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What is the difference between \big[ (or equivalently \big() and \bigl[? Is it always necessary to mention l (left) and r (right)?

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up vote 36 down vote accepted

\bigl declares an opening math delimiter with less horizontal spacing than the unspecified \big. \bigr defines a closing math delimiter. Using a \bigl and \bigr pair you could get the brackets or parentheses closer to the term within.

Just compare:

$\bigl[ \times \bigr]$

$\big[ \times \big]$


alt text

The definitions in latex.ltx are:

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Is there a way to make this distinction without specifying a larger size? – Mark Meckes Aug 6 '10 at 17:30
For normal brackets it's automatically done. Compare $[ \times ]$ to $\mathord[ \times \mathord]$. – Stefan Kottwitz Aug 6 '10 at 17:48
What you're saying is that [ is automatically interpreted as an opening math delimiter, so one must manually force it not to be, if desired; is that right? – Mark Meckes Aug 6 '10 at 19:18
That's true. fontmath.ltx defines: \DeclareMathDelimiter{[}{\mathopen} {operators}{"5B}{largesymbols}{"02} – Stefan Kottwitz Aug 6 '10 at 19:45
thank you. I should have a look at latex.ltx more often – pluton Aug 8 '10 at 3:22

You can see the difference in the following example. The left modifiers \bigl etc. are basically \mathopen{}\big. You also have to use \mathopen if you are using \left and \right to do automatic scaling to get correct spacing in some cases.



  x &= \sin\biggl(\frac12\biggr)          \\ % good
  x &= \sin\mathopen{}\bigg(\frac12\bigg) \\ % good
  x &= \sin\bigg(\frac12\bigg)            \\ % bad
  x &= \sin\left(\frac12\right)           \\ % bad
  x &= \sin\mathopen{}\left(\frac12\right)   % good

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