Let's say we have $L_1$ which is a regular language and $L_2$ which is not.

I understand that if $L_1 \cup L_2 = \Sigma^*$ then $L_1 \cup L_2$ is a regular language.

Does that implicitly mean that if $L_1 \cup L_2 \neq \Sigma^*$ then $L_1 \cup L_2$ is non-regular?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ You should probably try harder proving or refuting your claims. $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2019 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ Both are quality answers and I appreciate the time of both. I'm changing the accepted answer to that of Peter Taylor's. While I understood the example that Yuval Filmus gave, I found Peter's explanation a bit more amateur-friendly. $\endgroup$ Feb 22, 2019 at 13:40

2 Answers 2


I assume you can already prove that the union, intersection, and complement of regular languages is regular.

Let $L_1$ be regular and $L_2$ be non-regular. Then you should also be able to prove:

  1. At most one of $L_1 \cup L_2$ and $L_1 \cap L_2$ is regular.
  2. If $L_1 \subset L_2$ then their union is irregular. (You should also be able to construct an example).
  3. If $L_2 \subset L_1$ then their union is regular. (You should also be able to construct an example).
  4. If the complement of $L_1$ contains at least two words, there is a regular language $L_3$ such that $L_1 \cap L_3 = \emptyset$ and $L_1 \cup L_3 \subsetneq \Sigma^*$. Then either $L_3 \cup L_2$ is regular or $L_1$, $L_3 \cup L_2$ are an example of a regular and an irregular language whose union is regular but where neither is a subset of the other and their union is not $\Sigma^*$.

If $P$ implies $Q$ then it doesn't mean that not $P$ implies not $Q$.

In your case, you can take $L_1 = 0\Sigma^*$ and $L_2=\{0^{n+1}1^n : n \geq 0\}$.


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