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A sequence is one of the earliest and easiest definitions encountered, but I will restate it.

I was taught to denote the sequence [math]\{a_1,a_2,...\}[/math] by [math]\{a_n\}_{n=1}^\infty[/math] however I don't like this, as it looks like a set. I have seen the notation [math](a_n)_{n=1}^\infty[/math] and I must say I prefer it. This notation is inline with that of a tuple which is a generalisation of an ordered pair.


Formally a sequence [ilmath](A_i)_{i=1}^\infty[/ilmath] is a function[1][2], [math]f:\mathbb{N}\rightarrow S[/math] where [ilmath]S[/ilmath] is some set. For a finite sequence it is simply [math]f:\{1,...,n\}\rightarrow S[/math]. Now we can write:

  • [ilmath]f(i):=A_i[/ilmath]

This naturally then generalises to indexing sets


To specify that the points of a sequence, the [ilmath]x_i[/ilmath] are from a space, [ilmath]X[/ilmath] we may write:

  • [ilmath](x_n)^\infty_{n=1}\subseteq X[/ilmath]

This is an abuse of notation, as [ilmath](x_n)^\infty_{n=1}[/ilmath] is not a subset of [ilmath]X[/ilmath]. It plays on:

  • [ilmath][(x_n)^\infty_{n=1}\subseteq X]\iff[x\in(x_n)_{n=1}^\infty\implies x\in X][/ilmath]

Note that the elements of [ilmath](x_n)_{n=1}^\infty[/ilmath] are ether:

  • Elements of a relation (if we consider the sequence as a mapping) or
    • So using this, [ilmath]x\in(x_n)_{n=1}^\infty[/ilmath] may look like [ilmath]x=(a,b)[/ilmath] (indicating [ilmath]f(a)=b[/ilmath]) which is an Ordered pair, not in [ilmath]X[/ilmath]
  • Elements of a tuple (which is a generalisation of ordered pairs where (usually) [ilmath](a,b)=\{\{a\},\{a,b\}\}[/ilmath]
    • So using this, [ilmath]x\in(x_n)_{n=1}^\infty[/ilmath] may indeed look like [ilmath]x=\{\{a\},\{a,b\}\}\notin X[/ilmath]

As such the notation [ilmath](x_n)^\infty_{n=1}\subseteq X[/ilmath] having no other sensible meaning is a notation to say that [ilmath]\forall i[x_i\in X][/ilmath]


Given a sequence [ilmath](x_n)_{n=1}^\infty[/ilmath] we define a subsequence of [ilmath](x_n)^\infty_{n=1}[/ilmath][3][4] as follows:

  • Given any strictly increasing monotonic sequence[Note 1], [ilmath](k_n)_{n=1}^\infty\subseteq\mathbb{N}[/ilmath]
    • That means that [ilmath]\forall n\in\mathbb{N}[k_n<k_{n+1}][/ilmath][Note 2]

Then the subsequence of [ilmath](x_n)[/ilmath] given by [ilmath](k_n)[/ilmath] is:

  • [ilmath](x_{k_n})_{n=1}^\infty[/ilmath], the sequence whose terms are: [ilmath]x_{k_1},x_{k_2},\ldots,x_{k_n},\ldots[/ilmath]
    • That is to say the [ilmath]i[/ilmath]th element of [ilmath](x_{k_n})[/ilmath] is the [ilmath]k_i[/ilmath]th element of [ilmath](x_n)[/ilmath]

As a mapping

Consider an (injective) mapping: [ilmath]k:\mathbb{N}\rightarrow\mathbb{N} [/ilmath] with the property that:

  • [ilmath]\forall a,b\in\mathbb{N}[a<b\implies k(a)<k(b)][/ilmath]

This defines a sequence, [ilmath](k_n)_{n=1}^\infty[/ilmath] given by [ilmath]k_n:= k(n)[/ilmath]

  • Now [ilmath](x_{k_n})_{n=1}^\infty[/ilmath] is a subsequence

See also


  1. Note that strictly increasing cannot be replaced by non-decreasing as the sequence could stay the same (ie a term where [ilmath]m_i\eq m_{i+1} [/ilmath] for example), it didn't decrease, but it didn't increase either. It must be STRICTLY increasing.

    If it was simply "non-decreasing" or just "increasing" then we could define: [ilmath]k_n:\eq 5[/ilmath] for all [ilmath]n[/ilmath].
    • Then [ilmath](x_{k_n})_{n\in\mathbb{N} } [/ilmath] is a constant sequence where every term is [ilmath]x_5[/ilmath] - the 5th term of [ilmath](x_n)[/ilmath].
  2. Some books may simply require increasing, this is wrong. Take the theorem from Equivalent statements to compactness of a metric space which states that a metric space is compact [ilmath]\iff[/ilmath] every sequence contains a convergent subequence. If we only require that:
    • [ilmath]k_n\le k_{n+1} [/ilmath]
    Then we can define the sequence: [ilmath]k_n:=1[/ilmath]. This defines the subsequence [ilmath]x_1,x_1,x_1,\ldots x_1,\ldots[/ilmath] of [ilmath](x_n)_{n=1}^\infty[/ilmath] which obviously converges. This defeats the purpose of subsequences. A subsequence should preserve the "forwardness" of a sequence, that is for a sub-sequence the terms are seen in the same order they would be seen in the parent sequence, and also the "sub" part means building a sequence from it, we want to built a sequence by choosing terms, suggesting we ought not use terms twice.
    The mapping definition directly supports this, as the mapping can be thought of as choosing terms


  1. p46 - Introduction To Set Theory, third edition, Jech and Hrbacek
  2. p11 - Analysis - Part 1: Elements - Krzysztof Maurin
  3. Analysis - Part 1: Elements - Krzysztof Maurin
  4. Functional Analysis - Volume 1: A gentle introduction - Dzung Minh Ha

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