Intuitively, what is the difference between Eigendecomposition and Singular Value Decomposition?

I’m trying to intuitively understand the difference between SVD and eigendecomposition.

From my understanding, eigendecomposition seeks to describe a linear transformation as a sequence of three basic operations (P1DP) on a vector:

  1. Rotation of the coordinate system (change of basis): P
  2. Independent scaling along each basis vector (of the rotated system): D
  3. De-rotation of the coordinate system (undo change of basis): P1

But as far as I can see, SVD’s goal is to do exactly the same thing, except that resulting decomposition is somehow different.

What, then, is the conceptual difference between the two?

For example:

  • Is one of them more general than the other?
  • Is either a special case of the other?

Note: I’m specifically looking for an intuitive explanation, not a mathematical one.
Wikipedia is already excellent at explaining the mathematical relationship between the two decompositions (“The right-singular vectors of M are eigenvectors of MM, for example), but it completely fails to give me any intuitive understanding of what is going on intuitively.

The best explanation I’ve found so far is this one, which is great, except it doesn’t talk about eigendecompositions at all, which leaves me confused as to how SVD is any different from eigendecomposition in its goal.


Consider the eigendecomposition A=PDP1 and SVD A=UΣV. Some key differences are as follows,

  • The vectors in the eigendecomposition matrix P are not necessarily orthogonal, so the change of basis isn’t a simple rotation. On the other hand, the vectors in the matrices U and V in the SVD are orthonormal, so they do represent rotations (and possibly flips).
  • In the SVD, the nondiagonal matrices U and V are not necessairily the inverse of one another. They are usually not related to each other at all. In the eigendecomposition the nondiagonal matrices P and P1 are inverses of each other.
  • In the SVD the entries in the diagonal matrix Σ are all real and nonnegative. In the eigendecomposition, the entries of D can be any complex number – negative, positive, imaginary, whatever.
  • The SVD always exists for any sort of rectangular or square matrix, whereas the eigendecomposition can only exists for square matrices, and even among square matrices sometimes it doesn’t exist.

Source : Link , Question Author : user541686 , Answer Author : Nick Alger

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