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How can this be? I don't think it is actually possible for a non-regular language to be a subset of a regular language. What examples are there where this is true?

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  • $\begingroup$ @Choirbean What context do you think might be required? $\endgroup$ – David Richerby May 8 '17 at 21:56
  • $\begingroup$ In fact, any infinite (regular) language has a non-regular subset. This can be obtained by forcing "growing gaps" between the length the strings in the chosen subset. $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Jan May 8 '17 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ Don't we have like a dozen duplicates of this? $\endgroup$ – Raphael May 8 '17 at 22:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Raphael The right column is always helpful: Show that every infinite language has a non-regular subset. $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Jan May 9 '17 at 0:12
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Every language over an alphabet $\Sigma$ is, by definition, a subset of $\Sigma^*$, which is regular. If you want a less trivial example,

$$\{a^nb^n\mid n\geq 0\}\subseteq L(a^*b^*)\,.$$

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