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✗ indicates that the property may, or may not hold. All definitions tacitly require the homogeneous relation be transitive: for all if and then and there are additional properties that a homogeneous relation may satisfy. | indicates that the column's property is required by the definition of the row's term (at the very left). For example, the definition of an equivalence relation requires it to be symmetric.
In mathematics, especially in order theory, a preorder or quasiorder is a binary relation that is reflexive and transitive. Preorders are more general than equivalence relations and (non-strict) partial orders, both of which are special cases of a preorder: an antisymmetric preorder is a partial order, and a symmetric preorder is an equivalence relation.
The name preorder comes from the idea that preorders (that are not partial orders) are 'almost' (partial) orders, but not quite; they are neither necessarily antisymmetric nor asymmetric. Because a preorder is a binary relation, the symbol can be used as the notational device for the relation. However, because they are not necessarily antisymmetric, some of the ordinary intuition associated to the symbol may not apply. On the other hand, a preorder can be used, in a straightforward fashion, to define a partial order and an equivalence relation. Doing so, however, is not always useful or worthwhile, depending on the problem domain being studied.
In words, when one may say that b covers a or that a precedes b, or that b reduces to a. Occasionally, the notation ← or → or is used instead of
To every preorder, there corresponds a directed graph, with elements of the set corresponding to vertices, and the order relation between pairs of elements corresponding to the directed edges between vertices. The converse is not true: most directed graphs are neither reflexive nor transitive. In general, the corresponding graphs may contain cycles. A preorder that is antisymmetric no longer has cycles; it is a partial order, and corresponds to a directed acyclic graph. A preorder that is symmetric is an equivalence relation; it can be thought of as having lost the direction markers on the edges of the graph. In general, a preorder's corresponding directed graph may have many disconnected components.
Consider a homogeneous relation on some given set so that by definition, is some subset of and the notation is used in place of Then is called a preorder or quasiorder if it is reflexive and transitive; that is, if it satisfies:
A set that is equipped with a preorder is called a preordered set (or proset).^{[2]} For emphasis or contrast to strict preorders, a preorder may also be referred to as a non-strict preorder.
If reflexivity is replaced with irreflexivity (while keeping transitivity) then the result is called a strict preorder; explicitly, a strict preorder on is a homogeneous binary relation on that satisfies the following conditions:
A binary relation is a strict preorder if and only if it is a strict partial order. By definition, a strict partial order is an asymmetric strict preorder, where is called asymmetric if for all Conversely, every strict preorder is a strict partial order because every transitive irreflexive relation is necessarily asymmetric. Although they are equivalent, the term "strict partial order" is typically preferred over "strict preorder" and readers are referred to the article on strict partial orders for details about such relations. In contrast to strict preorders, there are many (non-strict) preorders that are not (non-strict) partial orders.
If a preorder is also antisymmetric, that is, and implies then it is a partial order.
On the other hand, if it is symmetric, that is, if implies then it is an equivalence relation.
A preorder is total if or for all
The notion of a preordered set can be formulated in a categorical framework as a thin category; that is, as a category with at most one morphism from an object to another. Here the objects correspond to the elements of and there is one morphism for objects which are related, zero otherwise. Alternately, a preordered set can be understood as an enriched category, enriched over the category
A preordered class is a class equipped with a preorder. Every set is a class and so every preordered set is a preordered class.
In computer science, one can find examples of the following preorders.
Further examples:
Example of a total preorder:
Preorders play a pivotal role in several situations:
Every binary relation on a set can be extended to a preorder on by taking the transitive closure and reflexive closure, The transitive closure indicates path connection in if and only if there is an -path from to
Left residual preorder induced by a binary relation
Given a binary relation the complemented composition forms a preorder called the left residual,^{[6]} where denotes the converse relation of and denotes the complement relation of while denotes relation composition.
Given a preorder on one may define an equivalence relation on such that
Using this relation, it is possible to construct a partial order on the quotient set of the equivalence, which is the set of all equivalence classes of If the preorder is denoted by then is the set of -cycle equivalence classes: if and only if or is in an -cycle with In any case, on it is possible to define if and only if That this is well-defined, meaning that its defining condition does not depend on which representatives of and are chosen, follows from the definition of It is readily verified that this yields a partially ordered set.
Conversely, from any partial order on a partition of a set it is possible to construct a preorder on itself. There is a one-to-one correspondence between preorders and pairs (partition, partial order).
Example: Let be a formal theory, which is a set of sentences with certain properties (details of which can be found in the article on the subject). For instance, could be a first-order theory (like Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory) or a simpler zeroth-order theory. One of the many properties of is that it is closed under logical consequences so that, for instance, if a sentence logically implies some sentence which will be written as and also as then necessarily (by modus ponens). The relation is a preorder on because always holds and whenever and both hold then so does Furthermore, for any if and only if ; that is, two sentences are equivalent with respect to if and only if they are logically equivalent. This particular equivalence relation is commonly denoted with its own special symbol and so this symbol may be used instead of The equivalence class of a sentence denoted by consists of all sentences that are logically equivalent to (that is, all such that ). The partial order on induced by which will also be denoted by the same symbol is characterized by if and only if where the right hand side condition is independent of the choice of representatives and of the equivalence classes. All that has been said of so far can also be said of its converse relation The preordered set is a directed set because if and if denotes the sentence formed by logical conjunction then and where The partially ordered set is consequently also a directed set. See Lindenbaum–Tarski algebra for a related example.
Strict preorder induced by a preorder
Given a preorder a new relation can be defined by declaring that if and only if Using the equivalence relation introduced above, if and only if and so the following holds
Preorders induced by a strict preorder
Using the construction above, multiple non-strict preorders can produce the same strict preorder so without more information about how was constructed (such knowledge of the equivalence relation for instance), it might not be possible to reconstruct the original non-strict preorder from Possible (non-strict) preorders that induce the given strict preorder include the following:
If then The converse holds (that is, ) if and only if whenever then or
Elements | Any | Transitive | Reflexive | Symmetric | Preorder | Partial order | Total preorder | Total order | Equivalence relation |
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 |
1 | 2 | 2 | 1 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 |
2 | 16 | 13 | 4 | 8 | 4 | 3 | 3 | 2 | 2 |
3 | 512 | 171 | 64 | 64 | 29 | 19 | 13 | 6 | 5 |
4 | 65,536 | 3,994 | 4,096 | 1,024 | 355 | 219 | 75 | 24 | 15 |
n | 2^{n2} | 2^{n2−n} | 2^{n(n+1)/2} | n! | |||||
OEIS | A002416 | A006905 | A053763 | A006125 | A000798 | A001035 | A000670 | A000142 | A000110 |
Note that S(n, k) refers to Stirling numbers of the second kind.
As explained above, there is a 1-to-1 correspondence between preorders and pairs (partition, partial order). Thus the number of preorders is the sum of the number of partial orders on every partition. For example:
For the interval is the set of points x satisfying and also written It contains at least the points a and b. One may choose to extend the definition to all pairs The extra intervals are all empty.
Using the corresponding strict relation " ", one can also define the interval as the set of points x satisfying and also written An open interval may be empty even if
Also and can be defined similarly.