pandas.DataFrame.infer_objects() method: Explained with examples

Updated: February 19, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


When working with data in Python, the pandas library is a powerful tool for data manipulation and analysis. One helpful method within pandas is infer_objects(), used to infer better dtypes for object columns. This article delves into the DataFrame.infer_objects() method, providing clear examples to aid understanding.

First, let’s understand why infer_objects() is necessary. When importing data, pandas often defaults to using the object dtype for columns with mixed types or unrecognized formats. While versatile, object dtypes are not optimal for performance or type-specific operations. The infer_objects() method attempts to infer more specific dtypes, which is beneficial for both computational efficiency and subsequent data processing tasks.

Basic Usage

To begin, let’s see a simple example of how and when to use infer_objects().

import pandas as pd
df = pd.DataFrame({'A': ['1', '2', '3'], 'B':[4.5, '5.5', '6']})
# Output
# A    object
# B    object
df = df.infer_objects()
# Output
# A      int64
# B    float64

As observed, the method accurately infers the integer and float types from strings, enhancing the dataframe’s utility.

Handling Mixed Types

Next, we tackle a scenario with mixed types within a single column.

df = pd.DataFrame({'A': [1, '2', 3.5], 'B': ['example', 4, np.nan]})
print("Before: ", df.dtypes)
# Output
# Before:  A    object
#          B    object
df = df.infer_objects()
print("After: ", df.dtypes)
# Output
# After:   A    object
#          B    object

This highlights a limitation; infer_objects() cannot always determine a single, more appropriate dtype if the column contains mixed types that cannot generalize to numeric types, such as combining strings and numbers.

Advanced Use

We now examine how infer_objects() deals with more complex data structures.

df = pd.DataFrame({'data': ['2010-01-01', '2011', 'a string', np.nan]})
df = df.infer_objects()
# Output
# data    object

In this case, despite having dates and a NaN value, infer_objects() conserves the object dtype due to the presence of an unconvertible string. This illustrates its prudence in dtype inference, maintaining data integrity.

When to Use infer_objects()

In practice, infer_objects() is most beneficial:

  • After loading or constructing a DataFrame with generic object dtypes.
  • When data transformations have potentially altered column dtypes to objects inadvertently.
  • Prior to performing computation-intensive operations, to ensure optimal dtypes.

However, it’s important to review the results of infer_objects(), as it may not always return expected dtypes, particularly with mixed or complex data.

Combining with Other pandas Methods

For enhanced data typing, infer_objects() can be effectively combined with methods like convert_dtypes(), which can further refine the inferred types to pandas’ newer, nullable types for better handling of missing values.

df = pd.DataFrame({'A': [1, '2', np.nan], 'B': [3.5, '4.5', '']})
df = df.infer_objects()
print("Before convert_dtypes: ", df.dtypes)
# Output
# Before convert_dtypes: 
# A    float64
# B    object
df = df.convert_dtypes()
print("After convert_dtypes: ", df.dtypes)
# Output
# After convert_dtypes: 
# A    Int64
# B    string

This demonstrates how infer_objects() followed by convert_dtypes() can significantly refine and clarify DataFrame dtypes, benefiting subsequent data manipulation and analysis.


The pandas.DataFrame.infer_objects() method is a valuable tool for data scientists and analysts, offering a straightforward way to enhance df performance and facilitate type-specific operations. While not a panacea for all dtype issues, when used judiciously, it significantly untangles the dtype ambiguity common in raw or dynamically-generated dataframes.