Abstract Algebra/Group Theory/Group

In this section we will begin to make use of the definitions we made in the section about binary operations. In the next few sections, we will study a specific type of binary structure called a group. First, however, we need some preliminary work involving a less restrictive type of binary structure.

Monoids edit

Definition 1: A monoid is a binary structure   satisfying the following properties:

(i)   for all  . This is defined as associativity.
(ii) There exists an identity element   such that   for all  .

Now we have our axioms in place, we are faced with a pressing question; what is our first theorem going to be? Since the first few theorems are not dependent on one another, we simply have to make an arbitrary choice. We choose the following:

Theorem 2: The identity element of   is unique.

Proof: Assume   and   are both identity elements of  . Then both satisfy condition (ii) in the definition above. In particular,  , proving the theorem.

This theorem will turn out to be of fundamental importance later when we define groups.

Theorem 3: If   are elements of   for some  , then the product   is unambiguous.

Proof: We can prove this by induction. The cases for   and   are trivially true. Assume that the statement is true for all  . For  , the product  , inserting parentheses, can be "partitioned" into  . Both parts of the product have a number of elements less than   and are thus unambiguous. The same is true if we consider a different "partition",  , where  . Thus, we can unambiguously compute the products  ,  , and  , and rewrite the two "partitions" as   and  . These equal each other by the definition of a monoid.

This is about as far as we are going to take the idea of a monoid. We now proceed to groups.

Groups edit

Definition 4: A group is a monoid   that also satisfies the property

(iii) For each  , there exists an element   such that  .

Such an element   is called an inverse of  . When the operation on the group is understood, we will conveniently refer to   as  . In addition, we will gradually stop using the symbol   for multiplication when we are dealing with only one group, or when it is understood which operation is meant, instead writing products by juxtaposition,  .

Remark 5: Notice how this definition depends on Theorem 2 to be well defined. Therefore, we could not state this definition before at least proving uniqueness of the identity element. Alternatively, we could have included the existence of a distinguished identity element in the definition. In the end, the two approaches are logically equivalent.

Also note that to show that a monoid is a group, it is sufficient to show that each element has either a left-inverse or a right-inverse. Let  , let   be a right-inverse of  , and let   be a right-inverse of  . Then,  . Thus, any right-inverse is also a left-inverse, or  . A similar argument can be made for left-inverses.

Theorem 6: The inverse of any element is unique.

Proof: Let   and let   and   be inverses of  . Then,  .

Thus, we can speak of the inverse of an element, and we will denote this element by  . We also observe this nice property:

Corollary 7:  .

Proof: This follows immediately since  .

The next couple of theorems may appear obvious, but in the interest of keeping matters fairly rigorous, we allow ourselves to state and prove seemingly trivial statements.

Theorem 8: Let   be a group and  . Then  .

Proof: The result follows by direct computation:  .

Theorem 9: Let  . Then,   if and only if  . Also,   if and only if  .

Proof: We will prove the first assertion. The second is identical. Assume  . Then, multiply on the left by   to obtain  . Secondly, assume  . Then, multiply on the left by   to obtain  .

Theorem 10: The equation   has a unique solution in   for any  .

Proof: We must show existence and uniqueness. For existence, observe that   is a solution in  . For uniqueness, multiply both sides of the equation on the left by   to show that this is the only solution.

Notation: Let   be a group and  . We will often encounter a situation where we have a product  . For these situations, we introduce the shorthand notation   if   is positive, and   if   is negative. Under these rules, it is straightforward to show   and   and   for all  .

Definition 11: (i) The order of a group  , denoted   or  , is the number of elements of   if   is finite. Otherwise   is said to be infinite.

(ii) The order of an element of  , similarly denoted   or  , is defined as the lowest positive integer   such that   if such an integer exists. Otherwise   is said to be infinite.

Theorem 12: Let   be a group and  . Then  .

Proof: Let the order of   be  . Then,  ,   being the smallest positive integer such that this is true. Now, multiply by   on the left and   on the right to obtain   implying  . Thus, we have shown that  . A similar argument in the other direction shows that  . Thus, we must have  , proving the theorem.

Corollary 13: Let   be a group with  . Then,  .

Proof: By Theorem 12, we have that  .

Theorem 14: An element of a group not equal to the identity has order 2 if and only if it is its own inverse.

Proof: Let   have order 2 in the group  . Then,  , so by definition,  . Now, assume   and  . Then  . Since  , 2 is the smallest positive integer satisfying this property, so   has order 2.

Definition 15: Let   be a group such that for all  ,  . Then,   is said to be commutative or abelian.

When we are dealing with an abelian group, we will sometimes use so-called additive notation, writing   for our binary operation and replacing   with  . In such cases, we only need to keep track of the fact that   is an integer while   is a group element. We will also talk about the sum of elements rather than their product.

Abelian groups are in many ways nicer objects than general groups. They also admit more structure where ordinary groups do not. We will see more about this later when we talk about structure-preserving maps between groups.

Definition 16: Let   be a group. A subset   is called a generating set for   if every element in   can be written in terms of elements in  . We write  .

Now that we have our definitions in place and have a small arsenal of theorems, let us look at three (really, two and a half) important families of groups.

Multiplication tables edit

We will now show a convenient way of representing a group structure, or more precisely, the multiplication rule on a set. This notion will not be limited to groups only, but can be used for any structure with any number of operations. As an example, we give the group multiplication table for the Klein 4-group  . The multiplication table is structured such that   is represented by the element in the " -position", that is, in the intersection of the  -row and the  -column.


This next group is for the group of integers under addition modulo 4, called  . We will learn more about this group later.


We can clearly see that   and   are "different" groups. There is no way to relabel the elements such that the multiplication tables coincide. There is a notion of "equality" of groups that we have not yet made precise. We will get back to this in the section about group homomorphisms.

The reader might have noticed that each row in the group table features each element of the group exactly once. Indeed, assume that an element   appeared twice in some row of the multiplication table for  . Then there would exist   such that  , implying   and contradicting the assumption of   appearing twice. We state this as a theorem:

Theorem 17: Let   be a group and  . Then  .

Using this, the reader can use a multiplication table to find all groups of order 3. He/she will find that there is only one possibility.

Problems edit

Problem 1: Show that  , the set of   matrices with real entries, forms a group under the operation of matrix addition.

Problem 2: Let   be vector spaces and   be the set of linear maps from   to  . Show that   forms an abelian group by defining  .

Problem 3: Let   be generated by the elements   such that  ,   and  . Show that   forms a group. Are any of the conditions above redundant? When the identity e is written 1 and m = −1, then   is called the quaternion group. The   are imaginary units. Using 1 and one of these as a basis for a number plane results in the complex number plane.

Problem 4: Let   be any nonempty set and consider the set  . Show that   has a natural group structure.


  is the set of functions  . Let   and define the binary operation   for all  . Then   is a group with identity   such that   for all   and inverses   for all  .

Problem 5: Let   be a group with two distinct elements   and  , both of order 2. Show that   has a third element of order 2.


We consider first the case where  . Then   and   is distinct from   and  . If  , then   and   is distinct from   and  .

Problem 6: Let   be a group with one and only one element   of order 2. Show that  .


Since the product of two elements generally depends on the order in which we multiply them, the stated product is not necessarily well-defined. However, it works out in this case.

Since every element of   appears once in the product, for every element  , the inverse of   must appear somewhere in the product. That, is, unless   in which case   is its own inverse by Theorem 14. Now, applying Corollary 13 to the product shows that its order is that same as the order of the product of all elements of order 2 in  . But there is only one such element,  , so the order of the product is 2. Since the only element in   having order 2 is  , the equality follows.