In my Mathematics textbook, the definition of the power set of a given set is given as follows : $$P(A) = \{X : X \subseteq A \}$$ Now, this is used to say that the power set of a given set $A$ is the set that contains all sets that are a subset of $A$.
But, the symbol $\subseteq$ is generally used to denote improper subsets. Basically, if $A \subseteq B \iff A = B$. But, if we take that definition of the symbol $\subseteq$, then the power set will only contain the set that is equal to the given set i.e. in that case, $P(A) = A$.

So, that means that the symbol $\subseteq$ is just used as a general subset symbol, which would include both proper and improper subsets of the given set, right? But, sometimes the symbol $\subset$ is also used in place of this. And in the definition of a power set itself too. What I mean is that in another textbook, I saw the definition of a power set as follows : $$P(A) = \{ X : X \subset A \}$$ So, what I think is that in the definitions of power set that I mentioned above, both $\subset$ and $\subseteq$ are used to just represent a subset (whether it be a proper one, or an improper one).
But, if we use $\subseteq$ as a symbol for improper subsets and $\subset$ as a symbol for proper subsets, would the definition of a power set be : $$P(A) = \{ X : X \subset A \} \cup \{ X : X \subseteq A \} = \{ X : X \subset A \} \cup \{ A \} \text{ ?}$$


1 Answer 1


$A\subseteq B$ does NOT mean that $A=B$. It means simply that $A$ is a subset of $B$ and explicitly allows that subset to be $B$ itself. Many people use $A\subset B$ to mean the same thing. Others use $A\subset B$ to mean that $A$ is a proper subset of $B$, i.e., any subset of $B$ except $B$ itself. And some of us, including me, prefer to avoid this ambiguity by writing $A\subsetneqq B$ or $A\subsetneq B$ when we want to specify that $A$ is a proper subset of $B$.

The answer to your final question is yes, though you don’t need the first union: if you use $\subseteq$ for arbitrary subsets and $\subset$ strictly for proper subsets, it’s simply

$$\wp(A)=\{X:X\subseteq A\}=\{X:X\subset A\}\cup\{A\}\;.$$

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer! I don't understand what you mean by It simply means that A is a subset of B and explicitly allows that subset to be B itself. I'd be glad if you can clear that to me. And, the last part was actually a mistake. I interchange $\cap$ and $\cup$ a lot by mistake. Shall I edit it or not? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Rajdeep: The notation $A\subseteq B$ says that $A$ is any subset of $B$; the inclusion of the underscore in the symbol is simply a way of saying explicitly that $A$ could be $B$ as well as any proper subset of $B$. Yes, by all means edit the question to fix the mistake; when you do, I’ll add a little at the end of mine to comment on the corrected version. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ Edited. Thanks a lot :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 20:51

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