I was trying to use FreeQ to test for the presence of Hypergeometric2F1 functions in my expressions. I encountered the following strange behaviour relating to the use of blanks _ as arguments of Hypergeometric2F1 in the pattern to be tested for.

FreeQ[Hypergeometric2F1[a1, a2, b1, x], Hypergeometric2F1[a1, a2, _, _]]

as it should be, but

FreeQ[Hypergeometric2F1[a1, a2, b1, x], Hypergeometric2F1[_, _, _, _]]

I'd be grateful if someone could educate me what's going on here. I use version 9.0 on Linux x86 (64-bit).

  • $\begingroup$ Related, perhaps duplicate: (27437) $\endgroup$
    – Mr.Wizard
    Jul 29, 2017 at 11:08

1 Answer 1


Whenever you run into unexpected results with pattern matching you need to consider how the pattern object itself evaluates. For example consider these:

Plus[_, _]
Times[_, _]

2 _


And now your pattern:

Hypergeometric2F1[_, _, _, _]
(1 - _)^-_

To prevent this evaluation you can use either HoldPattern or Verbatim:

FreeQ[Hypergeometric2F1[a1, a2, b1, x], HoldPattern @ Hypergeometric2F1[_, _, _, _]]

FreeQ[Hypergeometric2F1[a1, a2, b1, x], Verbatim[Hypergeometric2F1][_, _, _, _]]


Recommended reading:

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, Mr.Wizard, also for the pointers to further reading! $\endgroup$
    – Eckhard
    Oct 25, 2014 at 23:35

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