Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. Join them; it only takes a minute:

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

A set is called compact if every sequence has a convergent subsequence. I am trying to show: If $K$ is compact then it is bounded. (that it is closed was very easy to prove)

What I want to do:

Let $K$ be compact and assume that it is not bounded. Let $x \in K$ be any point. Then for every $n \in \mathbb N$ let $x_n$ be such that $d(x,x_n) > n$. Now I want to show that $x_n$ does not have a convergent subsequence. I tried by contradiction: assume $x_{n_k}$ was a convergent subsequence and $x_{n_k}\to y$ for some $y \in K$.

How to proceed?

Edit: please note that I know how to prove it using the cover defintion and I am not asking for a proof using the equivalent defintion.

share|cite|improve this question
You are using the definition of sequentially compact, which is equivalent to compactness for metric spaces. However it's perhaps easier in this case to apply the compact definition directly by exhibiting an open cover for an unbounded set with no finite subcover. – hardmath Jul 20 '14 at 15:20
up vote 1 down vote accepted

To complete the proof indicated (although I Balla's approach is generally better) show that $x_k$ is not cauchy, given $n_0$ for any $m>n_0$ we have

$$d(x, x_{m}) \leq d(x, x_{n_0}) +d(x_m, x_{n_0})$$ and so

$$d(x, x_{m}) -d(x, x_{n_0}) \leq d(x_m, x_{n_0})$$ and by chosing $m$ large enough we have that $d(x_m, x_{n_0})$ is large.

share|cite|improve this answer
Why is $d(x,x_m)-d(x,x_{n_0})$ large? – blue Jul 20 '14 at 17:51
@blue $d(x,x_m)>m$, and $d(x,x_{n_0})$ is fixed – Rene Schipperus Jul 20 '14 at 17:58
Thanks. This is what I wanted to do. I will now accept your answer although I am a bit reluctant to do so since you managed to write non-grammatical broken English in 2 out of 2 sentences. – blue Jul 21 '14 at 9:14

Alternatively you can use the equivalently definition that :

$K$ is compact $\iff $ Every open cover of K has a finite subcover

Let $U_1(x)$ be a ball with radius $1$ around x. Then cover your set with those balls and use the compactness to get a finite cover of those balls with radius 1. Its easy to conclude now that your set is bounded above.

Edit: (Second Prove)

Let's assume that K is unbounded. We now want to construct a sequence which does not have a convergent subsequence in K.

Let $x_0\in K$ be arbitrary. We choose $x_1\in K$ such that $d(x_1,x_0)\geq1$. We will define the next parts of the sequence recursively:

If we already got $x_0,x_1,....,x_k$ then $R_k$ is the radius of a circle about $x_0$ which contains $x_1,....,x_k$. We choose now $x_{k+1}$ such that $d(x_{k+1},x_0)\geq R_k+1$. For all $l \leq k$ we conclude:

$d(x_{k+1},x_l)\geq d(x_{k+1},x_0)-d(x_0,x_l)\geq R_k+1-R_k=1 $

So, any two parts of $(x_n)_{n\in \mathbb N}$ have a distance at least 1 to each other, hence this sequence does not contain a convergent subsequence.

share|cite|improve this answer
No I know how to prove it using that definition. My question how to prove it using the other definition. – blue Jul 20 '14 at 17:44
Added an alternatively prove for you. – Marm Jul 22 '14 at 0:56

To keep in touch with your previous work,

if you suppose that $x_{n_k}\to y$, note that the function $h\to d(x,h)$ is continuous.

Therefore, the sequence $d(x,x_{n_k})_k$ converges to $d(x,y)$.

But since $d(x,x_{n_k}) > n_k$ and the sequence $(n_k)_k$ is increasing, the sequence $d(x,x_{n_k})$ is unbounded and convergent.


A different approach

Suppose for contradiction that $K$ is unbounded.

Negating the definition of boundedness, one derives the existence of two sequences $(x_n)$, $(y_n)$ such that $\forall n\in \mathbb N, d(x_n,y_n)>n$.

Since $K$ is compact, there is a convergent subsequence for $(x_n)$, say $\large(x_{n_k})$.

The first trick: since $K$ is compact, the sequence $\large(y_{n_k})$ has a convergent subsequence, say $\large(y_{n'_j})$ (I changed notations for clarity).

The second trick: the sequence $\large(x_{n'_j})$ is convergent since it is a subsequence of $\large (x_{n_k})$.

Therefore, the sequence $(\large d(x_{n'_j},y_{n'_j}))$ converges, and is unbounded.


share|cite|improve this answer
Thank you. Your proof is nice. – blue Jul 20 '14 at 17:54

Hint: Given $x_1, \ldots, x_n$, since $K$ is unbounded, $\displaystyle\exists x_{n+1} \in K \setminus \bigcup_{i=1}^nB(x_i, 1)$. Then $d(x_i, x_{n+1}) \ge 1\ \forall i$.

share|cite|improve this answer
Does it mean I have to construct a different sequence and cant use the sequence in my question? – blue Jul 20 '14 at 17:46

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

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