(copied from a mathoverflow question because I realized this may be more appropriate for it) Let $A_1,A_2,...,A_k$ be $N$-by-$N$ matrices, with indeterminate entries in some field (say real or complex numbers), with $k={\rm poly}(N)$. Is there a matrix $B$, of size $m$-by-$m$, for some $m={\rm poly}(N)$, with the entries of $B$ being linear functions of the entries of the $A_i$, such that $\sum_i {\rm det}(A_i)={\rm det}(B)$?

Note, by results of Valiant and others, such a $B$ exists of size $N^{{\cal O}(\log(N))}$. But I want to know if $B$ can be only polynomially large. And if it can, is there any elegant expression for $B$? Indeed, it's not obvious how to find such a poly size $B$ even when $k=2$.

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    $\begingroup$ Don't have time for a full answer but that should work: Determinant is complete for the class of weakly skew circuits (see Lemma 6 in Characterizing Valiant's algebraic complexity classes, Malod, Portier) which is itself stable by addition. So you have a polysize weakly skew circuit for $\sum_i det(A_i)$, hence a matrix $B$ of polynomial size such that $det(B) = \sum_i det(A_i)$ $\endgroup$
    – holf
    Oct 22, 2022 at 7:44
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. Add it as an answer so I can accept it. Interestingly, this seems like even if $k=2$ then $B$ may be polynomially larger than $A_i$. $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2022 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, holf's answer is correct. Det is what is called a "linearly closed family", meaning precisely a positive answer to your question. $\endgroup$ Oct 23, 2022 at 4:10

1 Answer 1


It is possible and proven in [1, Proposition 7]. More precisely, Malod and Portier show that the determinant is linearly closed, that is, every linear combination of the form $\sum_{i=1}^n \lambda_i det(A_i)$ can be expressed as $det(B)$ for a matrix $B$ of size $poly(N) \times poly(N)$ where $N \times N$ is the size of the biggest matrix among matrices $A_1,\dots,A_n$.

The proof uses results previously established in the paper concerning the completeness of the determinant for the subclass of polynomial size weakly skew algebraic circuits known as $\mathsf{VP_{ws}}$ (a circuit is weakly skew if every multiplication gate has one input that is an input of the circuit).

They show in Lemma 6 that any circuits of size $m$ in this class can be expressed as $det(B)$ for an $(m+1) \times (m+1)$ matrix having entries that are elements of the field or variables.

They also show in Proposition 5 that the determinant polynomial belongs to this class.

Since this class is linearly closed, that is, every linear combination of weakly skew circuits is still weakly skew, $\sum_{i=1}^n \lambda_i det(A_i)$ is computed by a polynomial size weakly skew circuit by Proposition 5 which itself is expressible as the determinant of a polynomial size matrix by Lemma 6.


[1] Malod, G., & Portier, N. (2008). Characterizing Valiant's algebraic complexity classes. Journal of complexity, 24(1), 16-38.


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