Getting R to Print English Error Messages

This article is also available in Spanish.

If you live in a non-English locale—such as I do—you’ll likely receive error messages in your locale language when things go wrong in R.

1 + "r"
## Error in 1 + "r": nicht numerisches Argument für binären Operator

This is a problem because it highly limits the results when searching for error messages on Google. Have you ever read a stackoverflow post that was not in English? I haven’t.

So, how can you tell R to not translate error messages? By telling R that you are in an English locale.

Sys.setenv(lang = "en_US")

Your next error will be printed in English.

1 + "r"
## Error in 1 + "r": non-numeric argument to binary operator


The only problem with this approach is that the next time you start a new R session this change will be reverted. To make this change persistent add Sys.setenv(lang = "en_US") to your .Rprofile file.

Never heard of .Rprofile? It’s basically an R script that—if present—gets executed whenever you start R. That makes it perfect for the purpose of changing your locale.

The easiest way to edit or create this file is by using the {usethis} package (make sure to install it if you haven’t already).


This will open the .Rprofile file in the user home directory, i.e. ~/.Rprofile. This file will get executed in any R session you start unless you have another .Rprofile in your RStudio project directory. If you do, then use this code instead to edit the project specific .Rprofile.

usethis::edit_r_profile(scope = "project")

Thomas Neitmann


262 Words

2020-03-21 00:00 +0700

860d4e8 @ 2021-10-03