MathGroup Archive 2006

[Date Index] [Thread Index] [Author Index]

Search the Archive

RE: Using "=" vs ":="

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg70676] RE: [mg70664] Using "=" vs ":="
  • From: "Erickson Paul-CPTP18" <Paul.Erickson at>
  • Date: Mon, 23 Oct 2006 02:49:43 -0400 (EDT)

":=" is a delayed set meaning the right hand side is unevaluated whereas
"=" the right hand side is evaluated and set. For this example since the
right hand side before and after evaluation is the same, if won't
matter. However it will matter whether or not you use the Sin function
"i.e., Sin[..]" or not "i.e., Sin ( .. )". Using the "( ..  )" the
internal is evaluated as x^2+y^2 to a five and multiplied whereas the "[
.. ]" says that it is an argument to the function Sin.

You can check the definition of the function with "?f" anytime after
definition in case your not sure. A trivial example where there is at
least a visual difference is:
a = 2+3 (* results in a set to 5 *)
a := 2+3 (* results in a set to 2+3 - now that may not matter in
practice, but in some cases it will matter *) 

-----Original Message-----
From: misha [mailto:iamisha1 at] 
To: mathgroup at
Subject: [mg70676] [mg70664] Using "=" vs ":="

I'm going through Mathematic by Example, 2nd ed., (Abell and Braselton),
and have come across something that puzzles me.

Chapter 2, Section 2, Example 8
Define f(x,y)=1-sin(x^2+y^2)

So I first try,
In[1]:= f[x_, y_]:=1-Sin(x^2+y^2)
No problem so far...
In[2]:= f[x,y]
Still no problem...
Out[3]:=1-5 Sin


I noticed that rather than using ":=" to "simply define" this function,
as opposed to (just) "=" to "define and compute" this function, I get
different subsequent behavior.  Specifically, doing the above with just
"=", works fine.
In[1]:= f[x_, y_]=1-Sin(x^2+y^2)

My question is, Why?  What's the difference between ":=" and "=" for
defining functions?


  • Prev by Date: Re: Problem in loading packages in Mathematica
  • Next by Date: Re: Using "=" vs ":="
  • Previous by thread: Re: Using "=" vs ":="
  • Next by thread: Re: Using "=" vs ":="