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Why do we need infinitesimally small charge in definition of electric field? Since the test charge cannot exert force on itself, F on test charge will not change whatever the value of test charge q is. So, F/q will be same for any value of test charge. Then why do we need this limit of infinitesimally small charge?

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Ideally, test charge should not affect the charge distribution of the source. An infinitesimal charge will ensure, for example, that the electric field it produces does not redistribute charges on any conductors in your system. A large test charge would polarize nearby objects, thus affecting the field you're trying to measure in the first place.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is the answer! An infinitesimal probe-charge is meant to not modify the field. $\endgroup$ – Sofia Jan 20 '15 at 17:17

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