Without loss of generality

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Without loss of generality, often abbreviated to WLOG, is a frequently used expression in math. The term is used to indicate that the following proof emphasizes on a particular case, but doesn’t affect the validity of the proof in general.

Be careful when using WLOG in a proof. By using it, you must be certain that your statement actually DOES work for all cases! If you use WLOG in a proof and the statement is not necessarily true, points will get marked off. For example, you can't say "WLOG, let $a > b > c$." if $a$ could equal $b$ or $c$.


  • If three objects are each painted either red or blue, then there must be at least two objects of the same color.


Assume, without loss of generality, that the first object is red. If either of the other two objects is red, then we are finished; if not, then the other two objects must both be blue and we are still finished.

The above argument works because the exact same reasoning could be applied if the first object is blue. As a result, the use of "without loss of generality" is valid in this case. (Note that this can also be proved by the Pigeonhole Principle)

Problems using WLOG

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