Consider two independent continuous random walks on a graph $G$ with adjacency matrix $A$. I am interested in the probability that the two walkers will ever meet.

When the graph is a $k$-regular graph with $k=1,2$ then the probability is one, see this question for example: What is the probability that two random walkers will meet?

I tried to derive a simple equation but I am doing something wrong and I cannot determine where it goes wrong, which is the reason of this post. Here is my reasoning:

Let $p_i(t)$ (res. $q_i(t)$) be probability that walker $1$ (res. $2$) is at node $i$ at time $t$. Let $\gamma(t)$ denote the probability that the two walkers have already met (at least one time) in the interval $[0,t]$. The probability that they have already met at $t+\mathrm{d}t$ is:

\begin{align} \gamma(t+\mathrm{d}t)&=1\times \text{"probability they have already met by time t"} \quad + \text{"probability they have NOT already met by time t"}\times \text{"probability they meet in next increment"}\\ &=\gamma(t)+ (1-\gamma(t))\mathrm{d}t \underbrace{\left( \sum_{ij}2\frac{A_{ij}}{k}p_i(t)q_j(t) \right)}_{\text{pr of meeting in next time increment}}. \end{align} In the last line I assumed regular graphs for this example, but this equation could be generalised to general graphs. (Conditioned on the event that walker $1$ is on vertex $i$ and walker $2$ is on vertex $j$ the probability that walker $2$ moves to vertex $i$ in the next time increment is $\frac{A_{ij}}{k_j}\mathrm{d}t$)

Taking the limit $dt\to 0$ gives me the master equation:

\begin{align} \dot\gamma(t)&=(1-\gamma(t))\left( \sum_{ij}2\frac{A_{ij}}{k}p_i(t)q_j(t) \right)\\ &=(1-\gamma(t))f(t). \end{align}

But if I solve this equation it gives me clearly wrong results, (first the integral of $f(t)$ diverges, and even if I take care of this divergence, the rate at which they meet is wrong). However I cannot see at which step I am taking a false assumption? Any remark or reference is always appreciated!

(I am NOT interested in the case where we reduce this problem to a single random walk, because I am interested in the generalization where the space is not homogeneous (e.g., not a regular graph, adding weights on the edges etc.).)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The two events: "they have NOT already met by time $t$" and "probability they meet in next increment" are clearly not independent. You likely meant "probability they meet in next increment given that they did not meet by time $t$", but that is not given by such a simple expression. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, yes indeed… Thank you. Would you happen to know a potential reference that would answer my question? $\endgroup$
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 11:39
  • $\begingroup$ I am afraid I do not. If $u(t,x,y)$ is the probability that the two processes started at $x$ and $y$ did not meet up to time $t$, then $u$ solves $\partial_t u = L_x u + L_y u$ for $x \ne y$, and $u(0,x,y)=1$, $u(t,x,x)=0$. In particular, $h(x,y) = 1-u(\infty,x,y)$, the probability that they ever meet, is a positive and bounded harmonic function in the complement of the diagonal $x = y$, equal to $1$ on the diagonal. It can be proved that $h$ is the least positive harmonic function in the complement of the diagonal, equal to $1$ on the diagonal. That's all I can say in this generality. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 12:04

1 Answer 1


This is equivalent to the question whether two walks will necessarily meet infinitely often (with probability one) or not. This question has been studied in some detail, see in particular [2] where some general criteria are given.

[1] Krishnapur, Manjunath, and Yuval Peres. "Recurrent graphs where two independent random walks collide finitely often." Electronic communications in probability 9 (2004): 72-81.

[2] Barlow, Martin T., Yuval Peres, and Perla Sousi. "Collisions of random walks." In Annales de l'IHP Probabilités et statistiques, vol. 48, no. 4, pp. 922-946. 2012.

[3] Chen, XinXing, and DaYue Chen. "Two random walks on the open cluster of ℤ 2 meet infinitely often." Science China Mathematics 53, no. 8 (2010): 1971-1978.

[4] Hutchcroft, Tom, and Yuval Peres. "Collisions of random walks in reversible random graphs." Electronic Communications in Probability 20 (2015): 1-6.


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