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I'm trying to understand set builder notation, I was wondering what the difference (if any) is between:

$$ A = \lbrace k \; \vert \; \exists n \colon ( n \in \mathbb{N} \; \wedge k = 2n ) \rbrace $$ and: $$ B = \lbrace n \; \vert \; ( n,p \in \mathbb{N} \; \wedge n = 2p ) \rbrace $$

Both these set should contain all the positive even numbers. I also assume that both notations are correct.

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  • $\begingroup$ The first is correct. The second makes no sense to me (where are the quantors?). $\endgroup$ – Henno Brandsma Jan 13 '16 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ The second notation is not correct because $p$ is not quantified. The formula $n,p\in\mathbb{N} \wedge n=2p$ is neither true nor false for any $n \in \mathbb{N}$. $\endgroup$ – kccu Jan 13 '16 at 19:29
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$A$ is indeed the set of even integers.

$B$ is a bit bizarre. It is not the set of all even integers. $p$ is not bound, so If it didn't say "$p\in \Bbb N$" then we could give the definition the benefit of the doubt, and regard $p$ as a parameter. Assuming that $p$ is an integer, $B = \{2p\}$. In fact, even as written, we might still regard $p$ as a parameter, and then: $$ B = \begin{cases} \{2p\}&\text{if $p\in \Bbb N$,}\\ \emptyset&\text{if $p\notin \Bbb N$.}\\ \end{cases} $$

But this is very contrived: too little benefit, too much doubt. If someone wanted to define such a set $B$, in practice they wouldn't write it this way.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think I am beginning to understand it, in $A$ the part $\exists n \colon$ binds $n$ making the whole term a predicate. In $B$ the term is not a predicate and as such cannot be used to create a set. Is this interpretation correct? (I apologize if I am imprecise, I'm a computer guy trying to learn set theory) $\endgroup$ – Baudin999 Jan 13 '16 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ No, that's not quite right. In the definition of $A$, the predicate following $\mid$ has one free variable, $k$, so it "is" or specifies a 1-ary predicate $P(k)$. In turn, the set-builder binds this variable $k$, and $A$ consists of all $k$ such that $P(k)$. In the definition of $B$, the formula following $\mid$ has two free variables, $n$ and $p$, and specifies a binary predicate $R(n,p)$. The set builder binds only $n$, and $B$ consists of all $n$ such that $R(n,p)$, whatever $p$ is. $\endgroup$ – BrianO Jan 13 '16 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ The older name for "set-builder notation" is "set comprehension". Do you know Python? "comprehensions" in Python (list comprehensions, dict comprehensions, generator expressions, ...) are inspired by set comprehensions in set theory. $\endgroup$ – BrianO Jan 13 '16 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ Again, though, nobody would write that definition of $B$. Although it's syntactically legal, it's weird for reasons indicated, almost certainly a mistake. If the intention is to define the even ints, then obviously it is a mistake. $\endgroup$ – BrianO Jan 13 '16 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for the explanation, indeed, I've stumbled upon set-builder because of sequence expressions in F#. The main difference is that in F# (and Python) "what goes in" and "what comes out" is in a more familiar notation. It was hard to understand that even though, $\exists n \; so \; that \; ...$ is just a predicate and there is no $n$ being "injected" to test this $\Phi(n)$ on, this statement describes a set. I will need a few more hours to really understand all of your words, just know I'm really grateful that you took the time to help out a beginner with patience! $\endgroup$ – Baudin999 Jan 14 '16 at 7:02

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