:48 2018 +0100

     DOC: fix some sphinx syntax warnings  (pandas-dev#19962)

commit 49f09cc
Author: Tom Augspurger <TomAugspurger@users.noreply.github.com>
Date:   Fri Mar 2 15:20:28 2018 -0600

    API: Added ExtensionArray constructor from scalars (pandas-dev#19913)

commit d30d165
Author: Joris Van den Bossche <jorisvandenbossche@gmail.com>
Date:   Fri Mar 2 22:18:10 2018 +0100

    DOC: update docstring validation script (pandas-dev#19960)

commit a7a7f8c
Author: Joris Van den Bossche <jorisvandenbossche@gmail.com>
Date:   Fri Mar 2 13:49:59 2018 +0100

    DOC: clarify version of ActivePython that includes pandas (pandas-dev#19964)

commit b167483
Author: Gina <Dr-G@users.noreply.github.com>
Date:   Fri Mar 2 05:33:49 2018 -0600

    DOC: update install.rst to include ActivePython distribution (pandas-dev#19908)

commit e6c7dea
Author: topper-123 <terji78@gmail.com>
Date:   Fri Mar 2 11:19:07 2018 +0000

    ENH: Let initialisation from dicts use insertion order for python >= 3.6 (part III) (pandas-dev#19884)

commit d615f86
Author: Marc Garcia <garcia.marc@gmail.com>
Date:   Fri Mar 2 09:39:45 2018 +0000

    DOC: Adding script to validate docstrings, and generate list of all functions/methods with state (pandas-dev#19898)

commit 5f271eb
Author: Yian <yian.shang@gmail.com>
Date:   Fri Mar 2 00:13:58 2018 +0100

    BUG: Adding skipna as an option to groupby cumsum and cumprod (pandas-dev#19914)

commit 072545d
Author: David C Hall <davidchall@users.noreply.github.com>
Date:   Thu Mar 1 15:06:20 2018 -0800

    ENH: Add option to disable MathJax (pandas-dev#19824). (pandas-dev#19856)

commit d44a6ec
Author: Yian <yian.shang@gmail.com>
Date:   Fri Mar 2 00:02:31 2018 +0100

    Making to_datetime('today') and Timestamp('today') consistent (pandas-dev#19937)

commit 87fefe2
Author: jbrockmendel <jbrockmendel@gmail.com>
Date:   Thu Mar 1 14:54:42 2018 -0800

    dispatch Series[datetime64] comparison ops to DatetimeIndex (pandas-dev#19800)

commit 9242248
Author: Matthew Roeschke <emailformattr@gmail.com>
Date:   Thu Mar 1 14:50:35 2018 -0800

    BUG: DataFrame.diff(axis=0) with DatetimeTZ data (pandas-dev#19773)

commit c5a1ef1
Author: Joris Van den Bossche <jorisvandenbossche@gmail.com>
Date:   Thu Mar 1 22:48:39 2018 +0100

    DOC: remove empty attribute/method lists from class docstrings html page (pandas-dev#19949)

commit 9958ce6
Author: jschendel <jschendel@users.noreply.github.com>
Date:   Thu Mar 1 04:14:19 2018 -0700

    BUG: Preserve column metadata with DataFrame.astype (pandas-dev#19948)

commit 3b4eb8d
Author: Joris Van den Bossche <jorisvandenbossche@gmail.com>
Date:   Thu Mar 1 12:12:35 2018 +0100

    CLN: remove redundant clean_fill_method calls (pandas-dev#19947)

commit c8859b5
Author: Joris Van den Bossche <jorisvandenbossche@gmail.com>
Date:   Thu Mar 1 10:35:05 2018 +0100

    DOC: script to build single docstring page (pandas-dev#19840)

commit 52559f5
Author: Matthew Roeschke <emailformattr@gmail.com>
Date:   Wed Feb 28 17:32:24 2018 -0800

    ENH: Allow Timestamp to accept Nanosecond argument (pandas-dev#19889)

commit 4a27697
Author: William Ayd <william.ayd@icloud.com>
Date:   Wed Feb 28 17:30:18 2018 -0800

    Cythonized GroupBy any (pandas-dev#19722)

commit 96b8bb1
Author: jschendel <jschendel@users.noreply.github.com>
Date:   Wed Feb 28 18:07:15 2018 -0700

    ENH: Implement DataFrame.astype('category') (pandas-dev#18099)

commit 6ef4be3
Author: Liam3851 <david.krych@gmail.com>
Date:   Wed Feb 28 06:14:11 2018 -0500

    ENH: Allow literal (non-regex) replacement using .str.replace pandas-dev#16808 (pandas-dev#19584)

commit 318a287
Author: README Bot <35302948+codetriage-readme-bot@users.noreply.github.com>
Date:   Wed Feb 28 05:07:28 2018 -0600

    Add CodeTriage badge to pandas-dev/pandas (pandas-dev#19928)

    Adds a badge showing the number of people helping this repo on CodeTriage.

commit 14a38a6
Author: Chris Catalfo <ccatalfo@users.noreply.github.com>
Date:   Wed Feb 28 03:14:23 2018 -0500

    DOC: fixes pipe example in basics.rst due to statsmodel changes (pandas-dev#19923)

commit dfe9d4a
Author: Phil Ngo <ngo.phil@gmail.com>
Date:   Wed Feb 28 00:05:56 2018 -0800

    DOC: fix Series.reset_index example (pandas-dev#19930)

commit 9bdc5c8
Author: William Ayd <william.ayd@icloud.com>
Date:   Tue Feb 27 16:16:48 2018 -0800

    Consistent Timedelta Writing for all Excel Engines (pandas-dev#19921)

commit 61211a8
Author: jbrockmendel <jbrockmendel@gmail.com>
Date:   Tue Feb 27 16:11:47 2018 -0800

    Assorted _libs cleanups (pandas-dev#19887)
@tobycheese

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commented Dec 12, 2018

Is it intentional that in Series|DataFrame.replace, regex defaults to False, in Series.str.replace regexp defaults to True (and plain python str.replace does not use regexps)?

That default to True often bites me, maybe we can add a warning?

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