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assume vs. suppose

English translation: regardless of subject area

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12:28 Jul 11, 2004
English to English translations [PRO]
Science - Mathematics & Statistics / math
English term or phrase: assume vs. suppose
Here are two examples:
Assume that A is equal to B.
Suppose A=B.

My colleague said that there was a subtle difference between the two statements from the mathematical standpoint. Is he right?
Nik-On/Off
Ukraine
Local time: 16:53
English translation:regardless of subject area
Explanation:
Not an expert in maths, but I'd say "assume" implies taking something for granted (as in LET a=4), while "suppose" could be an intro to presenting one of the possible scenarios.

If you ask someone to assume that A=B, you're telling them not to question that, while saying "suppose A=B" goes more along the lines of "let's see where it gets us if we say that A=B"
Selected response from:

Pike
Croatia
Local time: 15:53
Grading comment
Though I'm still not sure whether there is a difference, the way you were reasoning in attemp to explain it was quite instructive. Thank you for that!!
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
4 +3regardless of subject area
Pike
4 +2assumption is the term used in mathematical proofsRHELLER
5 +1Degree of difference
Paul Dixon
3 +3There is no difference
Rabeya Akhter
3 +3certain v possible
George Rabel


  

Answers


6 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +3
There is no difference


Explanation:
I think there is no difference. Ask your friend why he thinks that these are not same in mathematical standpoint.

Rabeya Akhter
Singapore
Local time: 21:53
Native speaker of: Native in BengaliBengali

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Craft.Content: It would be interesting to know about the subtle difference.
2 mins
  -> Thanks Sanjay

neutral  Pike: can't be 100% about maths, but I'm pretty sure there is a difference in everyday speech.
3 mins
  -> Actually both are possible, lets see what others think. Anyway, thanks.

agree  Christian
24 mins
  -> Thanks Christian

agree  R. A. Stegemann: In a mathematical sense there is no difference.
2 hrs
  -> Thanks Hamo.

agree  Ramesh Madhavan: George Rabel is right but in today's usage, there is no difference when it comes to Mathematics.
2 hrs
  -> Thanks Ramesh.

disagree  xxxPRen: There is a subtle but very real difference - see below
3 hrs
  -> Both can be possible.Lets see which is correct. Anyway, thanks.
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6 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +3
certain v possible


Explanation:
I am not mathematician, but I "suppose" the difference between the two is the degree of certainty. An assumption entails a greater degree of certainty than a supposition. Let's see what the colleagues have to offer.

George Rabel
Local time: 09:53
Native speaker of: Native in SpanishSpanish

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Pike
1 min
  -> Thanks

agree  Vicky Papaprodromou
46 mins
  -> Thanks ~

disagree  R. A. Stegemann: Please see my note to Pike.
2 hrs
  -> yes, I have no opinion as to whether there is a difference inthe specific field of Mathematics. I do think there is a difference in everyday speech

neutral  Ramesh Madhavan: Please see my comments for Trini's answer.
2 hrs
  -> Thanks

agree  xxxPRen
3 hrs
  -> Thanks

agree  Madeleine MacRae Klintebo
5 hrs
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8 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +3
regardless of subject area


Explanation:
Not an expert in maths, but I'd say "assume" implies taking something for granted (as in LET a=4), while "suppose" could be an intro to presenting one of the possible scenarios.

If you ask someone to assume that A=B, you're telling them not to question that, while saying "suppose A=B" goes more along the lines of "let's see where it gets us if we say that A=B"

Pike
Croatia
Local time: 15:53
Native speaker of: Native in CroatianCroatian, Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 4
Grading comment
Though I'm still not sure whether there is a difference, the way you were reasoning in attemp to explain it was quite instructive. Thank you for that!!

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  mcguegan: you are right
1 hr
  -> thanks!

agree  Armorel Young: Yes. You could suppose A=B and see what happens, then suppose A is not equal to B, or is equal to C, and see where that gets you
1 hr
  -> thanks!

disagree  R. A. Stegemann: I find your suggestion very misleading, and hope that others familiar with mathematics will state the same. No hard feelings! // I have provided you with an answer to your question. See my remark to Rita.
2 hrs
  -> No problem. I'd appreciate it if you were to teach me something new, whether by entering your reasoning here or by sending me a message. Thanks in advance! (What do you think of Rita's answer?)

agree  xxxPRen: Yes, this is a good explanation of the subtle difference referred to earlier.
3 hrs
  -> thanks!

agree  Madeleine MacRae Klintebo: Yes, Agree with Paula - good explanation.
5 hrs
  -> thanks!
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4 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +1
Degree of difference


Explanation:
For me, "assume" involves a small difference, for example, if we carry out the algebraic expansion of (1 + cosA)**10, then when A is close to 90 degrees or pi/2 radians, we can ASSUME that this function is equivalent to 1 + 10cosA (as the other terms are so small that they can be disregarded).
Suppose, on the other hand, involves a greater shift in line of thought.

Hope this helps to elucidate this subtle difference.

Paul Dixon
Brazil
Local time: 11:53
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in PortuguesePortuguese

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Pike
2 hrs
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3 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +2
assumption vs. supposition
assumption is the term used in mathematical proofs


Explanation:
if you look at fundamental mathematical sites (like university math departments, see MIT link below) showing proofs, you will see this.

Since the answer is unknown, neither nor is in the mind of the mathematician. Therefore, according to the constructivists, the disjunction is not a legitimate mathematical assumption. Thus Aristotle's either-or principle (see 1.1.1 and 1.2.3 above) must be abandoned.

CILT - Mathematics Standards Glossary
... Mathematics - Glossary. Absolute Value, ... x. Axiom, A basic assumption about a mathematical system from which theorems can be deduced. For ...
164.64.166.11/cilt/standards/math/glossary.html

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Note added at 9 hrs 34 mins (2004-07-11 22:03:14 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Math is black or white except in hypothetical cases, when substituting different values for a variable.

In the asker\'s example we are dealing with a hypothetical, so both terms can be used. I added my entry because I thought it might be helpful to the asker in general.

In Pike\'s example below :
Given formula a = G*c
if variable c = 1, then.....
if varable c = 2, then

this type of hypothetical phrasing (given x = 1 + y) If y = 1, then x = blahblah
If y = 2, then

the same type of hypothetical phrase is used in regular everyday English: if I use 2 eggs instead of 1, I will need 3 cups of flour.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 9 hrs 38 mins (2004-07-11 22:06:52 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

this type of hypothetical reasoning is really an exercise in deductive logic


    Reference: http://www.math.psu.edu/simpson/papers/philmath/node20.html
    Reference: http://www.ai.mit.edu/courses/6.892/lect16-html/sld016.htm
RHELLER
United States
Local time: 07:53
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 4

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Aisha Maniar: quite right; my mathematician sister said that the term "suppose" is not used in maths, it has to be "assume" :-)
29 mins
  -> thanks Aisha:-) (my husband has a Ph.D. in a similar field)

agree  Asghar Bhatti
2 hrs
  -> Thanks Asghar!

agree  Pike: How would you phrase it if you had a case where the formula is definitely a=G*c (let's say G is a constant value) and then start calculating what if variable c is 1, what if it's 2? Would you always use just "assume"?
3 hrs
  -> thank you, see added note above

disagree  R. A. Stegemann: Although assumption is the proper word in both logical and mathematical theory, the question relates to the use of the words "assume" and "suppose". In this regard there is no difference. Other terms with identical meaning include "let" and "given that".
16 hrs
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