Category: algorithms Component type: function


Set_union is an overloaded name; there are actually two set_union functions.
template <class InputIterator1, class InputIterator2, class OutputIterator>
OutputIterator set_union(InputIterator1 first1, InputIterator1 last1,
                         InputIterator2 first2, InputIterator2 last2,
                         OutputIterator result);

template <class InputIterator1, class InputIterator2, class OutputIterator,
          class StrictWeakOrdering>
OutputIterator set_union(InputIterator1 first1, InputIterator1 last1,
                         InputIterator2 first2, InputIterator2 last2,
                         OutputIterator result, 
                         StrictWeakOrdering comp);


Set_union constructs a sorted range that is the union of the sorted ranges [first1, last1) and [first2, last2). The return value is the end of the output range.

In the simplest case, set_union performs the "union" operation from set theory: the output range contains a copy of every element that is contained in [first1, last1), [first2, last2), or both. The general case is more complicated, because the input ranges may contain duplicate elements. The generalization is that if a value appears m times in [first1, last1) and n times in [first2, last2) (where m or n may be zero), then it appears max(m,n) times in the output range. [1] Set_union is stable, meaning both that the relative order of elements within each input range is preserved, and that if an element is present in both input ranges it is copied from the first range rather than the second.

The two versions of set_union differ in how they define whether one element is less than another. The first version compares objects using operator<, and the second compares objects using a function object comp.


Defined in the standard header algorithm, and in the nonstandard backward-compatibility header algo.h.

Requirements on types

For the first version: For the second version:


For the first version: For the second version:


Linear. Zero comparisons if either [first1, last1) or [first2, last2) is empty, otherwise at most 2 * ((last1 - first1) + (last2 - first2)) - 1 comparisons.


inline bool lt_nocase(char c1, char c2) { return tolower(c1) < tolower(c2); }

int main()
  int A1[] = {1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11};
  int A2[] = {1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13};  
  char A3[] = {'a', 'b', 'B', 'B', 'f', 'H'};
  char A4[] = {'A', 'B', 'b', 'C', 'D', 'F', 'F', 'h', 'h'};

  const int N1 = sizeof(A1) / sizeof(int);
  const int N2 = sizeof(A2) / sizeof(int); 
  const int N3 = sizeof(A3);
  const int N4 = sizeof(A4);

  cout << "Union of A1 and A2: ";
  set_union(A1, A1 + N1, A2, A2 + N2,
            ostream_iterator<int>(cout, " "));
  cout << endl 
       << "Union of A3 and A4: ";
  set_union(A3, A3 + N3, A4, A4 + N4, 
            ostream_iterator<char>(cout, " "),
  cout << endl;

The output is

Union of A1 and A2: 1 1 2 3 5 7 8 9 11 13 
Union of A3 and A4: a b B B C D f F H h 


[1] Even this is not a completely precise description, because the ordering by which the input ranges are sorted is permitted to be a strict weak ordering that is not a total ordering: there might be values x and y that are equivalent (that is, neither x < y nor y < x) but not equal. See the LessThan Comparable requirements for a more complete discussion. If the range [first1, last1) contains m elements that are equivalent to each other and the range [first2, last2) contains n elements from that equivalence class (where either m or n may be zero), then the output range contains max(m, n) elements from that equivalence class. Specifically, m of these elements will be copied from [first1, last1) and max(n-m, 0) of them will be copied from [first2, last2). Note that this precision is only important if elements can be equivalent but not equal. If you're using a total ordering (if you're using strcmp, for example, or if you're using ordinary arithmetic comparison on integers), then you can ignore this technical distinction: for a total ordering, equality and equivalence are the same.

See also

includes, set_intersection, set_difference, set_symmetric_difference, sort, merge
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