I have defined two numpy arrays X and y as

(array([[ 1.,  1.,  1.,  4.],
        [ 2.,  2.,  2.,  1.],
        [ 3.,  3.,  3.,  7.],
        [-1., -1., -1.,  2.],
        [-2., -2., -2., 13.],
        [-3., -3., -3.,  7.]])
array([[ 7], [ 7], [16], [-1], [ 7], [-2]])

I am trying to solve for y = Xw. It's clear that rank(X) = 2 since we have 2 independent variables. But how is sklearn.LinearRegression able to fit this dataset?

# Applying linear regression model (Normal equation)
reg = LinearRegression().fit(X, y)    
print('rank', reg.rank_)
print('score', reg.score(X, y))
print('w', reg.coef_,)
print('bias', reg.intercept_)

It gives the perfect solution. If it solves the equation using normal method, shouldn't it throw the exception that $X^T X$ is non invertible?

rank 2
score 1.0
w [[1. 1. 1. 1.]]
bias [-2.66453526e-15]

1 Answer 1


This is the expected behavior.

I'll use the same symbols from the scipy documentation.

From the sklearn documentation, we read that LinearRegression is just a wrapper for scipy.linalg.lstsq. Reading the documentaiton for scipy.linalg.lstsq, we find that this function carries out a specific minimization:

Compute a vector x such that the 2-norm |b - A x| is minimized.

In other words, even if there are many $x$ that solve the linear system $Ax=b$, the scipy.linalg.lstsq function returns an $x$ that minimizes $\| b - Ax\|_2$.

In your case, the matrix $A$ is rank-deficient, and there are many $x$ that minimize $\| b - Ax \|_2$. In this case, LAPACK is used to compute the solution which minimizes both $\| x \|_2$ and $\| b - Ax \|_2$.

These LAPACK functions have an overview here: http://netlib.org/lapack/lug/node27.html

  • $\begingroup$ How does lstsq do it then? How does it handle non-invertibility? $\endgroup$
    – Shashwat
    Jun 20, 2020 at 18:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You don't have to invert a matrix to solve a linear system; it just happens that if there is a unique solution to a linear system, then matrix inversion is an obvious approach. Specifically, scipy.linalg.lstsq is calling LAPACK routines which have an overview here: netlib.org/lapack/lug/node27.html $\endgroup$
    – Sycorax
    Jun 20, 2020 at 18:34

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