I am trying to input more than two list arguments into a function. For example, I have written the following code:

g[xList_, yList_] := 
 For[ϕ = 1;  j = 2, j <= 6, j++, 
  For[i = 1, i < j, 
   i++, ϕ = ϕ*((x[i])^2 + (x[j])^2 - (2*x[i])*(x[j])*Cos[y[i] - y[j]])]];

xList = Array[x, 6];
yList = Array[y, 6];
g[xList, yList]

Here, each of x[i] and y[i] is a variable of the function g. However, in the above code, it seems that g is really not a function of xlist and ylist because by varying the list of arguments, I am not getting the desired output. In particular, I can't input a new set of list arguments wlist=Array[w, 6] , zlist=Array[z, 6] into the function g.

Is there a way to input two sets of list arguments as input variables to a function?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Why should I avoid the For loop in Mathematica? $\endgroup$
    – Roman
    Oct 9, 2023 at 10:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You appear to have some syntax errors. To declare a variable as a specific type you need x_List not xList_. Next Part shorthand is with two square brackets; x[[i]] , not x[i]. You also have "side-effects" with ϕ as it is not localised; see Module for help. $\endgroup$
    – Edmund
    Oct 9, 2023 at 21:22

1 Answer 1


When you use a construct like

g[xList_, yList_] := ...

it is presumed that the symbols xList and yList will appear in the right hand side. That's sort of what it means to be an argument. Your definition for g doesn't reference xList or yList. You could have just written g := ... or g[] := and achieved the same thing.

The "arguments" that g does reference, x, y, \[Phi], are not localized to g, so g operates via side effects. g also doesn't produce any output. So, g isn't really a function, but just a fancy way of assigning a constant expression to \[Phi]. So, really, you could have just written \[Phi] = ....

But, of course, you aren't deliberately trying to just assign a value to \[Phi], and you do want your g to depend on some arguments.

Here's an alternate definition that corrects these problems, but it's not particularly good style:

g2[x_, y_] :=
    {\[Phi] = 1},
    For[j = 2, j <= 6, j++,
      For[i = 1, i < j, i++,
        \[Phi] = \[Phi]*((x[[i]])^2 + (x[[j]])^2 - (2*x[[i]])*(x[[j]])*Cos[y[[i]] - y[[j]]])]];

Notice the double square brackets for accessing elements of a list. Now, x and y will take on the values of whatever arguments you pass in to g2.

One reason this isn't good stye is because of the "magic numbers" that show up in j=2 and i<=6. These should really depend on the arguments. Also, you can probably avoid the For loops by using regular list-based operations. And there's the gratuitous \[Phi]. But, I didn't take the time to reverse engineer your code to apply these fixes.

  • $\begingroup$ Could you please tell what are the regular list based operations instead of "For"? $\endgroup$
    – Rakesh
    Oct 9, 2023 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Rakesh Have a look at guide/FunctionalProgramming. For your example, Table probably does what you want. $\endgroup$
    – user87932
    Oct 9, 2023 at 17:43

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