Rank of a group

In the mathematical subject of group theory, the rank of a group G, denoted rank(G), can refer to the smallest cardinality of a generating set for G, that is

For the dimension of the Cartan subgroup, see Rank of a Lie group

If G is a finitely generated group, then the rank of G is a nonnegative integer. The notion of rank of a group is a group-theoretic analog of the notion of dimension of a vector space. Indeed, for p-groups, the rank of the group P is the dimension of the vector space P/Φ(P), where Φ(P) is the Frattini subgroup.

The rank of a group is also often defined in such a way as to ensure subgroups have rank less than or equal to the whole group, which is automatically the case for dimensions of vector spaces, but not for groups such as affine groups. To distinguish these different definitions, one sometimes calls this rank the subgroup rank. Explicitly, the subgroup rank of a group G is the maximum of the ranks of its subgroups:

Sometimes the subgroup rank is restricted to abelian subgroups.

Known facts and examples

rank(L)  1  2(rank(K)  1)(rank(H)  1).
This result is due to Hanna Neumann.[3][4] The Hanna Neumann conjecture states that in fact one always has rank(L)  1  (rank(K)  1)(rank(H)  1). The Hanna Neumann conjecture has recently been solved by Igor Mineyev[5] and announced independently by Joel Friedman.[6]
  • According to the classic Grushko theorem, rank behaves additively with respect to taking free products, that is, for any groups A and B we have
rank(AB) = rank(A) + rank(B).
  • If is a one-relator group such that r is not a primitive element in the free group F(x1,..., xn), that is, r does not belong to a free basis of F(x1,..., xn), then rank(G) = n.[7][8]

The rank problem

There is an algorithmic problem studied in group theory, known as the rank problem. The problem asks, for a particular class of finitely presented groups if there exists an algorithm that, given a finite presentation of a group from the class, computes the rank of that group. The rank problem is one of the harder algorithmic problems studied in group theory and relatively little is known about it. Known results include:

The rank of a finitely generated group G can be equivalently defined as the smallest cardinality of a set X such that there exists an onto homomorphism F(X) → G, where F(X) is the free group with free basis X. There is a dual notion of co-rank of a finitely generated group G defined as the largest cardinality of X such that there exists an onto homomorphism GF(X). Unlike rank, co-rank is always algorithmically computable for finitely presented groups,[14] using the algorithm of Makanin and Razborov for solving systems of equations in free groups.[15][16] The notion of co-rank is related to the notion of a cut number for 3-manifolds.[17]

If p is a prime number, then the p-rank of G is the largest rank of an elementary abelian p-subgroup.[18] The sectional p-rank is the largest rank of an elementary abelian p-section (quotient of a subgroup).

See also


  1. D. J. S. Robinson. A course in the theory of groups, 2nd edn, Graduate Texts in Mathematics 80 (Springer-Verlag, 1996). ISBN 0-387-94461-3
  2. Friedhelm Waldhausen. Some problems on 3-manifolds. Algebraic and geometric topology (Proc. Sympos. Pure Math., Stanford Univ., Stanford, Calif., 1976), Part 2, pp. 313322, Proc. Sympos. Pure Math., XXXII, Amer. Math. Soc., Providence, R.I., 1978; ISBN 0-8218-1433-8
  3. Hanna Neumann. On the intersection of finitely generated free groups. Publicationes Mathematicae Debrecen, vol. 4 (1956), 186189.
  4. Hanna Neumann. On the intersection of finitely generated free groups. Addendum. Publicationes Mathematicae Debrecen, vol. 5 (1957), p. 128
  5. Igor Minevev, "Submultiplicativity and the Hanna Neumann Conjecture." Ann. of Math., 175 (2012), no. 1, 393-414.
  6. "Sheaves on Graphs and a Proof of the Hanna Neumann Conjecture". Math.ubc.ca. Retrieved 2012-06-12.
  7. Wilhelm Magnus, Uber freie Faktorgruppen und freie Untergruppen Gegebener Gruppen, Monatshefte für Mathematik, vol. 47(1939), pp. 307313.
  8. Roger C. Lyndon and Paul E. Schupp. Combinatorial Group Theory. Springer-Verlag, New York, 2001. "Classics in Mathematics" series, reprint of the 1977 edition. ISBN 978-3-540-41158-1; Proposition 5.11, p. 107
  9. W. W. Boone. Decision problems about algebraic and logical systems as a whole and recursively enumerable degrees of unsolvability. 1968 Contributions to Math. Logic (Colloquium, Hannover, 1966) pp. 13 33 North-Holland, Amsterdam
  10. Charles F. Miller, III. Decision problems for groups survey and reflections. Algorithms and classification in combinatorial group theory (Berkeley, CA, 1989), pp. 159, Math. Sci. Res. Inst. Publ., 23, Springer, New York, 1992; ISBN 0-387-97685-X
  11. John Lennox, and Derek J. S. Robinson. The theory of infinite soluble groups. Oxford Mathematical Monographs. The Clarendon Press, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004. ISBN 0-19-850728-3
  12. G. Baumslag, C. F. Miller and H. Short. Unsolvable problems about small cancellation and word hyperbolic groups. Bulletin of the London Mathematical Society, vol. 26 (1994), pp. 97101
  13. Ilya Kapovich, and Richard Weidmann. Kleinian groups and the rank problem. Geometry and Topology, vol. 9 (2005), pp. 375402
  14. John R. Stallings. Problems about free quotients of groups. Geometric group theory (Columbus, OH, 1992), pp. 165182, Ohio State Univ. Math. Res. Inst. Publ., 3, de Gruyter, Berlin, 1995. ISBN 3-11-014743-2
  15. A. A. Razborov. Systems of equations in a free group. (in Russian) Izvestia Akademii Nauk SSSR, Seriya Matematischeskaya, vol. 48 (1984), no. 4, pp. 779832.
  16. G. S.Makanin Equations in a free group. (Russian), Izvestia Akademii Nauk SSSR, Seriya Matematischeskaya, vol. 46 (1982), no. 6, pp. 11991273
  17. Shelly L. Harvey. On the cut number of a 3-manifold. Geometry & Topology, vol. 6 (2002), pp. 409424
  18. Aschbacher, M. (2002), Finite Group Theory, Cambridge University Press, p. 5, ISBN 978-0-521-78675-1
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