We can ask two basic questions about any equation, or system of equations: is there a solution, and, if there is, is it unique? Experience with finite systems of linear equations indicates that the two questions are interconnected. Consider for instance the equations
2x + 3y - 5z = a,
x - 2y + z = b,
3x +y - 4z = c.
Notice that the left-hand side of the third equation is the sum of the left-hand sides of the first two. As a result, no solution to the system exists unless a + b = c. But if a + b = c, then any solution of the first two equations is also a solution of the third; and in any linear system involving more unknowns than equations, solutions, when ...