In mathematics, specifically category theory, a subcategory of a category C is a category S whose objects are objects in C and whose morphisms are morphisms in C with the same identities and composition of morphisms. Intuitively, a subcategory of C is a category obtained from C by "removing" some of its objects and arrows.
Let C be a category. A subcategory S of C is given by
- a subcollection of objects of C, denoted ob(S),
- a subcollection of morphisms of C, denoted hom(S).
- for every X in ob(S), the identity morphism idX is in hom(S),
- for every morphism f : X → Y in hom(S), both the source X and the target Y are in ob(S),
- for every pair of morphisms f and g in hom(S) the composite f o g is in hom(S) whenever it is defined.
These conditions ensure that S is a category in its own right: its collection of objects is ob(S), its collection of morphisms is hom(S), and its identities and composition are as in C. There is an obvious faithful functor I : S → C, called the inclusion functor which takes objects and morphisms to themselves.
Let S be a subcategory of a category C. We say that S is a full subcategory of C if for each pair of objects X and Y of S,
A full subcategory is one that includes all morphisms between objects of S. For any collection of objects A in C, there is a unique full subcategory of C whose objects are those in A.
- The category of finite sets forms a full subcategory of the category of sets.
- The category whose objects are sets and whose morphisms are bijections forms a non-full subcategory of the category of sets.
- The category of abelian groups forms a full subcategory of the category of groups.
- The category of rings (whose morphisms are unit-preserving ring homomorphisms) forms a non-full subcategory of the category of rngs.
- For a field k, the category of k-vector spaces form a full subcategory of the category of (left or right) k-modules.
Some authors define an embedding to be a full and faithful functor. Such a functor is necessarily injective on objects up-to-isomorphism. For instance, the Yoneda embedding is an embedding in this sense.
Other authors define a functor to be an embedding if it is faithful and injective on objects. Equivalently, F is an embedding if it is injective on morphisms. A functor F is then called a full embedding if it is a full functor and an embedding.
With the definitions of the previous paragraph, for any (full) embedding F : B → C the image of F is a (full) subcategory S of C and F induces an isomorphism of categories between B and S. If F is not injective on objects, the image of F is equivalent to B.
In some categories, one can also speak of morphisms of the category being embeddings.
Types of subcategories
A subcategory S of C is said to be isomorphism-closed or replete if every isomorphism k : X → Y in C such that Y is in S also belongs to S. An isomorphism-closed full subcategory is said to be strictly full.
A subcategory of C is wide or lluf (a term first posed by Peter Freyd) if it contains all the objects of C. A wide subcategory is typically not full: the only wide full subcategory of a category is that category itself.
in C, M belongs to S if and only if both and do. This notion arises from Serre's C-theory.
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