This error occurs if you try to convert the elements of a list to numeric without converting the list to a vector using unlist().

You can solve this error by using the unlist() function before calling the numeric() function, for example,

num <- as.numeric(unlist(x))

This tutorial will go through the error and how to solve it with code examples.

Table of contents


Consider the following example of a list containing strings.

x <- list(c("10", "38", "66", "101", "129", "185", "283", "374"))
[1] "10"  "38"  "66"  "101" "129" "185" "283" "374"

We want to convert the elements in the list to numeric. Let’s attempt to convert the elements using as.numeric().

x_num <- as.numeric(x)

Let’s run the code to see what happens:

Error: 'list' object cannot be coerced to type 'double'

The error occurs because we cannot use a list as an argument to the numeric() function. We can verify the object x is a list using the class() function:

[1] "list"


The unlist function converts a list to a vector. The as.numeric() function accepts vector as an argument. We can use the unlist() function to solve this error. Let’s look at the revised code:

num <- as.numeric(unlist(x))

Let’s run the code to see the result:

[1]  10  38  66 101 129 185 283 374

We can verify that num is a vector of numeric values:

[1] "numeric"


Congratulations on reading to the end of this tutorial!

For further reading on R related errors, go to the articles: 

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