base (version 3.4.3)

complex: Complex Numbers and Basic Functionality


Basic functions which support complex arithmetic in R, in addition to the arithmetic operators +, -, *, /, and ^.


complex(length.out = 0, real = numeric(), imaginary = numeric(),
        modulus = 1, argument = 0)
as.complex(x, …)

Re(z) Im(z) Mod(z) Arg(z) Conj(z)



numeric. Desired length of the output vector, inputs being recycled as needed.


numeric vector.


numeric vector.


numeric vector.


numeric vector.


an object, probably of mode complex.


an object of mode complex, or one of a class for which a methods has been defined.

further arguments passed to or from other methods.

S4 methods

as.complex is primitive and can have S4 methods set.

Re, Im, Mod, Arg and Conj constitute the S4 group generic Complex and so S4 methods can be set for them individually or via the group generic.


Complex vectors can be created with complex. The vector can be specified either by giving its length, its real and imaginary parts, or modulus and argument. (Giving just the length generates a vector of complex zeroes.)

as.complex attempts to coerce its argument to be of complex type: like as.vector it strips attributes including names. Up to R versions 3.2.x, all forms of NA and NaN were coerced to a complex NA, i.e., the NA_complex_ constant, for which both the real and imaginary parts are NA. Since R 3.3.0, typically only objects which are NA in parts are coerced to complex NA, but others with NaN parts, are not. As a consequence, complex arithmetic where only NaN's (but no NA's) are involved typically will not give complex NA but complex numbers with real or imaginary parts of NaN.

Note that is.complex and is.numeric are never both TRUE.

The functions Re, Im, Mod, Arg and Conj have their usual interpretation as returning the real part, imaginary part, modulus, argument and complex conjugate for complex values. The modulus and argument are also called the polar coordinates. If \(z = x + i y\) with real \(x\) and \(y\), for \(r = Mod(z) = \sqrt{x^2 + y^2}\), and \(\phi = Arg(z)\), \(x = r*\cos(\phi)\) and \(y = r*\sin(\phi)\). They are all internal generic primitive functions: methods can be defined for them individually or via the Complex group generic.

In addition to the arithmetic operators (see Arithmetic) +, -, *, /, and ^, the elementary trigonometric, logarithmic, exponential, square root and hyperbolic functions are implemented for complex values.

Matrix multiplications (%*%, crossprod, tcrossprod) are also defined for complex matrices (matrix), and so are solve, eigen or svd.

Internally, complex numbers are stored as a pair of double precision numbers, either or both of which can be NaN (including NA, see NA_complex_ and above) or plus or minus infinity.


Becker, R. A., Chambers, J. M. and Wilks, A. R. (1988) The New S Language. Wadsworth & Brooks/Cole.

See Also

Arithmetic; polyroot finds all \(n\) complex roots of a polynomial of degree \(n\).


Run this code

0i ^ (-3:3)

matrix(1i^ (-6:5), nrow = 4) #- all columns are the same
0 ^ 1i # a complex NaN

## create a complex normal vector
z <- complex(real = stats::rnorm(100), imaginary = stats::rnorm(100))
## or also (less efficiently):
z2 <- 1:2 + 1i*(8:9)

## The Arg(.) is an angle:
zz <- (rep(1:4, len = 9) + 1i*(9:1))/10
zz.shift <- complex(modulus = Mod(zz), argument = Arg(zz) + pi)
plot(zz, xlim = c(-1,1), ylim = c(-1,1), col = "red", asp = 1,
     main = expression(paste("Rotation by "," ", pi == 180^o)))
abline(h = 0, v = 0, col = "blue", lty = 3)
points(zz.shift, col = "orange")

showC <- function(z) noquote(sprintf("(R = %g, I = %g)", Re(z), Im(z)))

## The exact result of this *depends* on the platform, compiler, math-library:
(NpNA <- NaN + NA_complex_) ; str(NpNA) # *behaves* as 'cplx NA' ..
showC(NpNA)# but not always is {shows  '(R = NaN, I = NA)' on some platforms}
## and this is not TRUE everywhere:
identical(NpNA, NA_complex_)
showC(NA_complex_) # always == (R = NA, I = NA)
# }

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