The package cmll defines \with (looks like '&') as

$ texdef -t latex -p cmll with



When I take a look at \& it is defined as

texdef -t latex \&          



So \with and \& seem to be different, although the resuls look identical to me. What is the difference?

  • I really have no idea how to tag this question. Please feel free to adjust it, if tex-core was not appropriate. Feb 23, 2015 at 15:26
  • Is \with allowed only in math mode?
    – Sigur
    Feb 23, 2015 at 15:35
  • 1
    @Sigur A command defined with \mathchardef (or \DeclareMathSymbol) can only be used in math mode.
    – egreg
    Feb 23, 2015 at 15:49

1 Answer 1


The four hexadecimal digits "kfab in a \mathchar specify

  • k is the atom type (0 = ordinary, 1 = operator, 2 = binary operation, 3 = relation, 4 = opening, 5 = closing, 6 = punctuation, 7 = variable family);

  • f the math group (font family) where the glyph should be taken from;

  • ab the slot in the font.

One can use \mathchar<15 bit number> directly or define

\mathchardef<cs>=<15 bit number>

so, for instance, after \mathchardef\with="2026 the command \with is equivalent to typing \mathchar"2026 (or \mathchar8230, for " specifies hexadecimal number).

Typing \char<8 bit number> tells TeX to use the character from the current font in the specified slot. However, when in math mode, \char"ab is equivalent to saying \mathchar"00ab, so ordinary symbol from math group 0 and the same slot. The \chardef command is the counterpart of \mathchardef and, indeed, \& is usually defined as


Small lie: it's \chardef\&=`&, but it's not really important.

There is a big difference between $x \mathchar"2026 y$ and $x \char"26 y$, or, with the definitions above

$x \with y$

$x \& y$

enter image description here

In the first case the & symbol is spaced as it's good for a binary operation, in the second case no space is added, because we're specifying three ordinary symbols.

  • Which font does \mathchar use (per default, if there are multiple ones)? Are there other ways than using latex to look at this font? Feb 23, 2015 at 18:06
  • @moose The font is the one specified in the “math group”; there are four predefined ones: 0 usually is the standard text font, 1 is the math italic font, 2 is the symbol font and 3 is the large symbols font. Math font packages set them.
    – egreg
    Feb 23, 2015 at 18:09
  • I also see some packages using \mathchardef just to hold a number, like a register (not to ultimately typeset a symbol in mathematics)... why? Edit: Ah I see answers here: Why to store a number via chardef? and here: Macro vs counter: How to store and operate with numbers in TeX without using (too many) counters. Feb 1, 2019 at 15:13
  • @ShreevatsaR One of Knuth's optimization: you can use a \chardef or \mathchardef token whenever TeX is looking for a <number>
    – egreg
    Feb 1, 2019 at 15:57
  • Do you have a link where we can read about this? Aug 19, 2022 at 13:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .