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Section 6.

4 629 Subgroups

Section 6.4 Subgroups : Groups Inside a Group

Purpose of Section To introduce the concept of a subgroup and find the


subgroups of various symmetry groups.

Introduction
Recall the six symmetries of an equilateral triangle; the identity map, three
flips about the midlines through the vertices of the triangle, and two
(counterclockwise) rotations of 120 and 240 degrees.

Symmetries of an equilateral triangle


Figure 1

This set, along with the group operation of composition, forms a self-
contained algebraic system called a group. It is distinguished by the fact the
group operation is closed and the group contains an identity (do nothing
operation), and every element in the group has an inverse. But this group is
only the outside of the shell, inside there may be smaller groups. For
example, in the dihedral group D3 of six symmetries of an equilateral triangle,
consider the subset of three rotational symmetries, the identity map e and the
two rotations of 120 and 240 degrees. The Cayley table for these symmetries
{e, R120 , R240 } is drawn in Figure 2, which can easily be verified to form a
group. The group operation is closed (i.e. the product of two elements
belongs to the group), e is the identity, and each element has an inverse.
Section 6.4 630 Subgroups

Subgroup of rotations of symmetries of an equilateral triangle


Figure 2

This motivates the following definition of “groups within groups,” or


subgroups.

Definition: Let ( G , ∗) be a group with operation ∗ . If a subset H ⊆ G itself


forms a group with the same operation ∗ , then H is called a subgroup of G .
If H is neither the identity {e} nor the entire group G , which are groups
called trivial subgroups of G , then H is called a proper subgroup of G.

Example 1 (Subgroups
(Subgroups of Symmetries of an Equilateral Triangle)
Find the proper subgroups of the dihedral group D3 the symmetries of
an equilateral triangle.

Solution: The Cayley table for the dihedral group D3 of symmetries of an


equilateral triangle and its proper subgroups are displayed in Figure 3. There
are four proper subgroups of D3 ; the rotational subgroup {e, R120 , R240 } of order
3 and three “flip” subgroups {e, Fv } , {e, Fne } , {e, Fnw } , each of order 2.
Section 6.4 631 Subgroups

∗ e R120 R240 Fv Fne Fnw ∗ e R120 R240 Fv Fne Fnw


e e R120 R240 Fv Fne Fnw e e R120 R240 Fv Fne Fnw
R120 R120 R240 e Fne Fnw Fv R120 R120 R240 e Fne Fnw Fv
R240 R240 e R120 Fnw Fv Fne R240 R240 e R120 Fnw Fv Fne
Fv Fv Fnw Fne e R240 R120 Fv Fv Fnw Fne e R240 R120
Fne Fne Fv Fnw R120 e R240 Fne Fne Fv Fnw R120 e R240
Fnw Fnw Fne Fv R240 R120 e Fnw Fnw Fne Fv R240 R120 e
H1 = {e, Fv } Flip around vertical axis H 2 = {e, Fnw } Flip around the northwest axis
∗ e R120 R240 Fv Fne Fnw ∗ e R120 R240 Fv Fne Fnw
e e R120 R240 Fv Fne Fnw e e R120 R240 Fv Fne Fnw
R120 R120 R240 e Fne Fnw Fv R120 R120 R240 e Fne Fnw Fv
R240 R240 e R120 Fnw Fv Fne R240 R240 e R120 Fnw Fv Fne
Fv Fv Fnw Fne e R240 R120 Fv Fv Fnw Fne e R240 R120
Fne Fne Fv Fnw R120 e R240 Fne Fne Fv Fnw R120 e R240
Fnw Fnw Fne Fv R240 R120 e Fnw Fnw Fne Fv R240 R120 e
H 3 = {e, Fne } Flip around the northeast axis. H 4 = {e, R120 , R240 } Identity and two rotations

Four Proper Subgroups of Symmetries of an Equilateral Triangle


Figure 3

We let the reader verify that each of these subgroups satisfy the necessary
requirements to be groups. See Problem 1.

Proper Subgroups
Subgroups of the Klein 4-
4-Group

Recall from Section 6.1 that the group of (rotational and reflective)
symmetries of a rectangle form a group, called the Klein 4-group, with
elements G = {e, R180 , H , V } , where as always " e " denotes the group identity,
R180 a rotation of 180 degrees, and H ,V flips around the horizontal and
vertical midlines, respectively. Figure 4 shows the Cayley table of the
symmetries of a rectangle and its three proper subgroups, all of order 2.
Note how the order of the subgroups always divides the order of the group.
We will not prove it here but this is a fundamental property was one of the
first fundamental theorems proven in group theory and is called Lagrange’s
theorem, after the great French/Italian mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange
(1736-1813).
Section 6.4 632 Subgroups

∗ e R180 H V
∗ e R180 H V
e e R180 H V
e e R180 H V
R180 R180 e V H
R180 R180 e V H
H H V e R180
H H V e R180
V V H R180 e
V V H R180 e

Group G = {e, R180 , V , H } of symmetries of Subgroup of symmetres H = {e, H } about


a rectangle. the horizontal midline.

∗ e R180 H V ∗ e R180 H V
e e R180 H V e e R180 H V
R180 R180 e V H R180 R180 e V H
H H V e R180 H H V e R180
V V H R180 e V V H R180 e

Subgroup of symmetries H = {e, V } about Subgroup of rotational symmetries


the horizontal midline. H = {e, R180 } .

Symmetry Group of a Rectangle and Three Subgroups


Figure 4

Test of Subgroups
Subgroups
Although a subset H of a group G is a group only if it satisfies the four
axioms of a group; i.e.. Closure, Associativity, Identity, Inverse, the fact that
H is a subset of G , it is only necessary to verify that the group operation ∗
is closed in H and that every element of H has an inverse in H . There is no
need to show the existence of an identity; the identity in the larger group G is
also an identity in the subgroup H , This result is summarized in the following
theorem.
Section 6.4 633 Subgroups

Theorem 1 (Conditions for Being a Subgroup) Let ( G , ∗) be a group with


operation ∗ and H a nonempty subset of G . The set H with operation ∗ is
a subgroup ( H , ∗) of ( G , ∗) if the following two conditions hold:

i) H is closed under ∗ . That is, ∀x, y ∈ H ⇒ x ∗ y ∈ H .

ii) Every element in H has an inverse in H . That is

( ∀h ∈ H ) ( ∃h−1 ∈ H )( h ∗ h−1 = h−1 ∗ h = e ) .

where " e " is the identity element in G .

Proof:
Since ∗ is a binary operation on G , it is also a binary operation on the
subset H , and by assumption i) we know ∗ maps H × H into H . Next, the
associative law ( a ∗ b ) ∗ c = a ∗ ( b ∗ c ) holds for all a, b, c ∈ H since H is a
subset of G and we know it holds for all a, b, c ∈ G . We now ask if the identity
e ∈ G also belongs to H and is the identity of H ? The answer is yes since
by picking an h ∈ H we know by hypothesis ii) there exists a h −1 ∈ H , and by
closure h ∗ h −1 = e ∈ H . Hence, we have verified the four properties required
for a group: closure, associativity, identity, and inverse. Hence H is a group.

Example 2 (Test of Subgroup) Let G =  = {0, ±1, ±2,...} be the group of


integers with the binary operation of addition + . Show the even integers
2 = {0, ± 2, ± 4,... } is a subgroup of G .

Solution
We observe that + is closed binary operation in 2 since if
m = 2k1 , n = 2k2 are even integers, so is their sum m + n = 2 ( k1 + k2 ) ∈ 2 .
Secondly, every even integer 2k ∈ 2 has an inverse, namely
−2k = 2 ( −k ) ∈ 2 . ▌

Note: The order of any subgroup of a group is a divisor of the group, and if the
order of the subgroup is a prime number then there will be a subgroup of that order.
Hence, there is not a subgroup of order 9 of a subgroup of order 30, and there
might be a subgroup of order 15, and there is a subgroup of order 5.
Section 6.4 634 Subgroups

Example 3 (Group of Infinite Order) Let ( G , ∗) be the group of points in the


plane  2 where the group operation + :  ×  →  is coordinate wise addition
2
of points ( a, b ) + ( c, d ) = ( a + c, b + d ) . We leave it to the reader to show  , + ( )
is a group. Show that the x -axis H = {( x, 0 ) : x ∈ } is a subgroup of ( , +) .
2

Solution

The x -axis is a subset of the plane and the operation + is closed in H


since
( x1 , 0 ) ∈ H , ( x2 , 0 ) ∈ H ⇒ ( x1 + x2 , 0 ) ∈ H

Also every ( x1 , 0 ) ∈ H has an inverse ( − x1 , 0 ) ∈ H , i.e. ( x1 , 0 ) + ( − x1 , 0 ) = ( 0, 0 ) ,


2
which is the group identity in  ▌

In general it is not a simple task to find all subgroups of a group, but for
cyclic groups it is an easy task.

Example 4 (Subgroups
(Subgroups of the Dihedral Group D4 ) Figure 5 shows the dihedral
group D4 of eight symmetries of a square, also called the octic group.

a) Is the octic group commutative? Hint: Compare products R270 Fne


and Fne R270 .

b) There are several subsets of the eight symmetries that form a group
in their own right. These are called subgroups of the octic group. Can you
find all ten of them?

Solution

a) The reader can check but R270 Fne ≠ Fne R270 . Hence, the octic group is
not commutative.

b) The 9 subgroups of the octic group are

{e} , {e,V } , {e, H } ,{e, Fnw} , {e, Fne } , {e, R180 } , {e, R180 ,V , H } , {e, R180 , Fnw , Fne }
Section 6.4 635 Subgroups

Motion Symbol First and Final Positions

No motion e = R0

Rotate 90
R90
Counterclockwise

Rotate 180
R180
Counterclockwise

Rotate 270
R270
Counterclockwise

Horizontal flip H

Vertical flip V

Northeast flip Fne

Northwest flip Fnw


Section 6.4 636 Subgroups

Symmetries of a Square
Figure 5

The nine subgroups of the symmetry group of a square form a partially


ordered set with ordering set inclusion, which can be illustrated in a Hasse
diagram as shown in Figure 6. The group D4 is itself a subgroup of the group
S 4 of permutations of four elements.

Hasse Diagram for the Subgroups of the Octic Group D4


Figure 6

Note: The two groups  and  are subsets of  and under the same operation
of addition, hence both are subgroups of  .

Subgroups of Cyclic Groups

We have seen that the finite cyclic group Z n of order n is a group


generated by a single element in the group. That is, there exists a g ∈ Z
such that
Section 6.4 637 Subgroups

g ≡ {e, g , g 2 , g 3 ,..., g n−1} = Z n .

To find the subgroups of Z n we start with an element g ∈ Z n and compute the


set g generated by g . This set may or may not be all of Z n , but it will be a
subgroup of Z n . We then move on to a new h ∈ Z n that is not in g and
compute the set h generated by h . Continuing in this manner we will
eventually obtain all subgroups of Z n . For example to apply this technique to
the group
Z12 = {0,1, 2,3, 4,5,6, 7,8, 9,10,11}

where the group operation is addition modulo 12, where the group operation is
addition modulo 12. If we start taking “powers” of g = 1 , we get (remember
powers are really adding 1)

1 = {1, 2,3, 4,5, 6, 7,8,9,10,11, 0}

which has generated the entire group 12 . On the other hand the element
g = 2 generates the subgroup 2 = {0, 2, 4, 6,8 } ⊆ G . Figure 7 shows the
subgroups generated by g = 1, 2,3, 4 . Do you see why 5 =  12 and
6 = {0, 6} .

g = 1 generates the entire group g = 2 generates the subgroup


1 =  12 = {0,1, 2,...,11} 2 = {0, 2, 4, 6,8,10}
Section 6.4 638 Subgroups

g = 3 generates the subgroup g = 4 generates the subgroup


3 = {0,3, 6,9} 4 = {0, 4,8}

Four typical subgroups generated by elements of the group


Figure 7

Table 1 shows the subgroups generated by each element of the group and the
order of the subgroup generated by the generator.

Generator Order of the Generator


1 =  12 ( 12
12 1 = 0 )
2 = {0, 2, 4, 6,8,10} (
6 26 = 0 )
4 (3 = 0)
4
3 = {0,3, 6,9}
3 ( 4 = 0)
3
4 = {0, 4,8}
12 ( 5 = 0 )
12
5 =  12
2 (6 = 0)
2
6 = {0, 6}
12 ( 7 = 0 )
12
7 = 12
3 (8 = 0 )
3
8 = {0, 4,8}
4 ( 9 = 0)
4
9 = {0, 3, 6,9}
6 (10 = 0 )
6
10 = {0, 2, 4, 6,8,10}
12 (11 = 0 )
12
11 =  12

Generators of Subsets of 12


Table 1
Section 6.4 639 Subgroups

Note: You may have noticed that the order of the subgroups seems to
always divide the order of the group. This is not a coincidence. The order of
a subgroup always divides the order of a group. For example a group of order
11 will only have the trivial subgroups of the group itself and the identity
subgroup. On the other hand the groups of order 6 we have seen (cyclic
group of order six and the dihedral group D3 of symmetries of an equilateral
triangle both have subgroups of order 2 and 3.

Example 5 (Subgroup Generated by R120 )

Find the subgroup of the dihedral group D3 of symmetries of an


equilateral triangle generated by R120 .

Solution
Starting with R120 and the identity e = R0 we form the set {R0 , R120 } after
2
which we compute R120 = R240 . Since this is not in {R0 , R120 } we include it,
3
getting {R0 , R120 , R240 } . We now compute the next power R 120 = R0 in which case
we stop, getting the subgroup R120 = {R0 , R120 , R240 } of rotations of D3 .

Example 6 (Subgroups of a Cyclic Group) Find the subgroups of Z 8

Solution
Systematically trying different generators, we find the 8 subgroups.

1 = {0,1, 2,3, 4,5, 6, 7} =  8 (order 8)


2 = {0, 2, 4, 6} (order 4)
3 = {0, 3, 6,1, 4, 7, 2,5} =  8 (order 8)
4 = {0, 4} (order 2)
5 = {0,5, 2, 7, 4,1, 6, 3} =  8 (order 8)
6 = {0, 6, 4, 2} (order 4)
7 = {0, 7, 6,5, 4,3, 2,1} =  8 (order 8)
8 = {0} (order 1)

Hence, the four subgroups of Z 8 are {{0},{0, 4},{0, 2, 4, 6},{0,1, 2,3, 4, 5, 6, 7}}
under the same addition and multiplication mod 8 as Z 8 .
Section 6.4 640 Subgroups

Problems,
Problems, Section 6.4, Subgroups

1. (True or False)

a) The order of any subgroup always divides the order of the group.

Ans: true

b) Every subgroup of a group must contain the identity element of the


group.

Ans:
Ans true

c) Some groups do not have any subgroups.

Ans:
Ans false, the identity alone is a subgroup

d)  is a subgroup of  under the operation of addition.

Ans: true

e) The symmetric group S 2 has two subgroups.

Ans: true, the identity and the group itself are both subgroups of S 2

a) There are some groups where every subset is a subgroup.

Ans: false, the subsets must contain the identity element and some subsets fo
not.

g) The set {e, h} is a subgroup of the group of symmetries of a square,


where e denotes the identity map, and h is the horizontal flip.

Ans: yes

h) There are 5 subgroups of order 2 of the group of symmetries of a square.

Ans:
Ans yes, and you should be able to envision them

2. (Subgroups of  6 ) List all subgroups of  6 = {0,1, 2, 3, 4, 5} generated by the


elements of the group. What is the order of each generator?

Ans:
Section 6.4 641 Subgroups

1 = 6 order 6
2 = {0, 2, 4} order 3
3 = {0, 3} order 2
4 = {0, 2, 4} order 3
5 = 6 order 6

3. Find the Cayley table for the subgroup {e, R180 , v, h} of the group of
symmetries of a square.

Ans:

* e R180 v h
e e R180 v h
R180 R180 e h v
v v h e R180
h h v R180 e

4. Show that the group defined by the following Cayley table is a subgroup of
S3 .

∗ ( ) (123) (132 )
( ) ( ) (123) (132 )
(123) (123) (132 ) ( )
(132 ) (132 ) ( ) (123)

Ans: By Theorem 1 all we need to do is verify that the subset


H = {( ) , (123) , (132 )} is closed under the operation *, and that each member of
H has an inverse. Clearly the operation * is closed since the table consists of
these members. Also, (123) and (132 ) are inverses of each other, and of
course the inverse of the identity ( ) is itself.
5. (Subgroup Geneated by R240 ) Find the subgroup of the dihedral group D3
of symmetries of an equilateral triangle generated by R240 .

Ans: R240 = {e, R120 , R240 }


Section 6.4 642 Subgroups

6. (Generated Groups of Symmetries of a Rectangle) In the Klein 4-group


{e, R180 , v, h} of symmetries of a rectangle, find the subgroups generated by
each element in the group. What is the order of each member?

Ans:

R180 = {e, R180 } R180 has order 2


v = {e, v} v has order 2
h = {e, h} h has order 2

7. (Center of a Group) The center Z ( G ) of a group G consists of all


elements of the group that commute with all elements of the group. That is

Z ( G ) = { g ∈ G : gx = xg for all x ∈ G}

It can be shown that the center of any group is a subgroup of the group. Find
the center of the group of symmetries of a rectangle. Note: The center of a
group is never empty since the identity element of a group always commutes
with every element of the group. The question is, are there other elements
that commute with every element of the group.

Ans: The center of the Klein 4-group is {e, R180 }

8. (Hasse Diagram) Draw a Hasse diagram for the subgroups of symmetries


of a rectangle; i.e. the Klein 4-group.

Ans:
Section 6.4 643 Subgroups

9. (Subgroups of  8 ) Find the subgroups of the cyclic group  8 .

Ans: Systematically trying difference generators of  8 we find

1 = {1, 2,3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 0} =  8
2 = {2, 4, 6, 0}
3 = {3, 6,1, 4, 7, 2,5} =  8
4 = {4, 0}
5 = {5, 2, 7, 4,1, 6, 3, 0} =  8
6 = {6, 4, 2, 0}
7 = {7, 6,5, 4,3, 2,1, 0} =  8

which gives us four subgroups {0}, {0, 4} ,{0, 2, 4, 6} , and  8 .

10. 11. (Subgroups of 11 ) Find the subgroups of the cyclic group 11 .
Section 6.4 644 Subgroups

Ans: Systematically trying difference generators of 11 the only subgroups


are the trivial group {0} and 11 . Also, the order of the subgroup divides the
order of the group and since 11 has order 11 and the only two numbers that
divide 11 are 1 and 11.