I want to express the fact that a set has at most 2 elements, in logical notation. Is the following correct:

$$\exists x_1 \exists x_2 \exists x_3(x_1=x_2 \lor x_1=x_3 \lor x_2=x_3)$$

Or must I use universal quantifiers (which would seem to be correct, given that the above statement is the negation of at least 3 elements). Thank you.

  • $\begingroup$ You can do it much simpler by saying $\exists x_1\exists x_2: x_1\neq x_2$. In your case $x_1=x_2=x_3$ - which would lead to only 1 element - is not excluded. $\endgroup$
    – LegNaiB
    May 10, 2021 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ @LegNaiB Doesn't your expression say that there are at least 2 distinct elements? And I don't think OP's expression implies that $x_1 = x_2 = x_3$. For instance, we could have $x_1=x_2=0$ and $x_3 = 1$. $\endgroup$ May 10, 2021 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ It doesn't imply that, but it is a possibility. But you are correct, I interchanged "at most" and "at least". However, the third element is not necessary. It would be enough to just say $\exists x_1\exists x_2$. Just the case of zero elements is not included then. $\endgroup$
    – LegNaiB
    May 10, 2021 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ See the accepted answer in this question: math.stackexchange.com/questions/1936315/…? $\endgroup$ May 11, 2021 at 8:54

1 Answer 1


The following set satisfies your sentence: $\{0, 1, 2\}$ where we take $x_1 = x_2 = x_3 = 0$. In fact, any nonempty set would satisfy that sentence. You could modify your sentence to use universal rather than existential quantifiers.

$$ \forall x_1 \forall x_2 \forall x_3(x_1=x_2 \lor x_1=x_3 \lor x_2=x_3) $$

This sentence being true means that among any choice of 3 elements in the set, there must be some pair that is the same. In other words, it expresses the property that the set cannot have more than 3 elements.


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