Let's say I reduce the problem $A \in L$ to $B \in K$ , with a function $f: \Sigma^{*} \rightarrow \Gamma^{*}$ such that $w \in L \Leftrightarrow f(w) \in K$ . I know if I want to solve $A$, given some polynomial time algorithm for $B$, I just have to transform $A$ to $B$ and solve $B$. So it can be thought as:

The reduction must be done from arbitrary instance of $A$ to a legal instance of $B$

My question is, do I have to reduce to arbitrary instance of $B$ or some instance of $B$? I.e. reduction from TQBNF to Generalized Geography is done to some valid graph instance, but there exist many more valid instances of Generalized Geography.


1 Answer 1


The mapping does not have to be surjective (onto) nor injective (one-to-one). In fact, any problem that can be solved in polynomial time can be polynomial time many-one reduced to any problem that has at least one accepting instance and at least one rejecting instance: just solve the original problem in polynomial time, then return the accepting instance if the original problem was an accepting instance, or the rejecting instance if the original problem was a rejecting instance.

That said, the Berman–Hartmanis conjecture states that all NP-complete problems are polynomial time isomorphic, meaning that there is a bijective polynomial-time many-one reduction between them with a polynomial-time inverse. This is currently an unproven conjecture, and only refers to NP-complete problems.

  • $\begingroup$ So $f$ can be described as a function that can be injective and can be surjective? $\endgroup$
    – carpenter
    Dec 12, 2019 at 16:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @carpenter Sure. The definition does not require injectivity or surjectivity, nor does it disallow them. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2019 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, I think I'm closer to understanding this. So if I have a reduction from TQBF (as I mentioned in the question) to some valid graph of GG game, on what basis can I say that in this particular case all instances of GG are PSpace-Hard? Shouldn't only some instances of GG (the one the proof constructs) be PSpace-Hard? $\endgroup$
    – carpenter
    Dec 12, 2019 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ @carpenter You don't say that instances of GG are PSPACE-hard, you say that the GG problem is PSPACE-hard. Hardness is about problems, not instances; languages, not strings. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2019 at 17:09

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