Is there an easy way to combine pure functions into a single pure function? For example, say I have

f = #1^2 &;
g = #1 - 2 &;

and I want to define a new pure function h that is the difference of the two functions (as currently defined, so that h will not change if f or g are redefined). h = f - g doesn't work because it doesn't combine them into a single function. The best I've been able to come up with is

h = Evaluate[f@# - g@#] &

but this seems a bit hack-ish. Is there a more natural way to combine them?

Edit: I was looking for something where Mathematica performs its automatic simplifications, just as if we'd had f = x^2; g = x - 2; h = f - g, but for pure functions.

  • $\begingroup$ Why not simply #1^2 + #1 - 2 & ? And see mathematica.stackexchange.com/questions/33112/… $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2017 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidG.Stork Well of course if the functions are known and this short, then you can just define the combined function manually. But I want to be able to handle the case where the functions are unknown and/or extremely complicated. $\endgroup$
    – tparker
    Apr 7, 2017 at 2:03
  • $\begingroup$ h = f@# + g@# &? $\endgroup$
    – wxffles
    Apr 7, 2017 at 2:05
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Wanting h to not be affected by later changes to f and g is an important point you should put in the question. $\endgroup$
    – wxffles
    Apr 7, 2017 at 2:24
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Related: Distributing function arguments with function compositions $\endgroup$
    – jkuczm
    Apr 7, 2017 at 9:55

2 Answers 2


This is a solution for the simplest case.

Not meant to prevent evaluation (except of the components' functions bodies).

It only works with expressions with slots & kind of pure functions etc. So it won't merge named arguments or resolve attributes from Function.

mergeF[expr_] := Function @@ (Hold[expr] /. Function[body_] :> body)

  (* or Replace[Function[expr], Function[body_] :> body, {1, -1}]*)

mergeF[(f - g)/Exp[g]]

enter image description here

If don't need to care at all you can drop Hold.


Use With:

h = With[{f = f, g = g},  f[#] - g[#] &]
  • $\begingroup$ It will work but it is not the same as OP's h $\endgroup$
    – Kuba
    Apr 7, 2017 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Kuba I'm not sure what you mean. His use of Evaluate accomplishes nothing, but the use of With achieves what he was asking for (i.e., eliminates the appearance of f and g in the own values of h, as he requested in his comments). $\endgroup$
    – Alan
    Apr 7, 2017 at 15:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure what do you mean too :) this is what OP's h is: 2 - #1 + #1^2 & and this is what is yours: (#1^2 &)[#1] - (#1 - 2 &)[#1] &. Of course Evaluate does its job there. $\endgroup$
    – Kuba
    Apr 7, 2017 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Kuba On Evaluate: right, I see what he did. (I had thought he evaluated the function expression, not just the argument.) On the difference: does it make a difference? Hmm, I suppose Evaluate could lead to simplifications, avoiding the need to recompute them every call. So then, was using Evaluate that way a good solution after all? I thought using With was the standard answer. $\endgroup$
    – Alan
    Apr 7, 2017 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn't say one way is better than another unless OP narrows the case. As you noticed your solution prevents simplifications/evaluation, which is reasonable choice. $\endgroup$
    – Kuba
    Apr 7, 2017 at 16:36

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