This is Velleman's exercise 3.4.20.a:

Suppose $F$ and $G$ are families of sets. Prove that $(\bigcup F) \setminus (\bigcup G) \subseteq \bigcup (F \setminus G)$.

This is my proof but I'm suspicious of it being correct:

Proof. Suppose $x$ is an arbitrary element of $(\bigcup F) \setminus (\bigcup G)$. Therefore we can choose some $A \in F$ such that $x \in A$. And for all A ∈ G, x ∉ A. Now suppose ∀A ∈ F\G(x ∉ A). Thus whether A ∈ G or A ∉ G we get x ∉ A which is a contradiction. Therefore ∃A ∈ F\G(x ∈ A). Since x was arbitrary, $(\bigcup F) \setminus (\bigcup G) \subseteq \bigcup (F \setminus G)$.

Please tell me if my proof is wrong plus how to fix it (preferably write a proof in Velleman's expository style).

Thanks in advance.

  • $\begingroup$ The notation here is somewhat awkward. When you write $\cup F$, is $F$ what you are indexing over or is it a representative set. Some possible alternatives: $\bigcup_{A\in F}A$ or $\bigcup_{i\in I}F_i$. $\endgroup$ – Michael Burr Aug 17 '17 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ It's the exact notation used by the book! ⋃F means the union of the family of sets F i.e. {x | ∃A ∈ F(x ∈ A)}. $\endgroup$ – Heptapod Aug 17 '17 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ Which I think it would be the first alternative that you mentioned. $\endgroup$ – Heptapod Aug 17 '17 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ Proof. Let $x \in \cup F / \cup G$ be arbitrary, and let $A$ be an element of $F$ containing $x$ It follows that $x \notin \cup G$ and thus forall $B \in G$, we have $x \notin B$. It follows that $A \in (F / G) $ and thus $x \in \cup (F / G) $ $\endgroup$ – mm8511 Aug 17 '17 at 17:52

You fixed $A$ earlier in the argument, but then proceeded to use the symbol $A$ to stand for an arbitrary element in $G$. You should use a different letter. Also, I don't understand the line "Thus whether $A\in G$ or $A\not\in G$ we get $x\not\in A$ which is a contradiction." Are you saying that $x\not\in A$ for all $A\not\in G$?

Here's how I would go about the proof:

Suppose $x\in(\cup F)\setminus(\cup G)$. Then $x\in\cup F$, so there exists $A\in F$ satisfying $x\in A$. Since $x\not\in\cup G$ and $x\in A$, we know that $A\not\in G$. Therefore $A\in F\setminus G$, which implies that $x\in A \subseteq \cup (F\setminus G)$. $\square$

I know you're following the notation of your textbook, but I would much prefer to use $\mathscr{F}$ and $\mathscr{G}$ instead of $F$ and $G$. The psychological difference between using script letters for sets of sets, capital letters for sets of elements, and lower case letters for elements is helpful. (Even though, technically, everything is a set.) Then it would read:

Given families of sets $\mathscr{F}$ and $\mathscr{G}$, we have $(\cup\mathscr{F})\setminus(\cup\mathscr{G}) \subseteq \cup(\mathscr{F}\setminus\mathscr{G})$.


Suppose $x\in(\cup \mathscr{F})\setminus(\cup \mathscr{G})$. Then $x\in\cup\mathscr{F}$, so there exists $F\in\mathscr{F}$ satisfying $x\in F$. Since $x\not\in\cup\mathscr{G}$ and $x\in F$, we know that $F\not\in\mathscr{G}$. Therefore $F\in \mathscr{F}\setminus\mathscr{G}$, which implies that $x\in F \subseteq \cup (\mathscr{F}\setminus\mathscr{G})$. $\square$

  • $\begingroup$ "Thus whether A∈G or A∉G we get x∉A which is a contradiction" was very wrong of me! That happened because I used the same symbol...! Could you please tell me what's wrong with the proof in below: Suppose x ∈ ∪(F \ G). Then we can choose some A ∈ F \ G such that x ∈ A. Since A ∈ F \ G, A ∈ F and A ∈/ G. Since x ∈ A and A ∈ F, x ∈ ∪F. Since x ∈ A and A ∈/ G, x ∈ ∪ / G. Therefore x ∈ (∪F) \ (∪G). $\endgroup$ – Heptapod Aug 17 '17 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ The proof given above is for this: ∪(F \ G) ⊆ (∪F)(∪G). $\endgroup$ – Heptapod Aug 17 '17 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Heptapod I'm happy to help! That proof is correct until you say "Since $x\in A$ and $A\not\in G$, then $x\not\in \cup G$". This is a false statement. The reason you're having trouble here is that you're trying to prove something that's false. Consider $F=\{(0,2)\}$ and $G=\{\{1\}\}$. Then $F\setminus G=\{(0,2)\}$, so $1\in (0,2)=\cup(F\setminus G)$. However $1\in \{1\}=\cup G$ as well. Thus $x\not\in(\cup F)\setminus(\cup G)$ because $(\cup F)\setminus(\cup G)=(0,2)\setminus\{1\}=(0,1)\cup(1,2)$. $\endgroup$ – John Griffin Aug 17 '17 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ I can see it now, that's great! I'm self-studying the book so your help means a lot to me. Thanks again. $\endgroup$ – Heptapod Aug 17 '17 at 18:06

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