ELI5 supports many estimators, transformers and other components from the scikit-learn library.

Additional explain_weights and explain_prediction parameters

For all supported scikit-learn classifiers and regressors eli5.explain_weights() and eli5.explain_prediction() accept additional keyword arguments. Additional eli5.explain_weights() parameters:

  • vec is a vectorizer instance used to transform raw features to the input of the classifier or regressor (e.g. a fitted CountVectorizer instance); you can pass it instead of feature_names.

Additional eli5.explain_prediction() parameters:

  • vec is a vectorizer instance used to transform raw features to the input of the classifier or regressor (e.g. a fitted CountVectorizer instance); you can pass it instead of feature_names.
  • vectorized is a flag which tells eli5 if doc should be passed through vec or not. By default it is False, meaning that if vec is not None, vec.transform([doc]) is passed to the estimator. Set it to True if you’re passing vec (e.g. to get feature names and/or enable text highlighting), but doc is already vectorized.

Linear estimators

For linear estimators eli5 maps coefficients back to feature names directly. Supported estimators from sklearn.linear_model:

Linear SVMs from sklearn.svm are also supported:

For linear scikit-learn classifiers eli5.explain_weights() supports one more keyword argument, in addition to common argument and extra arguments for all scikit-learn estimators:

  • coef_scale is a 1D np.ndarray with a scaling coefficient for each feature; coef[i] = coef[i] * coef_scale[i] if coef_scale[i] is not nan. Use it if you want to scale coefficients before displaying them, to take input feature sign or scale in account.

Decision Trees, Ensembles

eli5 supports the following tree-based estimators from sklearn.tree:

eli5.explain_weights() computes feature importances and prepares tree visualization; eli5.show_weights() may visualizes a tree either as text or as image (if graphviz is available).

For DecisionTreeClassifier and DecisionTreeRegressor additional eli5.explain_weights() keyword arguments are forwarded to sklearn.tree.export_graphviz function when graphviz is available; they can be used to customize tree image.


For decision trees top-level eli5.explain_weights() calls are dispatched to eli5.sklearn.explain_weights.explain_decision_tree().

The following tree ensembles from sklearn.ensemble are supported:

For ensembles eli5.explain_weights() computes feature importances and their std deviation.


For ensembles top-level eli5.explain_weights() calls are dispatched to eli5.sklearn.explain_weights.explain_rf_feature_importance().

eli5.explain_prediction() is less straightforward for ensembles and trees; eli5 uses an approach based on ideas from : feature weights are calculated by following decision paths in trees of an ensemble (or a single tree for DecisionTreeClassifier and DecisionTreeRegressor). Each node of the tree has an output score, and contribution of a feature on the decision path is how much the score changes from parent to child.

There is a separate package for this explaination method (; eli5 implementation is independent.

Transformation pipelines

eli5.explain_weights() can be applied to a scikit-learn Pipeline as long as:

  • explain_weights is supported for the final step of the Pipeline;
  • eli5.transform_feature_names() is supported for all preceding steps of the Pipeline. singledispatch can be used to register transform_feature_names for transformer classes not handled (yet) by ELI5 or to override the default implementation.

For instance, imagine a transformer which selects every second feature:

from sklearn.base import BaseEstimator, TransformerMixin
from sklearn.utils.validation import check_array
from eli5 import transform_feature_names

class OddTransformer(BaseEstimator, TransformerMixin):
    def fit(self, X, y=None):
        # we store n_features_ for the sake of transform_feature_names
        # when in_names=None:
        self.n_features_ = check_array(X).shape[1]
        return self

    def transform(self, X):
        return check_array(X)[:, 1::2]

def odd_feature_names(transformer, in_names=None):
    if in_names is None:
        from eli5.sklearn.utils import get_feature_names
        # generate default feature names
        in_names = get_feature_names(transformer, num_features=transformer.n_features_)
    # return a list of strings derived from in_names
    return in_names[1::2]

# Now we can:
#   my_pipeline = make_pipeline(OddTransformer(), MyClassifier())
#, y)
#   explain_weights(my_pipeline)
#   explain_weights(my_pipeline, feature_names=['a', 'b', ...])

Note that the in_names != None case does not need to be handled as long as the transformer will always be passed the set of feature names either from explain_weights(my_pipeline, feature_names=...) or from the previous step in the Pipeline.

Currently the following transformers are supported out of the box:

Reversing hashing trick

eli5 allows to recover feature names for HashingVectorizer and FeatureHasher by computing hashes for the provided example data. eli5.explain_prediction() handles HashingVectorizer as vec automatically; to handle HashingVectorizer and FeatureHasher for eli5.explain_weights(), use InvertableHashingVectorizer or FeatureUnhasher:

# vec is a HashingVectorizer instance
# clf is a classifier which works on HashingVectorizer output
# X_sample is a representative sample of input documents

import eli5
from eli5.sklearn import InvertableHashingVectorizer
ivec = InvertableHashingVectorizer(vec)

# now ``ivec.get_feature_names()`` returns meaningful feature names,
# and ``ivec`` can be used as a vectorizer for eli5.explain_weights:
eli5.explain_weights(clf, vec=ivec)

HashingVectorizer is also supported inside a FeatureUnion: eli5.explain_prediction() handles this case automatically, and for eli5.explain_weights() you can use eli5.sklearn.unhashing.invert_hashing_and_fit() (it works for plain HashingVectorizer too) - it tears FeatureUnion apart, inverts and fits all hashing vectorizers and returns a new FeatureUnion:

from eli5.sklearn import invert_hashing_and_fit

ivec = invert_hashing_and_fit(vec, X_sample)
eli5.explain_weights(clf, vec=ivec)

Text highlighting

For text data eli5.explain_prediction() can show the input document with its parts (tokens, characters) highlighted according to their contribution to the prediction result:


It works if the document is vectorized using CountVectorizer, TfIdfVectorizer or HashingVectorizer, and a fitted vectorizer instance is passed to eli5.explain_prediction() in a vec argument. Custom preprocessors are supported, but custom analyzers or tokenizers are not: highligting works only with ‘word’, ‘char’ or ‘char_wb’ analyzers and a default tokenizer (non-default token_pattern is supported).

Text highlighting also works if a document is vectorized using FeatureUnion with at least one of CountVectorizer, TfIdfVectorizer or HashingVectorizer in the transformer list; features of other transformers are displayed in a regular table.

See also: Debugging scikit-learn text classification pipeline tutorial.


eli5.explain_weights() and eli5.explain_prediction() handle OneVsRestClassifier by dispatching to the explanation function for OvR base estimator, and then calling this function for the OneVsRestClassifier instance. This works in many cases, but not for all. Please report issues to