is it true that if $f(n)\in O(g(n))$ then $f(h(n)) \in O(g(h(n)))$?

I can't figure out how to prove or disprove this. if it is true, is it true only when the function $h$ is invertible?


2 Answers 2


Suppose $f(n)=\sqrt{\frac{1}{n}}$, and $g(n)=n$. It's clear that $f(n)=\mathcal{O}(g(n)).$ Let $h(n)=\sqrt{\frac{1}{n}}$ therefore $$f(h(n))=\sqrt[4]{n}$$ and$$g(n)=\sqrt{\frac{1}{n}}.$$

Obviously $$f(h(n))\neq\mathcal{O}(g(h(n))).$$

Note that if $\lim_{n\to \infty }h(n)=+\infty$ then we can conclude that $$f(h(n))=\mathcal{O}(g(h(n))).$$

  • $\begingroup$ But still f(h(n)) is a subset of g(h(n)) from the meaning of the big O notation, otherwise it wouldn't have been possible to say that f(n) is a subset of g(n) in the first place. I think the asker means g(n) is an asymptotic orde complexity of a problem f(n) and wonders if the asymptotic order of a problem with size h(n) would necessarily be O(g(h(n)), right??? My answer if we talking asymptotic order yes; obviously sorting say n/1000 using quicksort is O(n/1000 log n/1000), but it could happen that some problem instance n/1000 takes more than problem instance even n $\endgroup$
    – ShAr
    Aug 30, 2021 at 9:24
  • $\begingroup$ @MohammadRostami, if will accept this as best answer, but it would be nice if you could explain why the limit implies that. $\endgroup$
    – violet
    Sep 3, 2021 at 6:26

Formally it's easy to bring counterexample: suppose $f(1)=1$, $g(1)=0$ and then, for other values of argument, $f, g$ are any pair of non-zero functions with property $f(n)\in O(g(n))$. Now taking $h(n)=1,\forall n \in \mathbb{N}$ makes impossible $f(h(n)) \in O(g(h(n)))$.

On other hand, for example, if $h$ is strictly increasing function, then your claim will be true, because we obtain property for subsequence from sequence.


And about question about invertibility of $h$. If we consider counterexample (from comments below) $f=g=h=1, \forall n \in \mathbb{N}$, then implication $$f(n)\in O(g(n)) \Rightarrow f(h(n)) \in O(g(h(n)))$$ holds for brought triple, but $h$ is not invertible.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You don’t quite need $h$ strictly increasing, it is enough if $\lim_{n\to\infty}h(n)=\infty$. $\endgroup$ Aug 30, 2021 at 6:28
  • $\begingroup$ It's one possible example, @Emil Jeřábek, mathematically they are independent and, sure, can be named more other sufficient conditions. $\endgroup$
    – zkutch
    Aug 30, 2021 at 6:59
  • $\begingroup$ No, actually, what I wrote is a sufficient and necessary condition. $\endgroup$ Aug 30, 2021 at 8:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don’t know whether you are intentionally misreading what I write, but here the exact statement. Let $h\colon\mathbb N\to\mathbb N$ (where $\mathbb N$ includes $0$). Then the following are equivalent: (1) $\lim_{n\to\infty}h(n)=\infty$; (2) for all $f,g\colon\mathbb N\to\mathbb N$, $f(n)=O(g(n))\implies f(h(n))=O(g(h(n)))$. A similar equivalence also holds for functions $\mathbb R_{\ge0}\to\mathbb R_{\ge0}$. $\endgroup$ Aug 30, 2021 at 14:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ No, your example does not satisfy (2), because (2) says for all $f,g$, not for some $f,g$. $\endgroup$ Aug 30, 2021 at 15:24

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