I'm trying to give a meaningful definition for NFAs with more than one initial state. I know from the formal definition in Wikipedia that it is possible to have more than one initial state, it mentions that "There is an easy construction that translates a NFA with multiple initial states to a NFA with single initial state, which provides a convenient notation."

I believe the power set construction could help me on this matter but I'm having a hard time understanding it. It could probably be modified so that it can be applied into the definition I want to give, but i don't know how.

I would appreciate any help I can get on this matter.


An NFA with multiple starting states makes a non-deterministic choice of the starting state, in the same way that it makes non-deterministic choices throughout its operation. It is equivalent to an NFA with a single new starting state connected to the former starting states with $\epsilon$ transitions.

For example, here is an NFA which accepts the language of all words not containing all letters in the alphabet $\Sigma$. For each $\sigma \in \Sigma$ there is a state $s_\sigma$. For each $\tau \neq \sigma$, there is a self-loop labelled $\tau$ around $s_\sigma$. All $s_\sigma$ are starting states as well as accepting states. The state $s_\sigma$ is supposed to represent all words not containing $\sigma$.

In order to convert this to an NFA with a single starting state, add a new state $s$ which is the new starting state, and connect $s$ to all $s_\sigma$ with $\epsilon$ transitions. The semantics of both NFAs are exactly the same.

  • $\begingroup$ Please excuse the long hiatus, but google coughed up this thread regarding a related question I'm looking for. Pretty much same question regarding dfa's, but instead on input that's just a string, call it $\vec\sigma\in\Sigma^\ast$, let the input be $(s_0,\vec\sigma)\in S\times\Sigma^\ast$, i.e., you give it initial state $s_0\in S$ too. Can that also be converted to a single-starting-state dfa??? I'd think each possible $s_0\in S$ defines a different language accepted by the dfa, call it $L_{s_0}$. But $S$ may be partitioned into equivalence classes where states in a class accept the same $L$ $\endgroup$ – John Forkosh Aug 11 '16 at 7:56
  • $\begingroup$ If you have a question, please ask it on the site. Comments are for commenting on answers. $\endgroup$ – Yuval Filmus Aug 11 '16 at 7:59
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, I'll reformat. Sorry for the inconvenience. $\endgroup$ – John Forkosh Aug 11 '16 at 8:02

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