Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

This question already has an answer here:

My text says:

Let Evens be the set of even integers greater than 2, and let Primes be the set of primes. Then we can write Goldbach’s Conjecture in logic notation as follows:

$ \forall n \in Evens. \exists p,q \in Primes. n = p + q $

Then later it reports:

Swapping quantifiers in Goldbach’s Conjecture creates a patently false state- ment; namely that every even number 2 is the sum of the same two primes:

$ \exists p,q \in Primes. \forall n \in Evens. n = p+q $

What exactly is the difference between these two notations? They look the same to me, with the same quantifiers -- just written in a different order

share|cite|improve this question

marked as duplicate by MJD, mookid, Hans Engler, heropup, Magdiragdag Apr 9 '14 at 4:35

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

possible duplicate of Nested Quantifiers true or false Also Confused between nested quantifiers – MJD Apr 9 '14 at 0:03
Also Difference Between "$\forall x \exists y$" and "$\exists y \forall x$" and about six others. – MJD Apr 9 '14 at 0:05
The game-theoretic semantics of quantifiers will help you understand the distinction, if the answers don't already clear away the confusion. – Hunan Rostomyan Apr 9 '14 at 1:36
The detailed answers below show that the order of the quantifiers matter; in a transaltion in "symbolic" language of an expression, we have rules similar to those of natural language. The expression "John eats the apple" is different form "The apple eats John": the order of the words in the expression is relevant for its meaning. The same with "symbolic" language. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Apr 9 '14 at 8:16
up vote 5 down vote accepted

The outer quantifier[s] set the context for the inner quantifiers. In the first case, given different even integers, we are allowed to take different prime numbers. So for $n=10$ we may take $p=3,q=7$ and for $n=24$ we may take $p=7,q=17$.

In the second case we claim that there are two concrete prime numbers $p,q$, that every even integer is their sum. So we have that $p+q=2=4=6=8=10=\ldots$

So while the first claim is plausible, the second claim is clearly false.

share|cite|improve this answer

I'll try another example. Consider the two following sentences:

For any natural number, there is another that is bigger. $$\forall n\in\mathbb{N}.\ \exists m \in \mathbb{N}.\ m > n \tag{$\spadesuit$}$$

There is a natural number, that is bigger than any other. $$\exists m \in \mathbb{N}.\ \forall n\in\mathbb{N}.\ m > n \tag{$\clubsuit$}$$

The first is true, because you can set $m = n+1$. On the other hand, the second is false, because it fails for $n = m$. In fact, negation of $(\clubsuit)$

$$\forall m\in\mathbb{N}.\ \exists n \in \mathbb{N}.\ m \leq n$$

can be made true by $n = m$.

I hope this helps $\ddot\smile$

share|cite|improve this answer

What exactly is the difference between these two notations? They look the same to me, with the same quantifiers -- just written in a different order

That really is a rather astonishing thing to say and I'm afraid it betrays a real failure of understanding at the most basic level: the whole point of Frege's quantifier-variable notation is that the order of quantifiers tells us unequivocally which quantifier is in the scope of which, thus avoiding the kind of ambiguities that we can get in ordinary language. Any good introductory logic text will explain this cleary and carefully: try Paul Teller's A Modern Formal Logic Primer (freely downloadable) or my Introduction to Formal Logic. Or look at Daniel Velleman's How to Prove It.

Other answers here give clear specific examples to illustrate the difference that the order of quantifiers can make: but do also get clearer about the general principles involved.

share|cite|improve this answer
It's astonishing? I am learning math on my own so it should be expected that I miss important pieces. I am sorry that I do not live in your world of theoretical purity, but that I am a human who learns procedurally. – Joseph Malicke Apr 9 '14 at 2:28

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.