Predicate (mathematical logic)

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For other uses, see Predicate (disambiguation).

In mathematics, a predicate is commonly understood to be a Boolean-valued function P: X→ {true, false}, called the predicate on X. However, predicates have many different uses and interpretations in mathematics and logic, and their precise definition, meaning and use will vary from theory to theory. So, for example, when a theory defines the concept of a relation, then a predicate is simply the characteristic function or the indicator function of a relation. However, not all theories have relations, or are founded on set theory, and so one must be careful with the proper definition and semantic interpretation of a predicate.

Simplified overview[edit]

Informally, a predicate is a statement that may be true or false depending on the values of its variables.[1] It can be thought of as an operator or function that returns a value that is either true or false.[2] For example, predicates are sometimes used to indicate set membership: when talking about sets, it is sometimes inconvenient or impossible to describe a set by listing all of its elements. Thus, a predicate P(x) will be true or false, depending on whether x belongs to a set.

Predicates are also commonly used to talk about the properties of objects, by defining the set of all objects that have some property in common. So, for example, when P is a predicate on X, one might sometimes say P is a property of X. Similarly, the notation P(x) is used to denote a sentence or statement P concerning the variable object x. The set defined by P(x) is written as {x | P(x)}, and is just a collection of all the objects for which P is true.

For instance, {x | x is a positive integer less than 4} is the set {1,2,3}.

If t is an element of the set {x | P(x)}, then the statement P(t) is true.

Here, P(x) is referred to as the predicate, and x the subject of the proposition. Sometimes, P(x) is also called a propositional function, as each choice of x produces a proposition.

Formal definition[edit]

The precise semantic interpretation of an atomic formula and an atomic sentence will vary from theory to theory.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cunningham, Daniel W. (2012). A Logical Introduction to Proof. New York: Springer. p. 29. ISBN 9781461436317. 
  2. ^ Haas, Guy M. "What If? (Predicates)". Introduction to Computer Programming. Berkeley Foundation for Opportunities in IT (BFOIT),. Retrieved 20 July 2013. 
  3. ^ Lavrov, Igor Andreevich and Larisa Maksimova (2003). Problems in Set Theory, Mathematical Logic, and the Theory of Algorithms. New York: Springer. p. 52. ISBN 0306477122. 

External links[edit]