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  • Post last modified:April 18, 2024
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You are currently viewing PySpark where() & filter() for efficient data filtering

In this PySpark article, you will learn how to apply a filter on DataFrame columns of string, arrays, and struct types by using single and multiple conditions and also using isin() with PySpark (Python Spark) examples.


1. Introduction to PySpark DataFrame Filtering

PySpark filter() function is used to create a new DataFrame by filtering the elements from an existing DataFrame based on the given condition or SQL expression. It is similar to Python’s filter() function but operates on distributed datasets. It is analogous to the SQL WHERE clause and allows you to apply filtering criteria to DataFrame rows.

Alternatively, if you have a background in SQL, you can opt to use the where() function instead of filter(). Both functions work identically. They generate a new DataFrame containing only the rows that satisfy the specified condition.

Related Article:

Note: PySpark Column Functions provides several options that can be used with this function.

filter() Syntax

Following is the syntax.

# Syntax


condition: It is the filtering condition or expression. It can be specified using various constructs such as SQL expressions, DataFrame API functions, or user-defined functions (UDFs). The condition evaluates to True for rows that should be retained and False for rows that should be discarded.

For example, let’s say you have the following DataFrame. Here, I am using a DataFrame with StructType and ArrayType columns, as I will also cover examples with struct and array types.

# Imports
from pyspark.sql import SparkSession
from pyspark.sql.types import StructType,StructField 
from pyspark.sql.types import StringType, IntegerType, ArrayType

# Create SparkSession object
spark = SparkSession.builder.appName('SparkByExamples.com').getOrCreate()

# Create data
data = [

# Create schema        
schema = StructType([
     StructField('name', StructType([
        StructField('firstname', StringType(), True),
        StructField('middlename', StringType(), True),
         StructField('lastname', StringType(), True)
     StructField('languages', ArrayType(StringType()), True),
     StructField('state', StringType(), True),
     StructField('gender', StringType(), True)

# Create dataframe
df = spark.createDataFrame(data = data, schema = schema)

This yields below schema and DataFrame results.

 |-- name: struct (nullable = true)
 |    |-- firstname: string (nullable = true)
 |    |-- middlename: string (nullable = true)
 |    |-- lastname: string (nullable = true)
 |-- languages: array (nullable = true)
 |    |-- element: string (containsNull = true)
 |-- state: string (nullable = true)
 |-- gender: string (nullable = true)

|name                  |languages         |state|gender|
|[James, , Smith]      |[Java, Scala, C++]|OH   |M     |
|[Anna, Rose, ]        |[Spark, Java, C++]|NY   |F     |
|[Julia, , Williams]   |[CSharp, VB]      |OH   |F     |
|[Maria, Anne, Jones]  |[CSharp, VB]      |NY   |M     |
|[Jen, Mary, Brown]    |[CSharp, VB]      |NY   |M     |
|[Mike, Mary, Williams]|[Python, VB]      |OH   |M     |

2. DataFrame filter() with Column Condition

When using filter() with column conditions, you typically specify the condition using column expressions. These expressions can involve comparisons, logical operations, or even functions applied to DataFrame columns. In the below example, I am using dfObject.colname to refer to column names.

# Using equal condition
df.filter(df.state == "OH").show(truncate=False)

# Output
#|name                  |languages         |state|gender|
#|[James, , Smith]      |[Java, Scala, C++]|OH   |M     |
#|[Julia, , Williams]   |[CSharp, VB]      |OH   |F     |
#|[Mike, Mary, Williams]|[Python, VB]      |OH   |M     |

Using not equal filter condition

To retain rows where the value in the “state” column is not equal to “OH” (Ohio), use the below syntaxes. However, they use slightly different approaches to express the filtering condition.

# Not equals condition
df.filter(df.state != "OH") \

# Another expression
df.filter(~(df.state == "OH")) \

Using != operator:

  • In this snippet, the != operator is used to compare the values in the “state” column to “OH”. This creates a Boolean column where each row is marked as True if the value in the “state” column is not equal to “OH”, and False otherwise. The filter() function then retains rows where this condition evaluates to True.

Using ~ (Negation) operator:

  • In this snippet, the ~ (tilde) operator is used to negate the condition df.state == "OH". This means that rows where the condition df.state == "OH" evaluates to True will be negated to False, and vice versa. So, the ~(df.state == "OH") expression creates a Boolean column where each row is marked as True if the value in the “state” column is not equal to “OH”, and False otherwise. This function then retains rows where this condition evaluates to True.
  • This approach negates the condition df.state == "OH" to achieve selecting rows where the value in the “state” column is not equal to “OH”.

Using col() Function

You can also use the col() function to refer to the column name. In order to use this first, you need to import from pyspark.sql.functions import col

# Using SQL col() function
from pyspark.sql.functions import col
df.filter(col("state") == "OH") \

3. Filtering with SQL Expression

If you have an SQL background, you can use that knowledge in PySpark to filter DataFrame rows with SQL expressions.

# Using SQL Expression
df.filter("gender == 'M'").show()

# For not equal
df.filter("gender != 'M'").show()
df.filter("gender <> 'M'").show()

4. PySpark Filter with Multiple Conditions

In PySpark, you can apply multiple conditions when filtering DataFrames to select rows that meet specific criteria. This can be achieved by combining individual conditions using logical operators like & (AND), | (OR), and ~ (NOT). Let’s explore how to use multiple conditions in PySpark DataFrame filtering:

# Filter multiple conditions
df.filter( (df.state  == "OH") & (df.gender  == "M") ) \

# Output
#|name                  |languages         |state|gender|
#|[James, , Smith]      |[Java, Scala, C++]|OH   |M     |
#|[Mike, Mary, Williams]|[Python, VB]      |OH   |M     |

The conditions are combined using the & operator, indicating that both conditions must be true for a row to be retained.

To use the OR operator, replace & with |.

# Filter using OR operator
df.filter( (df.state  == "OH") | (df.gender  == "M") ) \

5. Filter Based on List Values

The isin() function from the Python Column class allows you to filter a DataFrame based on whether the values in a particular column match any of the values in a specified list. And, to check not isin() you have to use the not operator (~)

# Filter IS IN List values

# Output
#|                name|         languages|state|gender|
#|    [James, , Smith]|[Java, Scala, C++]|   OH|     M|
#| [Julia, , Williams]|      [CSharp, VB]|   OH|     F|
#|[Mike, Mary, Will...|      [Python, VB]|   OH|     M|

# Filter NOT IS IN List values
# These show all records with NY (NY is not part of the list)

6. Filter Based on Starts With, Ends With, Contains

Use startswith(), endswith() and contains() methods of Column class to select rows starts with, ends with, and contains a value. For more examples on Column class, refer to PySpark Column Functions.

# Using startswith

# Output
#|                name|         languages|state|gender|
#|      [Anna, Rose, ]|[Spark, Java, C++]|   NY|     F|
#|[Maria, Anne, Jones]|      [CSharp, VB]|   NY|     M|
#|  [Jen, Mary, Brown]|      [CSharp, VB]|   NY|     M|

#using endswith


7. Filtering with Regular Expression

If you are coming from SQL background, you must be familiar with like and rlike (regex like). PySpark also provides similar methods in the Column class to filter similar values using wildcard characters. You can use rlike() for case insensitive.

# Prepare Data
data2 = [(2,"Michael Rose"),(3,"Robert Williams"),
     (4,"Rames Rose"),(5,"Rames rose")
df2 = spark.createDataFrame(data = data2, schema = ["id","name"])

# like - SQL LIKE pattern

# Output
#| id|      name|
#|  5|Rames rose|

# rlike - SQL RLIKE pattern (LIKE with Regex)
# This check case insensitive

# Output
#| id|        name|
#|  2|Michael Rose|
#|  4|  Rames Rose|
#|  5|  Rames rose|

8. Filtering Array column

To filter DataFrame rows based on the presence of a value within an array-type column, you can employ the first syntax. The following example uses array_contains() from PySpark SQL functions. This function examines whether a value is contained within an array. If the value is found, it returns true; otherwise, it returns false.

# Using array_contains()
from pyspark.sql.functions import array_contains
df.filter(array_contains(df.languages,"Java")) \

# Output
#|name            |languages         |state|gender|
#|[James, , Smith]|[Java, Scala, C++]|OH   |M     |
#|[Anna, Rose, ]  |[Spark, Java, C++]|NY   |F     |

9. Filtering on Nested Struct columns

In case your DataFrame consists of nested struct columns, you can use any of the above syntaxes to filter the rows based on the nested column.

# Struct condition
df.filter(df.name.lastname == "Williams") \

# Output
#|name                  |languages   |state|gender|
#|[Julia, , Williams]   |[CSharp, VB]|OH   |F     |
#|[Mike, Mary, Williams]|[Python, VB]|OH   |M     |

10. FAQs on filter()

What is the difference between where and filter in PySpark?

In PySpark, both filter() and where() functions are used to select out data based on certain conditions. They are used interchangeably, and both of them essentially perform the same operation.

Is DataFrame filtering in PySpark lazy

Yes, DataFrame filtering in PySpark follows lazy evaluation, meaning the filtering operation is only executed when an action is performed on the DataFrame

Can I use SQL expressions for DataFrame filtering in PySpark?

You can use SQL expressions for filtering in PySpark by using functions like expr() or by registering the DataFrame as a temporary view and executing SQL queries on it.

How can I optimize DataFrame filtering performance in PySpark?

Optimizing DataFrame filtering performance in PySpark involves strategies such as minimizing data shuffling, repartitioning, and caching intermediate results where appropriate.

Are there any limitations to DataFrame filtering in PySpark?

While DataFrame filtering in PySpark is powerful, it may encounter limitations related to complex conditions, performance overhead, and resource management, which require careful consideration and optimization.

11. Conclusion

Examples explained here are also available at PySpark examples GitHub project for reference.

Overall, the filter() function is a powerful tool for selecting subsets of data from DataFrames based on specific criteria, enabling data manipulation and analysis in PySpark. In this tutorial, you have learned how to filter rows from PySpark DataFrame based on single or multiple conditions and SQL expression, also learned how to filter rows by providing conditions on the array and struct column with Spark with Python examples.

Alternatively, you can also use where() function to filter the rows on PySpark DataFrame.

Happy Learning !!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. n

    How can i validate if is it null or not null?

  2. Anonymous

    All useful tips, but how do I filter on the same column multiple values e.g. df.state == “OH” but also df.state == “NY”

  3. Anonymous

    SO Precise and Neat

  4. NNK

    Thanks Rohit for your comments. Glad you are liking the articles.

  5. Rohit Gautam

    You have covered the entire spark so well and in easy to understand way.

  6. Anonymous

    I am new to pyspark and this blog was extremely helpful to understand the concept. Thank you!!

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