# A map is continuous if and only if for every set, the image of closure is contained in the closure of image

As a part of self study, I am trying to prove the following statement:

Suppose $X$ and $Y$ are topological spaces and $f: X \rightarrow Y$ is a map. Then $f$ is continuous if and only if $f(\overline{A})\subseteq \overline{f(A)}$, where $\overline{A}$ denotes the closure of an arbitrary set $A$.

Assuming $f$ is continuous, the result is almost immediate. Perhaps I am missing something obvious, but I have not been able to make progress on the other direction. Could anyone give me a hint which might illuminate the problem for me?

• I am not able to come up with any example of a continuous function s.t. $f(\overline{A}) \subsetneq \overline{f(A)}$. Can anyone give such an examples? – MUH Mar 11 '18 at 11:03
• Assuming $f$ is continuous, how exactly is the result "immediate"? – Al Jebr May 19 '18 at 18:56

## 7 Answers

Because the property is stated in terms of closures, it's I think slightly easier to use the inverse image of closed is closed equivalence of continuity instead:

If $$C$$ is closed in $$Y$$, we need to show that $$D = f^{-1}[C]$$ is closed in $$X$$.

Now using our closure property for $$D$$: $$f[\overline{D}] \subseteq \overline{f[D]} = \overline{f[f^{-1}[C]]} \subseteq \overline{C} = C,$$ as $$C$$ is closed.

This means that $$\overline{D} \subseteq f^{-1}[C] = D$$, making $$D$$ closed, as required.

• I agree, no need to mess with complements. – wildildildlife Feb 28 '12 at 22:06
• $C$ should be closed in $Y$, not $X$. – Holdsworth88 Feb 29 '12 at 10:16
• There's a misleading in the argumentation:<br> What you're showing is that in fact the preimage of closed sets is closed for continuous functions. That is a simple consequence as: $f^{-1}(C)=f^{-1}(C)^{c c}=f^{-1}(C^c)^c \text{closed}$. However, the assertion is much more subtle!<br> Moreover there's a missing step in your derivation, which is precisely the desired assertion: $f(\overline{D})\subseteq \overline{f(D)}\text{???}$ – C-Star-W-Star Jan 22 '14 at 16:57
• @Freeze_S, it seems to me that you have misread the question. The OP was looking for the direction that Henno has proved here. – Carsten S Jan 22 '14 at 18:09
• why the result is imeadiat if $f$ is continuous? – Guerlando OCs May 9 '16 at 0:18

If $f$ is continuous, then $f^{-1}(Y-\overline{f(A)})$ is open; since $f^{-1}(Y-\overline{f(A)}) = X -f^{-1}(\overline{f(A)})$, then $f^{-1}(\overline{f(A)})$ is closed; since $A\subseteq f^{-1}(f(A))\subseteq f^{-1}\overline{f(A)}$, we conclude that $\overline{A}\subseteq f^{-1}(\overline{f(A)})$, and therefore $f\left(\overline{A}\right)\subseteq f\left(f^{-1}\left(\overline{f(A)}\right)\right)\subseteq \overline{f(A)}$. This proves one direction. (Since you said you already had this, I posted the full argument).

Conversely, assume that for every $A$, $f\left(\overline{A}\right)\subseteq \overline{f(A)}$. Let $V$ be an open subset of $Y$; we want to show that $f^{-1}(V)$ is open; equivalently, we want to show that $X-f^{-1}(V)$ is closed; that is, we want to show that $X-f^{-1}(V)=\overline{X-f^{-1}(V)}$.

By assumption, $f\left(\overline{X-f^{-1}(V)}\right)\subseteq \overline{f(X-f^{-1}(V))}$. Now, $X-f^{-1}(V) = f^{-1}(Y-V)$, so $f(X-f^{-1}(V)) \subseteq Y-V$, which is closed; so $$f\left(\overline{X-f^{-1}(V)}\right)=f\left(\overline{f^{-1}(Y-V)}\right)\subseteq\overline{f\left(f^{-1}(Y-V)\right)}\subseteq Y-V.$$ Therefore, $$\overline{X-f^{-1}(V)} \subseteq f^{-1}(Y-V).$$ Is this sufficient?

• That was more than sufficient, thank you. – Holdsworth88 Feb 28 '12 at 16:51
• Converse part is nice. – math is love Jan 26 '17 at 15:15

We show that $f$ is continuous at each $x\in X$. Recall that $f$ is continuous at $x$ if for any open nhood $V$ of $f(x)$, there is an open nhood $U$ of $x$ with $f(U)\subseteq V$.

So, let $x\in X$ and let $V$ be an open nhood of $f(x)$. Set $E=X\setminus f^{-1}(V)$. Noting that $f(E)$ is contained in the closed set $V^C$, we see that $$f(\overline{E})\subseteq \overline{f(E)}\subseteq V^C;$$ whence $x\notin \overline E$ (since $f(x)$ is in $V$).

But then $x$ is in the open set $X\setminus \overline{E}$. Moreover, since $X\setminus \overline{E}\subseteq X\setminus E=f^{-1}(V)$, it follows that $f(X\setminus \overline{E})\subseteq V$, as desired.

An aside:

If $X$ were first countable, we could argue using sequences (where a sequence $(x_n)$ converges to $x$ if for any nhood $U$ of $x$ there is an $N$ so that $x_m\in U$ for all $m\ge N$); for in such a space a function is continuous at $x$ if and only if $(f (x_n))$ converges to $f(x)$ whenever $x_n$ converges to $x$.

Indeed, it is easily verified that given $x_n\rightarrow x$ and any subsequence $(x_{n_k})$ of $(x_n)$, that the image of this subsequence under $f$ when thought of as a sequence has a subsequence that converges to $f(x)$. Thus every subsequence of $(f(x_n))$ has a further subsequence which converges to $f(x)$, which implies that $(f(x_n))$ converges to $x$.

Of course, $X$ need not be first countable...

Though I think the sequential method above is a bit much here, I wonder if the argument can be suitably modified to arbitrary $X$ by using nets?

Henno’s argument is probably the slickest, but one can also work pointwise, either directly or, if one already has those characterizations of continuity, with nets or filters.

Suppose that $f$ is not continuous. Then there is some point $x_0\in X$ at which $f$ fails to be continuous. If $y_0=f(x_0)$, this means that there is an open nbhd $U$ of $y_0$ such that if $V$ is an open nbhd of $x_0$, there is a point $x_V\in V$ such that $f(x_V)\notin U$. Let $$A=\{x_V:V\text{ is an open nbhd of }x_0\}\;.$$

Clearly $x_0\in\overline{A}$, and $f[A]\subseteq Y\setminus U$. Moreover, $Y\setminus U$ is closed, so $\overline{f[A]}\subseteq Y\setminus U$, and hence

$$y_0\in f[\overline{A}]\subseteq\overline{f[A]}\subseteq Y\setminus U\;,$$

contradicting the choice of $U$.

Those who like nets may notice that $A$ actually is a net, over the directed set $\langle\mathscr{N}(x_0),\supseteq\rangle$, where $\mathscr{N}(x_0)$ is the family of open nbhds of $x_0$, and the argument shows that $f$ doesn’t preserve the limit of this net. (I could of course just as well have used the nbhd filter at $x_0$, instead of using only open nbhds.)

Those who prefer filters may modify this to consider the filter $$\mathscr{F}=\{V\cap f^{-1}[Y\setminus U]:V\in\mathscr{N}(x_0)\}$$ instead.

Here's one proof of the converse provided $X$ and $Y$ are metric spaces:

Take a limit point $x$ of $A$. Then because $f(\overline{A}) \subseteq \overline{f(A)}$, we have that $f(x)$ is a limit point of $f(A)$.

Because $x$ is a limit point of $A$, for every $\delta > 0$ there is a point $p \in A$ with $|x - p| < \delta$. And because $f(x)$ is a limit point of $f(A)$, for every $\epsilon > 0$, there is a point $q \in f(A)$ with $|f(x) - f(p)| < \epsilon$.

We thus have that for every point $x \in A$ with $|x - p| < \delta$, in fact $|f(x) - f(p)| < \epsilon$, so $f$ must be continuous.

• I guess this is a decent enough answer for the case of the real numbers, but the question was about arbitrary topological spaces $X$ and $Y$. – kahen Feb 28 '12 at 16:45
• We are not in a world where things like $|x-p|$ could make sense. Any "TOPOLOGICAL SPACE" is in question, but any way a good proof that will be useful. I am upvoting and don't delete this answer because of this as it will help close duplicates. – user21436 Feb 28 '12 at 16:46
• Can't you just substitute $d(x, p)$ for $|x - p|$? – jamaicanworm Feb 28 '12 at 16:50
• @jamaicaworm: Only in a metric space. Not every topological space is a metric space, or even metrizable. – Arturo Magidin Feb 28 '12 at 16:50
• @jamaicanworm: The post is labeled [general-topology], not [metric-spaces]. The definition of a topological space includes the notion of "open set", and "closed set" is a set whose complement is open. See the definition in Wikipedia. – Arturo Magidin Feb 28 '12 at 16:59

A proof using nets:

Suppose $y\in f(\overline{A})\backslash \overline{fA}$. Taking $x\in \overline{A}$ with $y=f(x)$; there is a net $x_i\in A$ converging to $x$. Now $f(x_i)$ is a net in $f(A)$ which does not converge to $f(x)$ [for this would imply $f(x)\in \overline{fA}$]. Thus $f$ is not continuous.

• This is the direction that the OP had already been able to show. – Brian M. Scott Feb 29 '12 at 6:08
• @Brian: Yes, sorry! I realized this the day after... – wildildildlife Mar 2 '12 at 13:15

The assertion is equivalent to:
$\overline{A}\subseteq f^{-1}(\overline{f(A)})$
So, the assertion follows from:
$\overline{A}\subseteq\overline{f^{-1}(f(A))}\subseteq\overline{f^{-1}(\overline{f(A)})}=f^{-1}(\overline{f(A)})$

1. Inclusion: $A\subseteq f^{-1}(f(A)) \Rightarrow \overline{A}\subseteq\overline{f^{-1}(f(A))}$
2. Inclusion: $f(A)\subseteq\overline{f(A)} \Rightarrow f^{-1}(f(A))\subseteq f^{-1}(\overline{f(A)}) \Rightarrow \overline{f^{-1}(f(A))}\subseteq \overline{f^{-1}(\overline{f(A)})}$
3. Equality: $\overline{f(A)} \text{ closed} \Rightarrow f^{-1}(\overline{f(A)}) \text{ closed} \Rightarrow \overline{f^{-1}(\overline{f(A)})}=f^{-1}(\overline{f(A)})$

The converse assertion is equivalent to:
$\overline{B}=B \Rightarrow \overline{f^{-1}(B)}=f^{-1}(B)$
So, the converse assertion follows from:
$f^{-1}(B)\subseteq\overline{f^{-1}(B)}\subseteq f^{-1}(f(\overline{f^{-1}(B)}))\subseteq f^{-1}(\overline{f(f^{-1}(B))}) \subseteq f^{-1}(\overline{B}) =f^{-1}(B)$
That gives:
$f^{-1}(B)=\overline{f^{-1}(B)}$

1. Inclusion: $A\subseteq \overline{A} \text{ in general}$
2. Inclusion: $A\subseteq f^{-1}(f(A)) \text{ in general}$
3. Inclusion: $f(\overline{A})\subseteq \overline{f(A)} \text{ by assumption}$
4. Inclusion: $f(f^{-1}(B))\subseteq B \text{ in general} \Rightarrow \overline{f(f^{-1}(B))}\subseteq \overline{B} \Rightarrow f^{-1}(\overline{f(f^{-1}(B))})\subseteq f^{-1}(\overline{B})$
5. Equality: $\overline{B}=B \Rightarrow f^{-1}(\overline{B})=f^{-1}(B)$
• I don't see how this is shorter than Henno's answer, which is complete since the OP cleared out the other direction. I don't think it is good practice to claim your answer is somehow better than others, and specifically target another user's answer. – Pedro Tamaroff Jan 22 '14 at 17:51
• I'm sorry for that ...got a little bit upset... I deleted that part so there's no bad discussion about it -sorry for that! Anyway Henno only shows that the preimage of a closed sst is closed what is a rather simple consequence. But the assertion is much more tricky than that. See my comment on Henno's answer. – C-Star-W-Star Jan 22 '14 at 17:57