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The general conditions for the applicability of the Faddeev-Jackiw approach to gauge theories are studied. When the constraints are effective a new proof in the Lagrangian framework of the equivalence between this method and the Dirac approach is given. We find, however, that the two methods may give different descriptions for the reduced phase space when ineffective constraints are present. In some cases the Faddeev-Jackiw approach may lose some constraints or some equations of motion. Wedoi:10.1142/s0217751x98001736 fatcat:xjnd3xlc4jdwzer55wxcktddda