We can divide a proof by induction in two parts: Inductive base and Inductive step. One proves for the case when n = 1, and after one suppouse what we want to prove is the case for an arbitrary k, then we prove k+1 is also true.

Now, I want to know the parts of the pigeonhole principle. When I want to prove something using the pigeonhole principle what I must to do?. An example will make it clear, say this problem

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In the problem assume that n is a natural number greater or equal to 2 and even.

How can I solve it using the pigeonhole principle, more concret, what are the parts of the proof using the pigeonhole principle?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm assuming, $n\in\mathbb N$, where $n\geq 2$? $\endgroup$
    – Seong
    Oct 4, 2021 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ Yes Owen, I forgot it $\endgroup$ Oct 4, 2021 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ Note for $n=2$, set up your pigeonholes and prove the trivial case. Then suppose for some $n\in\mathbb N$ that it holds with your associated pigeonholes. Then show for $n +1$. Also note that for $n=2$, one could easily do brute force, but setting up your pigeonholes first allows you to easily extend to $n\in\mathbb N$. $\endgroup$
    – Seong
    Oct 4, 2021 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ Please do not use images, especially for such small piece of text. See here why images should not be used to convey key information. $\endgroup$ Oct 4, 2021 at 1:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Ratamágica, also, I feel like it should also say that $n$ should be even. Consider $n=5 \implies \frac 52 +1 = 2.5 + 1 = 3.5$. Picking 3.5 elements from the set doesn't make sense. $\endgroup$
    – Seong
    Oct 4, 2021 at 1:24

1 Answer 1


Direct approach that does not use induction.

Assume that the selected (distinct) numbers, in ascending order are

$A = \{a_1, a_2, \cdots, a_{(n/2) + 1}\}.$

For $k \in \{1,2, \cdots, [(n/2) + 1]\},~$ let $b_k = (n+1) - a_k$.

Let $B = \{b_1, b_2, \cdots, b_{(n/2) + 1}\}.$

As defined, $B \subseteq \{1,2,\cdots, n\}.$

Note that the set $\{1,2,\cdots, n\}$ only has $(n)$ elements, while the sets $A$ and $B$ each have [(n/2) + 1] distinct elements from $\{1,2,\cdots,n\}$. Therefore, by the pigeonhole principle, there must be an element $b_r \in B$ that equals some element $a_s \in A$.

Therefore, $a_r + a_s = (n+1).$

Note that since $n$ even, $(n+1)$ is odd.
Therefore, $a_r, a_s$ must be two distinct elements (else their sum would be even).


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