Type  Binary relation 

Field  Elementary algebra 
Statement  A relation on a set is transitive if, for all elements , , in , whenever relates to and to , then also relates to . 
Symbolic statement 
In mathematics, a relation R on a set X is transitive if, for all elements a, b, c in X, whenever R relates a to b and b to c, then R also relates a to c. Each partial order as well as each equivalence relation needs to be transitive.
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Transcription
Definition
Transitive binary relations  

 
indicates that the column's property is always true the row's term (at the very left), while ✗ indicates that the property is not guaranteed in general (it might, or might not, hold). For example, that every equivalence relation is symmetric, but not necessarily antisymmetric, is indicated by in the "Symmetric" column and ✗ in the "Antisymmetric" column, respectively. All definitions tacitly require the homogeneous relation be transitive: for all if and then 
A homogeneous relation R on the set X is a transitive relation if,^{[1]}
 for all a, b, c ∈ X, if a R b and b R c, then a R c.
Or in terms of firstorder logic:
 ,
where a R b is the infix notation for (a, b) ∈ R.
Examples
As a nonmathematical example, the relation "is an ancestor of" is transitive. For example, if Amy is an ancestor of Becky, and Becky is an ancestor of Carrie, then Amy, too, is an ancestor of Carrie.
On the other hand, "is the birth parent of" is not a transitive relation, because if Alice is the birth parent of Brenda, and Brenda is the birth parent of Claire, then this does not imply that Alice is the birth parent of Claire. What is more, it is antitransitive: Alice can never be the birth parent of Claire.
Nontransitive, nonantitransitive relations include sports fixtures (playoff schedules), 'knows' and 'talks to'.
"Is greater than", "is at least as great as", and "is equal to" (equality) are transitive relations on various sets, for instance, the set of real numbers or the set of natural numbers:
 whenever x > y and y > z, then also x > z
 whenever x ≥ y and y ≥ z, then also x ≥ z
 whenever x = y and y = z, then also x = z.
More examples of transitive relations:
 "is a subset of" (set inclusion, a relation on sets)
 "divides" (divisibility, a relation on natural numbers)
 "implies" (implication, symbolized by "⇒", a relation on propositions)
Examples of nontransitive relations:
 "is the successor of" (a relation on natural numbers)
 "is a member of the set" (symbolized as "∈")^{[2]}
 "is perpendicular to" (a relation on lines in Euclidean geometry)
The empty relation on any set is transitive^{[3]}^{[4]} because there are no elements such that and , and hence the transitivity condition is vacuously true. A relation R containing only one ordered pair is also transitive: if the ordered pair is of the form for some the only such elements are , and indeed in this case , while if the ordered pair is not of the form then there are no such elements and hence is vacuously transitive.
Properties
Closure properties
 The converse (inverse) of a transitive relation is always transitive. For instance, knowing that "is a subset of" is transitive and "is a superset of" is its converse, one can conclude that the latter is transitive as well.
 The intersection of two transitive relations is always transitive.^{[5]} For instance, knowing that "was born before" and "has the same first name as" are transitive, one can conclude that "was born before and also has the same first name as" is also transitive.
 The union of two transitive relations need not be transitive. For instance, "was born before or has the same first name as" is not a transitive relation, since e.g. Herbert Hoover is related to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who is in turn related to Franklin Pierce, while Hoover is not related to Franklin Pierce.
 The complement of a transitive relation need not be transitive.^{[6]} For instance, while "equal to" is transitive, "not equal to" is only transitive on sets with at most one element.
Other properties
A transitive relation is asymmetric if and only if it is irreflexive.^{[7]}
A transitive relation need not be reflexive. When it is, it is called a preorder. For example, on set X = {1,2,3}:
 R = { (1,1), (2,2), (3,3), (1,3), (3,2) } is reflexive, but not transitive, as the pair (1,2) is absent,
 R = { (1,1), (2,2), (3,3), (1,3) } is reflexive as well as transitive, so it is a preorder,
 R = { (1,1), (2,2), (3,3) } is reflexive as well as transitive, another preorder.
Transitive extensions and transitive closure
Let R be a binary relation on set X. The transitive extension of R, denoted R_{1}, is the smallest binary relation on X such that R_{1} contains R, and if (a, b) ∈ R and (b, c) ∈ R then (a, c) ∈ R_{1}.^{[8]} For example, suppose X is a set of towns, some of which are connected by roads. Let R be the relation on towns where (A, B) ∈ R if there is a road directly linking town A and town B. This relation need not be transitive. The transitive extension of this relation can be defined by (A, C) ∈ R_{1} if you can travel between towns A and C by using at most two roads.
If a relation is transitive then its transitive extension is itself, that is, if R is a transitive relation then R_{1} = R.
The transitive extension of R_{1} would be denoted by R_{2}, and continuing in this way, in general, the transitive extension of R_{i} would be R_{i + 1}. The transitive closure of R, denoted by R* or R^{∞} is the set union of R, R_{1}, R_{2}, ... .^{[9]}
The transitive closure of a relation is a transitive relation.^{[9]}
The relation "is the birth parent of" on a set of people is not a transitive relation. However, in biology the need often arises to consider birth parenthood over an arbitrary number of generations: the relation "is a birth ancestor of" is a transitive relation and it is the transitive closure of the relation "is the birth parent of".
For the example of towns and roads above, (A, C) ∈ R* provided you can travel between towns A and C using any number of roads.
Relation types that require transitivity
 Preorder – a reflexive and transitive relation
 Partial order – an antisymmetric preorder
 Total preorder – a connected (formerly called total) preorder
 Equivalence relation – a symmetric preorder
 Strict weak ordering – a strict partial order in which incomparability is an equivalence relation
 Total ordering – a connected (total), antisymmetric, and transitive relation
Counting transitive relations
No general formula that counts the number of transitive relations on a finite set (sequence A006905 in the OEIS) is known.^{[10]} However, there is a formula for finding the number of relations that are simultaneously reflexive, symmetric, and transitive – in other words, equivalence relations – (sequence A000110 in the OEIS), those that are symmetric and transitive, those that are symmetric, transitive, and antisymmetric, and those that are total, transitive, and antisymmetric. Pfeiffer^{[11]} has made some progress in this direction, expressing relations with combinations of these properties in terms of each other, but still calculating any one is difficult. See also Brinkmann and McKay (2005).^{[12]} Mala showed that no polynomial with integer coefficients can represent a formula for the number of transitive relations on a set,^{[13]} and found certain recursive relations that provide lower bounds for that number. He also showed that that number is a polynomial of degree two if the set^{[clarify]} contains exactly two ordered pairs.^{[14]}
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^{n(n−1)}  2^{n(n+1)/2}  ∑^{n} _{k=0} k!S(n, k) 
n!  ∑^{n} _{k=0} S(n, k)  
OEIS  A002416  A006905  A053763  A006125  A000798  A001035  A000670  A000142  A000110 
Note that S(n, k) refers to Stirling numbers of the second kind.
Related properties
A relation R is called intransitive if it is not transitive, that is, if xRy and yRz, but not xRz, for some x, y, z. In contrast, a relation R is called antitransitive if xRy and yRz always implies that xRz does not hold. For example, the relation defined by xRy if xy is an even number is intransitive,^{[15]} but not antitransitive.^{[16]} The relation defined by xRy if x is even and y is odd is both transitive and antitransitive.^{[17]} The relation defined by xRy if x is the successor number of y is both intransitive^{[18]} and antitransitive.^{[19]} Unexpected examples of intransitivity arise in situations such as political questions or group preferences.^{[20]}
Generalized to stochastic versions (stochastic transitivity), the study of transitivity finds applications of in decision theory, psychometrics and utility models.^{[21]}
A quasitransitive relation is another generalization;^{[6]} it is required to be transitive only on its nonsymmetric part. Such relations are used in social choice theory or microeconomics.^{[22]}
Proposition: If R is a univalent, then R;R^{T} is transitive.
 proof: Suppose Then there are a and b such that Since R is univalent, yRb and aR^{T}y imply a=b. Therefore xRaR^{T}z, hence xR;R^{T}z and R;R^{T} is transitive.
Corollary: If R is univalent, then R;R^{T} is an equivalence relation on the domain of R.
 proof: R;R^{T} is symmetric and reflexive on its domain. With univalence of R, the transitive requirement for equivalence is fulfilled.
See also
 Transitive reduction
 Intransitive dice
 Rational choice theory
 Hypothetical syllogism — transitivity of the material conditional
Notes
 ^ Smith, Eggen & St. Andre 2006, p. 145
 ^ However, the class of von Neumann ordinals is constructed in a way such that ∈ is transitive when restricted to that class.
 ^ Smith, Eggen & St. Andre 2006, p. 146
 ^ https://courses.engr.illinois.edu/cs173/sp2011/Lectures/relations.pdf Archived 20230204 at the Wayback Machine^{[bare URL PDF]}
 ^ Bianchi, Mariagrazia; Mauri, Anna Gillio Berta; Herzog, Marcel; Verardi, Libero (20000112). "On finite solvable groups in which normality is a transitive relation". Journal of Group Theory. 3 (2). doi:10.1515/jgth.2000.012. ISSN 14335883. Archived from the original on 20230204. Retrieved 20221229.
 ^ ^{a} ^{b} Robinson, Derek J. S. (January 1964). "Groups in which normality is a transitive relation". Mathematical Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. 60 (1): 21–38. doi:10.1017/S0305004100037403. ISSN 03050041. S2CID 119707269. Archived from the original on 20230204. Retrieved 20221229.
 ^ Flaška, V.; Ježek, J.; Kepka, T.; Kortelainen, J. (2007). Transitive Closures of Binary Relations I (PDF). Prague: School of Mathematics  Physics Charles University. p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20131102. Lemma 1.1 (iv). Note that this source refers to asymmetric relations as "strictly antisymmetric".
 ^ Liu 1985, p. 111
 ^ ^{a} ^{b} Liu 1985, p. 112
 ^ Steven R. Finch, "Transitive relations, topologies and partial orders" Archived 20160304 at the Wayback Machine, 2003.
 ^ Götz Pfeiffer, "Counting Transitive Relations Archived 20230204 at the Wayback Machine", Journal of Integer Sequences, Vol. 7 (2004), Article 04.3.2.
 ^ Gunnar Brinkmann and Brendan D. McKay,"Counting unlabelled topologies and transitive relations Archived 20050720 at the Wayback Machine"
 ^ Mala, Firdous Ahmad (20210614). "On the number of transitive relations on a set". Indian Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics. 53: 228–232. doi:10.1007/s13226021001000. ISSN 09757465. S2CID 256065947. Archived from the original on 20230204. Retrieved 20211206.
 ^ Mala, Firdous Ahmad (20211013). "Counting Transitive Relations with Two Ordered Pairs". Journal of Applied Mathematics and Computation. 5 (4): 247–251. doi:10.26855/jamc.2021.12.002. ISSN 25760645.
 ^ since e.g. 3R4 and 4R5, but not 3R5
 ^ since e.g. 2R3 and 3R4 and 2R4
 ^ since xRy and yRz can never happen
 ^ since e.g. 3R2 and 2R1, but not 3R1
 ^ since, more generally, xRy and yRz implies x=y+1=z+2≠z+1, i.e. not xRz, for all x, y, z
 ^ Drum, Kevin (November 2018). "Preferences are not transitive". Mother Jones. Archived from the original on 20181129. Retrieved 20181129.
 ^ Oliveira, I.F.D.; Zehavi, S.; Davidov, O. (August 2018). "Stochastic transitivity: Axioms and models". Journal of Mathematical Psychology. 85: 25–35. doi:10.1016/j.jmp.2018.06.002. ISSN 00222496.
 ^ Sen, A. (1969). "Quasitransitivity, rational choice and collective decisions". Rev. Econ. Stud. 36 (3): 381–393. doi:10.2307/2296434. JSTOR 2296434. Zbl 0181.47302.
References
 Grimaldi, Ralph P. (1994), Discrete and Combinatorial Mathematics (3rd ed.), AddisonWesley, ISBN 0201199122
 Liu, C.L. (1985), Elements of Discrete Mathematics, McGrawHill, ISBN 007038133X
 Gunther Schmidt, 2010. Relational Mathematics. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521762687.
 Smith, Douglas; Eggen, Maurice; St. Andre, Richard (2006), A Transition to Advanced Mathematics (6th ed.), Brooks/Cole, ISBN 9780534399009
 Pfeiffer, G. (2004). Counting transitive relations. Journal of Integer Sequences, 7(2), 3.
External links
 "Transitivity", Encyclopedia of Mathematics, EMS Press, 2001 [1994]
 Transitivity in Action at cuttheknot