Can a complex number ever be considered ‘bigger’ or ‘smaller’ than a real number, or vice versa?

I’ve always had this doubt.
It’s perfectly reasonable to say that, for example, 9 is bigger than 2.

But does it ever make sense to compare a real number and a complex/imaginary one?

For example, could one say that 5+2i>3 because the real part of 5+2i is bigger than the real part of 3? Or is it just a senseless statement?

Can it be stated that, say, 20000i is bigger than 6 or does the fact that one is imaginary and the other is natural make it impossible to compare their ‘sizes’?

It would seem that the ‘sizes’ of numbers of any type (real, rational, integer, natural, irrational) can be compared, but once imaginary and complex numbers come into the picture, it becomes a bit counter-intuitive for me.

So, does it ever make sense to talk about a real number being ‘more than’ or ‘less than’ a complex/imaginary one?


You can put (partial) orders on the complex numbers. One choice is to compare the real parts and ignore the complex ones. Another is to use the lexicographic order, comparing the real parts and then comparing the imaginary ones if the real parts are equal. Another is to use the modulus. There are many more. The distinction with the order on the reals (or subsets of the reals) is that the order relation is compatible with addition and multiplication. You can’t do that in the complex numbers. The simple proof is to ask whether i is greater or less than 0. In either case, i2=1 should be greater than zero.

Source : Link , Question Author : Juanma Eloy , Answer Author : Ross Millikan

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