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ring of sets

field of sets
lattice of sets, algebra of sets
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Mathematics Subject Classification

03E20 no label found28A05 no label found


Reading various books and lectures on Measure Theory, I have never been able to find your definition of ring of sets.

Namely, I find always two definitions,

a) A ring is a (non-empty) collection of sets which is closed under finite difference (A\B) and finite union.

b) A ring is a (non-empty) collection of sets which is closed under finite symmetric difference (A /\ B) and finite intersection.

In both cases it's easy to prove that a ring is closed also for finite intersection (def a) and for finite union (def b).

On the other side, in order to prove the equivalence of the definition, I tried to use your definition to prove that a ring is closed under any type of difference (ordinary and symmetric), but I wasn't able to, and sincerely I think it's not possible.

Am I missing something? Could you clarify please?

Thank you and best regards,


No you're not. In this definition, you can easily find examples (see the examples attached to the entry) such that the ring is not closed under any of the difference operators. The definition you have corresponds to the definition of a field of sets in the same entry.

I will add some verbiage to clarify the different interpretations and also include some references where I found the definition of a ring of sets in the entry.


Dear Chi,

thank you very much for your reply, which confirms my thought that our definitions are not equivalent.

Actually, the definitions I have do not correspond exactly to yours of a field of sets; the latter in fact, including S and the complement of each set, refers to what is usually called an algebra of sets.

My definitions of a ring of sets say in a nutshell that a ring contains the finite

(as a consequence)
d)symmetric difference

of any of its sets, and that it is non empty (i.e., if it contains one only set, this must be the empty one, because of A\A).

It does contain however neither the whole set S, nor the complement of each set (if it actually does, it is called an algebra, or a field, which should be synonimous).

The reason of my questions is that, as far as I know, the whole powerful Measure Extension theory, which is one of the basis of Real Analysis, deeply relies on the concept of the ring generated by a semi-ring, which is in turn the most rudimental collection of sets on which a Measure has all its usual properties.

Any further comment of yours will be much appreciated.

All my best,


The point of my entry is to spell out the two fundamental theorems in lattice theory. But to state them, I need a definition for both a ring of sets and a field of sets, and none of them were defined on Planet Math at the time.

But I do see your point of view on how a term can be defined and interpreted differently from different perspectives.

I have made additional clarifications in the entry to try to clear out any confusions.

Thanks for pointing this out.


Dear Chi,

thank you for your clarification; now the entry is very complete!

Best regards,


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