I was instructed to show that a set of vectors which contains a set of linearly dependent vectors is dependent. But what does this even mean? And how may I prove this?

What does it mean for a set to be linearly dependent?

  • $\begingroup$ (just to know) Do you know the Rang of a matrix? Do you know what does it mean that two vectors are linear dependent? $\endgroup$ – Bman72 Feb 12 '14 at 8:05
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    $\begingroup$ It means there is at least one member of the set that may be written as a linear combination of the other members of the set. Equivalently, there is a linear combination of the vectors in the set that sums to zero. $\endgroup$ – Eric Towers Feb 12 '14 at 8:06
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    $\begingroup$ forget about word 'linear' as its part of linear algebra, simply say that dependent vector is that vector that can be constructed from other vectors, if it cannot be, its independent. Makes sense ? $\endgroup$ – Sejwal Feb 12 '14 at 8:07

Let $\vec {v_1},\vec {v_2}$ be two vectors. $\vec {v_1},\vec {v_2}$ being linearly dependant means there are scalars $c_1,c_2 \neq 0$ so that $c_1 \vec {v_1}+c_2 \vec {v_2}=0$. If they were linearly independent, then, $c_1 \vec {v_1}+c_2 \vec {v_2}=0 \rightarrow c_1,c_2 = 0$

What linear dependance basically means is that you can express one vector (or sum of vectors) as the linear combination of the other vectors in the set. Linear combination meaning their sum with scaling them.

So lets there be $v_1, v_2, \cdots, v_n$ a set of vectors. We know that $v_1, v_2, \cdots, v_k$ is linearly depandents. That means there are scalars $c_1,c_2,\cdots,c_k \neq 0$ so that $c_!v_1+c_2v_2+ \cdots +c_kv_k=0$

A set of vectors is linearly independent if $c_1v_1+c_2v_2+\cdots+c_nv_n=0 \rightarrow c_1=c_2=\cdots=c_n=0$, for every set of scalars.

But we know that for $c_1, c_2 \cdots ,c_k, c_{k+1} \cdots, c_n$, as $c_1,c_2,\cdots,c_k \neq 0$ and $c_{k+1}=0, c_{k+1}=0, \cdots c_n=0$ we'll gets $c_1v_1+c_2v_2+\cdots+c_nv_n=0$ without $c_1=c_2=\cdots=c_n=0$ (all of them that is), so the set is linearly dependant.


Let's take 3 vectors $v_1,v_2,v_3$

If $v_3$ can be made by a linear combination of other two vectors then we say that this set of vectors is linearly dependent.

For example

Let's take a set of vectors


You can see a linear combination of first two vectors can make the third vector


Where $k_1=1,k_2=1$

You can see any multiple of this vector can be made by some linear combination of these two vectors.This means that any vector made by (2,1,1) can also be made by other two vectors. So, we say that this set is a linearly dependent set. Here (2,1,1) is a redundancy.

But if we remove it then the set becomes {(1,0,1)(1,1,0)}.Now this is linearly independent because no multiple of (1,0,1) can make any multiple of (1,1,0).

To check whether a set contains any redundancy, you can use reduced row echelon form. If all the elements of a line in rref becomes zero then that means that vector is redundant.


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