Training Overview

Why Finetune?

Finetuning Sentence Transformer models often heavily improves the performance of the model on your use case, because each task requires a different notion of similarity. For example, given news articles:

  • “Apple launches the new iPad”

  • “NVIDIA is gearing up for the next GPU generation”

Then the following use cases, we may have different notions of similarity:

  • a model for classification of news articles as Economy, Sports, Technology, Politics, etc., should produce similar embeddings for these texts.

  • a model for semantic textual similarity should produce dissimilar embeddings for these texts, as they have different meanings.

  • a model for semantic search would not need a notion for similarity between two documents, as it should only compare queries and documents.

Also see Training Examples for numerous training scripts for common real-world applications that you can adopt.

Dataset

The SentenceTransformerTrainer trains and evaluates using datasets.Dataset (one dataset) or datasets.DatasetDict instances (multiple datasets, see also Multi-dataset training).

If you want to load data from the Hugging Face Datasets, then you should use datasets.load_dataset():

from datasets import load_dataset

train_dataset = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/all-nli", "pair-class", split="train")
eval_dataset = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/all-nli", "pair-class", split="dev")

print(train_dataset)
"""
Dataset({
    features: ['premise', 'hypothesis', 'label'],
    num_rows: 942069
})
"""

Some datasets (including sentence-transformers/all-nli) require you to provide a “subset” alongside the dataset name. sentence-transformers/all-nli has 4 subsets, each with different data formats: pair, pair-class, pair-score, triplet.

Note

Many Hugging Face datasets that work out of the box with Sentence Transformers have been tagged with sentence-transformers, allowing you to easily find them by browsing to https://huggingface.co/datasets?other=sentence-transformers. We strongly recommend that you browse these datasets to find training datasets that might be useful for your tasks.

If you have local data in common file-formats, then you can load this data easily using datasets.load_dataset():

from datasets import load_dataset

dataset = load_dataset("csv", data_files="my_file.csv")

or:

from datasets import load_dataset

dataset = load_dataset("json", data_files="my_file.json")

If you have local data that requires some extra pre-processing, my recommendation is to initialize your dataset using datasets.Dataset.from_dict() and a dictionary of lists, like so:

from datasets import Dataset

anchors = []
positives = []
# Open a file, do preprocessing, filtering, cleaning, etc.
# and append to the lists

dataset = Dataset.from_dict({
    "anchor": anchors,
    "positive": positives,
})

Each key from the dictionary will become a column in the resulting dataset.

Dataset Format

It is important that your dataset format matches your loss function (or that you choose a loss function that matches your dataset format). Verifying whether a dataset format works with a loss function involves two steps:

  1. If your loss function requires a Label according to the Loss Overview table, then your dataset must have a column named “label” or “score”. This column is automatically taken as the label.

  2. All columns not named “label” or “score” are considered Inputs according to the Loss Overview table. The number of remaining columns must match the number of valid inputs for your chosen loss. The names of these columns are irrelevant, only the order matters.

For example, given a dataset with columns ["text1", "text2", "label"] where the “label” column has float similarity score, we can use it with CoSENTLoss, AnglELoss, and CosineSimilarityLoss because it:

  1. has a “label” column as is required for these loss functions.

  2. has 2 non-label columns, exactly the amount required by these loss functions.

Be sure to re-order your dataset columns with Dataset.select_columns if your columns are not ordered correctly. For example, if your dataset has ["good_answer", "bad_answer", "question"] as columns, then this dataset can technically be used with a loss that requires (anchor, positive, negative) triplets, but the good_answer column will be taken as the anchor, bad_answer as the positive, and question as the negative.

Additionally, if your dataset has extraneous columns (e.g. sample_id, metadata, source, type), you should remove these with Dataset.remove_columns as they will be used as inputs otherwise. You can also use Dataset.select_columns to keep only the desired columns.

Loss Function

Loss functions quantify how well a model performs for a given batch of data, allowing an optimizer to update the model weights to produce more favourable (i.e., lower) loss values. This is the core of the training process.

Sadly, there is no single loss function that works best for all use-cases. Instead, which loss function to use greatly depends on your available data and on your target task. See Dataset Format to learn what datasets are valid for which loss functions. Additionally, the Loss Overview will be your best friend to learn about the options.

Most loss functions can be initialized with just the SentenceTransformer that you’re training, alongside some optional parameters, e.g.:

from datasets import load_dataset
from sentence_transformers import SentenceTransformer
from sentence_transformers.losses import CoSENTLoss

# Load a model to train/finetune
model = SentenceTransformer("xlm-roberta-base")

# Initialize the CoSENTLoss
# This loss requires pairs of text and a float similarity score as a label
loss = CoSENTLoss(model)

# Load an example training dataset that works with our loss function:
train_dataset = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/all-nli", "pair-score", split="train")
"""
Dataset({
    features: ['sentence1', 'sentence2', 'label'],
    num_rows: 942069
})
"""

Training Arguments

The SentenceTransformersTrainingArguments class can be used to specify parameters for influencing training performance as well as defining the tracking/debugging parameters. Although it is optional, it is heavily recommended to experiment with the various useful arguments.

The following are tables with some of the most useful training arguments.



Here is an example of how SentenceTransformersTrainingArguments can be initialized:

args = SentenceTransformerTrainingArguments(
    # Required parameter:
    output_dir="models/mpnet-base-all-nli-triplet",
    # Optional training parameters:
    num_train_epochs=1,
    per_device_train_batch_size=16,
    per_device_eval_batch_size=16,
    warmup_ratio=0.1,
    fp16=True,  # Set to False if you get an error that your GPU can't run on FP16
    bf16=False,  # Set to True if you have a GPU that supports BF16
    batch_sampler=BatchSamplers.NO_DUPLICATES,  # losses that use "in-batch negatives" benefit from no duplicates
    # Optional tracking/debugging parameters:
    eval_strategy="steps",
    eval_steps=100,
    save_strategy="steps",
    save_steps=100,
    save_total_limit=2,
    logging_steps=100,
    run_name="mpnet-base-all-nli-triplet",  # Will be used in W&B if `wandb` is installed
)

Evaluator

You can provide the SentenceTransformerTrainer with an eval_dataset to get the evaluation loss during training, but it may be useful to get more concrete metrics during training, too. For this, you can use evaluators to assess the model’s performance with useful metrics before, during, or after training. You can both an eval_dataset and an evaluator, one or the other, or neither. They evaluate based on the eval_strategy and eval_steps Training Arguments.

Here are the implemented Evaluators that come with Sentence Tranformers:

Evaluator

Required Data

BinaryClassificationEvaluator

Pairs with class labels

EmbeddingSimilarityEvaluator

Pairs with similarity scores

InformationRetrievalEvaluator

Queries (qid => question), Corpus (cid => document), and relevant documents (qid => set[cid])

MSEEvaluator

Source sentences to embed with a teacher model and target sentences to embed with the student model. Can be the same texts.

ParaphraseMiningEvaluator

Mapping of IDs to sentences & pairs with IDs of duplicate sentences.

RerankingEvaluator

List of {'query': '...', 'positive': [...], 'negative': [...]} dictionaries.

TranslationEvaluator

Pairs of sentences in two separate languages.

TripletEvaluator

(anchor, positive, negative) pairs.

Additionally, SequentialEvaluator should be used to combine multiple evaluators into one Evaluator that can be passed to the SentenceTransformerTrainer.

Sometimes you don’t have the required evaluation data to prepare one of these evaluators on your own, but you still want to track how well the model performs on some common benchmarks. In that case, you can use these evaluators with data from Hugging Face.

from datasets import load_dataset
from sentence_transformers.evaluation import EmbeddingSimilarityEvaluator, SimilarityFunction

# Load the STSB dataset (https://huggingface.co/datasets/sentence-transformers/stsb)
eval_dataset = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/stsb", split="validation")

# Initialize the evaluator
dev_evaluator = EmbeddingSimilarityEvaluator(
    sentences1=eval_dataset["sentence1"],
    sentences2=eval_dataset["sentence2"],
    scores=eval_dataset["score"],
    main_similarity=SimilarityFunction.COSINE,
    name="sts-dev",
)
# You can run evaluation like so:
# dev_evaluator(model)
from datasets import load_dataset
from sentence_transformers.evaluation import TripletEvaluator, SimilarityFunction

# Load triplets from the AllNLI dataset (https://huggingface.co/datasets/sentence-transformers/all-nli)
max_samples = 1000
eval_dataset = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/all-nli", "triplet", split=f"dev[:{max_samples}]")

# Initialize the evaluator
dev_evaluator = TripletEvaluator(
    anchors=eval_dataset["anchor"],
    positives=eval_dataset["positive"],
    negatives=eval_dataset["negative"],
    main_distance_function=SimilarityFunction.COSINE,
    name="all-nli-dev",
)
# You can run evaluation like so:
# dev_evaluator(model)

Warning

When using Distributed Training, the evaluator only runs on the first device, unlike the training and evaluation datasets, which are shared across all devices.

Trainer

The SentenceTransformerTrainer is where all previous components come together. We only have to specify the trainer with the model, training arguments (optional), training dataset, evaluation dataset (optional), loss function, evaluator (optional) and we can start training. Let’s have a look at a script where all of these components come together:

from datasets import load_dataset
from sentence_transformers import (
    SentenceTransformer,
    SentenceTransformerTrainer,
    SentenceTransformerTrainingArguments,
    SentenceTransformerModelCardData,
)
from sentence_transformers.losses import MultipleNegativesRankingLoss
from sentence_transformers.training_args import BatchSamplers
from sentence_transformers.evaluation import TripletEvaluator

# 1. Load a model to finetune with 2. (Optional) model card data
model = SentenceTransformer(
    "microsoft/mpnet-base",
    model_card_data=SentenceTransformerModelCardData(
        language="en",
        license="apache-2.0",
        model_name="MPNet base trained on AllNLI triplets",
    )
)

# 3. Load a dataset to finetune on
dataset = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/all-nli", "triplet")
train_dataset = dataset["train"].select(range(100_000))
eval_dataset = dataset["dev"]
test_dataset = dataset["test"]

# 4. Define a loss function
loss = MultipleNegativesRankingLoss(model)

# 5. (Optional) Specify training arguments
args = SentenceTransformerTrainingArguments(
    # Required parameter:
    output_dir="models/mpnet-base-all-nli-triplet",
    # Optional training parameters:
    num_train_epochs=1,
    per_device_train_batch_size=16,
    per_device_eval_batch_size=16,
    warmup_ratio=0.1,
    fp16=True,  # Set to False if you get an error that your GPU can't run on FP16
    bf16=False,  # Set to True if you have a GPU that supports BF16
    batch_sampler=BatchSamplers.NO_DUPLICATES,  # MultipleNegativesRankingLoss benefits from no duplicate samples in a batch
    # Optional tracking/debugging parameters:
    eval_strategy="steps",
    eval_steps=100,
    save_strategy="steps",
    save_steps=100,
    save_total_limit=2,
    logging_steps=100,
    run_name="mpnet-base-all-nli-triplet",  # Will be used in W&B if `wandb` is installed
)

# 6. (Optional) Create an evaluator & evaluate the base model
dev_evaluator = TripletEvaluator(
    anchors=eval_dataset["anchor"],
    positives=eval_dataset["positive"],
    negatives=eval_dataset["negative"],
    name="all-nli-dev",
)
dev_evaluator(model)

# 7. Create a trainer & train
trainer = SentenceTransformerTrainer(
    model=model,
    args=args,
    train_dataset=train_dataset,
    eval_dataset=eval_dataset,
    loss=loss,
    evaluator=dev_evaluator,
)
trainer.train()

# (Optional) Evaluate the trained model on the test set
test_evaluator = TripletEvaluator(
    anchors=test_dataset["anchor"],
    positives=test_dataset["positive"],
    negatives=test_dataset["negative"],
    name="all-nli-test",
)
test_evaluator(model)

# 8. Save the trained model
model.save_pretrained("models/mpnet-base-all-nli-triplet/final")

# 9. (Optional) Push it to the Hugging Face Hub
model.push_to_hub("mpnet-base-all-nli-triplet")

Callbacks

This Sentence Transformers trainer integrates support for various transformers.TrainerCallback subclasses, such as:

  • WandbCallback to automatically log training metrics to W&B if wandb is installed

  • TensorBoardCallback to log training metrics to TensorBoard if tensorboard is accessible.

  • CodeCarbonCallback to track the carbon emissions of your model during training if codecarbon is installed.

    • Note: These carbon emissions will be included in your automatically generated model card.

See the Transformers Callbacks documentation for more information on the integrated callbacks and how to write your own callbacks.

Multi-Dataset Training

The top performing models are trained using many datasets at once. Normally, this is rather tricky, as each dataset has a different format. However, SentenceTransformerTrainer can train with multiple datasets without having to convert each dataset to the same format. It can even apply different loss functions to each of the datasets. The steps to train with multiple datasets are:

  • Use a dictionary of Dataset instances (or a DatasetDict) as the train_dataset and eval_dataset.

  • (Optional) Use a dictionary of loss functions mapping dataset names to losses. Only required if you wish to use different loss function for different datasets.

Each training/evaluation batch will only contain samples from one of the datasets. The order in which batches are samples from the multiple datasets is defined by the MultiDatasetBatchSamplers enum, which can be passed to the SentenceTransformersTrainingArguments via multi_dataset_batch_sampler. Valid options are:

  • MultiDatasetBatchSamplers.ROUND_ROBIN: Round-robin sampling from each dataset until one is exhausted. With this strategy, it’s likely that not all samples from each dataset are used, but each dataset is sampled from equally.

  • MultiDatasetBatchSamplers.PROPORTIONAL (default): Sample from each dataset in proportion to its size. With this strategy, all samples from each dataset are used and larger datasets are sampled from more frequently.

This multi-task training has been shown to be very effective, e.g. Huang et al. employed MultipleNegativesRankingLoss, CoSENTLoss, and a variation on MultipleNegativesRankingLoss without in-batch negatives and only hard negatives to reach state-of-the-art performance on Chinese. They even applied MatryoshkaLoss to allow the model to produce Matryoshka Embeddings.

Training on multiple datasets looks like this:

from datasets import load_dataset
from sentence_transformers import SentenceTransformer, SentenceTransformerTrainer
from sentence_transformers.losses import CoSENTLoss, MultipleNegativesRankingLoss, SoftmaxLoss

# 1. Load a model to finetune
model = SentenceTransformer("bert-base-uncased")

# 2. Load several Datasets to train with
# (anchor, positive)
all_nli_pair_train = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/all-nli", "pair", split="train[:10000]")
# (premise, hypothesis) + label
all_nli_pair_class_train = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/all-nli", "pair-class", split="train[:10000]")
# (sentence1, sentence2) + score
all_nli_pair_score_train = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/all-nli", "pair-score", split="train[:10000]")
# (anchor, positive, negative)
all_nli_triplet_train = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/all-nli", "triplet", split="train[:10000]")
# (sentence1, sentence2) + score
stsb_pair_score_train = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/stsb", split="train[:10000]")
# (anchor, positive)
quora_pair_train = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/quora-duplicates", "pair", split="train[:10000]")
# (query, answer)
natural_questions_train = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/natural-questions", split="train[:10000]")

# We can combine all datasets into a dictionary with dataset names to datasets
train_dataset = {
    "all-nli-pair": all_nli_pair_train,
    "all-nli-pair-class": all_nli_pair_class_train,
    "all-nli-pair-score": all_nli_pair_score_train,
    "all-nli-triplet": all_nli_triplet_train,
    "stsb": stsb_pair_score_train,
    "quora": quora_pair_train,
    "natural-questions": natural_questions_train,
}

# 3. Load several Datasets to evaluate with
# (anchor, positive, negative)
all_nli_triplet_dev = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/all-nli", "triplet", split="dev")
# (sentence1, sentence2, score)
stsb_pair_score_dev = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/stsb", split="validation")
# (anchor, positive)
quora_pair_dev = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/quora-duplicates", "pair", split="train[10000:11000]")
# (query, answer)
natural_questions_dev = load_dataset("sentence-transformers/natural-questions", split="train[10000:11000]")

# We can use a dictionary for the evaluation dataset too, but we don't have to. We could also just use
# no evaluation dataset, or one dataset.
eval_dataset = {
    "all-nli-triplet": all_nli_triplet_dev,
    "stsb": stsb_pair_score_dev,
    "quora": quora_pair_dev,
    "natural-questions": natural_questions_dev,
}

# 4. Load several loss functions to train with
# (anchor, positive), (anchor, positive, negative)
mnrl_loss = MultipleNegativesRankingLoss(model)
# (sentence_A, sentence_B) + class
softmax_loss = SoftmaxLoss(model)
# (sentence_A, sentence_B) + score
cosent_loss = CoSENTLoss(model)

# Create a mapping with dataset names to loss functions, so the trainer knows which loss to apply where.
# Note that you can also just use one loss if all of your training/evaluation datasets use the same loss
losses = {
    "all-nli-pair": mnrl_loss,
    "all-nli-pair-class": softmax_loss,
    "all-nli-pair-score": cosent_loss,
    "all-nli-triplet": mnrl_loss,
    "stsb": cosent_loss,
    "quora": mnrl_loss,
    "natural-questions": mnrl_loss,
}

# 5. Define a simple trainer, although it's recommended to use one with args & evaluators
trainer = SentenceTransformerTrainer(
    model=model,
    train_dataset=train_dataset,
    eval_dataset=eval_dataset,
    loss=losses,
)
trainer.train()

# 6. save the trained model and optionally push it to the Hugging Face Hub
model.save_pretrained("bert-base-all-nli-stsb-quora-nq")
model.push_to_hub("bert-base-all-nli-stsb-quora-nq")

Deprecated Training

Prior to the Sentence Transformers v3.0 release, models would be trained with the SentenceTransformer.fit method and a DataLoader of InputExample, which looked something like this:

from sentence_transformers import SentenceTransformer, InputExample, losses
from torch.utils.data import DataLoader

# Define the model. Either from scratch of by loading a pre-trained model
model = SentenceTransformer("distilbert/distilbert-base-uncased")

# Define your train examples. You need more than just two examples...
train_examples = [
    InputExample(texts=["My first sentence", "My second sentence"], label=0.8),
    InputExample(texts=["Another pair", "Unrelated sentence"], label=0.3),
]

# Define your train dataset, the dataloader and the train loss
train_dataloader = DataLoader(train_examples, shuffle=True, batch_size=16)
train_loss = losses.CosineSimilarityLoss(model)

# Tune the model
model.fit(train_objectives=[(train_dataloader, train_loss)], epochs=1, warmup_steps=100)

Since the v3.0 release, using SentenceTransformer.fit is still possible, but it will initialize a SentenceTransformerTrainer behind the scenes. It is recommended to use the Trainer directly, as you will have more control via the SentenceTransformerTrainingArguments, but existing training scripts relying on SentenceTransformer.fit should still work.

In case there are issues with the updated SentenceTransformer.fit, you can also get exactly the old behaviour by calling SentenceTransformer.old_fit instead, but this method will be deprecated fully in the future.

Best Base Embedding Models

The quality of your text embedding model depends on which transformer model you choose. Sadly we cannot infer from a better performance on e.g. the GLUE or SuperGLUE benchmark that this model will also yield better representations.

To test the suitability of transformer models, I use the training_nli_v2.py script and train on 560k (anchor, positive, negative)-triplets for 1 epoch with batch size 64. I then evaluate on 14 diverse text similarity tasks (clustering, semantic search, duplicate detection etc.) from various domains.

In the following table you find the performance for different models and their performance on this benchmark:

Model Performance (14 sentence similarity tasks)
microsoft/mpnet-base 60.99
nghuyong/ernie-2.0-en 60.73
microsoft/deberta-base 60.21
roberta-base 59.63
t5-base 59.21
bert-base-uncased 59.17
distilbert-base-uncased 59.03
nreimers/TinyBERT_L-6_H-768_v2 58.27
google/t5-v1_1-base 57.63
nreimers/MiniLMv2-L6-H768-distilled-from-BERT-Large 57.31
albert-base-v2 57.14
microsoft/MiniLM-L12-H384-uncased 56.79
microsoft/deberta-v3-base 54.46