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Mutually Exclusive Events. A set of outcomes is referred to as event.

When two events cannot


occur at the same time, then we say that the events are mutually exclusive else the events are said
to be not mutually exclusive. For example: when we flip a coin then either heads can come or
tails.
Example 1:
You roll two dice. What is the probability of getting 2 on the first die or 3 on the second die?
The two events here are:
A: rolling 2 on the first die.
B: rolling 3 on the second die.
These events are not mutually exclusive. We can roll 2 on the first die and 3 on the second die at
the same time. We've done it before, and we shall live to see it happen again. We can find the
probability that at least one of the events A or B happens by looking at the table:

If we roll 2 on the first die, 3 on the second die, or both (2 on the first and 3 on the second at the
same time), then (at least) one of the events A and B has happened. "At least one" is good enough
for us. We're easy. There are 11 favorable outcomes where A or B happens, out of 36 total
outcomes. So the probability of rolling 2 on the first die or 3 on the second die (or both) is
If instead we try to add the probabilities of the two events, we find

which is wrong. Close, but wrong. Like MapQuest directions.

Example 2:
if we throw a 6-sided die, the events "4" and "5" are mutually exclusive. We cannot get both 4
and 5 at the same time when we throw one die.
If E1 and E2 are mutually exclusive events, then E1 and E2 will not happen together. So the
probabality of the 2 events will be zero:
P(E1 and E2) = 0.
Now, suppose "E1 or E2" denotes the event that
"either E1 or E2 both
occur", then
(a) If E1 and E2 are not mutually exclusive events:
P(E1 or E2) = P(E1) + P(E2) P(E1 and E2)
We can also write:
P(E1 E2) = P(E1) + P(E2) P(E1 E2)
A diagram for this situation is as follows. We see that there is
some overlap between the events E1 and E2. The probability of
that overlap portion is P(E1 E2).
Example 3:

The probability that a student passes Mathematics is

2
3

and the probability that he passes

4
English is 9 . If the probability that he will pass at least one subject is

4
5 , what is the

probability that he will pass both subjects?


(We assume it is based on probability only.)

Example 4:
for non-mutually exclusive events could be:
E1 = students in the swimming team
E2 = students in the debating team
In this case, the yellow area represents students in the swimming team only, and the darker green
area represents students in the debating team only. The light green overlap area represents the
students in both the swimming team and the debating team.
(b) If E1 and E2 are mutually exclusive events:
P(E1 or E2) = P(E1) + P(E2)
Our diagram for mutually exclusive events shows that there is no overlap:
mutually exclusive
An example of mutually exclusive events could be:
E1 = male students
E2 = female students
There is no overlap. [Of course, gender is not a simple issue as in fact, some overlap does occur.
Don't read too much into it this is just an example.]
In this case, the intersection E1 E2 is empty, leading to the conclusion:
P(E1 E2) = 0
This explains why, for the mutually exclusive case,
P(E1 or E2) = P(E1) + P(E2)
Example 5:
Getting a number multiple of 3 and divisible by 2 when a dice is thrown.
Solution

In this case 6 is the number which is a multiple of 3 and is also divisible by 2. Hence we
have a case that proves that the events here are not mutually exclusive.

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