A Cayley table of an finite group has to have every element exactly once in every row and exactly once in every column.

Proof that every element of a group has to be at most once in every row and at most once in every column:

Let $(G, \circ)$ be a group and $a, b, c, d \in G$ with:

(I) $a \circ b = d$

(II) $a \circ c = d \Leftrightarrow a = d \circ c^{-1}$


$\begin{align} (a \circ c) \circ (a \circ b) &= d \circ d \\ \Leftrightarrow d \circ (d \circ c^{-1} \circ b) &= d \circ d \\ \Leftrightarrow d \circ c^{-1} \circ b &= d\\ \Leftrightarrow c^{-1} \circ b &= e\\ \Leftrightarrow b &= c \end{align}$

As the group is finite, this also means it is exactly once in every row/column ($\forall a,b \in G: a \circ b = x$ with $x \in G$).

Now my question is:

Does a group with an infinite number of elements exist, that has not every element in every row/column of its Cayley table?

(I know that Cayley tables usually get used only for finite groups. But if set of the group has a countable number of elements, you can imagine a Cayley table. For example, $(\mathbb{Z}, +)$ has obviously every element in every row/column).

  • $\begingroup$ Cayley tables are only for finite groups as far as I know $\endgroup$ – Belgi Aug 29 '12 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Belgi: If you read my post, you would have noticed that I knew this. (Read the last paragraph of my question.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Thoma Aug 29 '12 at 19:36

The term Cayley table is generally restricted to finite groups. However, it’s certainly possible to generalize the idea. For a group $G$ and an element $a\in G$, the $a$ ‘row’ of the table is essentially just the function $$f_a:G\to G:b\mapsto ab\;,$$ and the $a$ ‘column’ is essentially just the function $$f^a:G\to G:b\mapsto ba\;.$$ If $G$ is countably infinite, you can visualize the Cayley table as an infinite matrix.

Let $G$ be any group, and fix $a\in G$. For each $b\in G$ you have $b=a(a^{-1}b)$, so $b$ appears in row $a$ in column $a^{-1}b$. Similarly, $b=(ba^{-1})a$, so $b$ appears in column $a$ in row $ba^{-1}$. It follows that $b$ appears in every row and column. The cardinality of the group doesn’t matter.

Added: You didn’t ask, but it’s also clear that each element of $G$ appears only once in each row and column: if $ax=ay$ or $xa=ya$, then $x=y$. Thus, each of the maps $f_a$ and $f^a$ for $a\in G$ is a bijection from $G$ onto itself, i.e., a permutation of $G$. The set of all permutations of $G$ is denoted by $\operatorname{Sym}(G)$ and is a group under composition of functions; the maps

$$G\to\operatorname{Sym}(G):a\mapsto f_a$$


$$G\to\operatorname{Sym}(G):a\mapsto f^a$$

are isomorphisms of $G$ to subgroups of $\operatorname{Sym}(G)$. This is Cayley’s theorem.

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    $\begingroup$ In other words, the generalization is that $f_a$ and $f^a$ are permutations of $G$. $\endgroup$ – lhf Aug 29 '12 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ @lhf: Exactly so. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Aug 29 '12 at 18:57

In the general setting, having at least one element in every row and column just means that given any $g$ and any $a$, there exists a $b$ and $b'$ such that $ab = g$ and $b'a = g$. This is true because you can let $b = a^{-1}g$ and $b' = ga^{-1}$.

Having exactly one element in each row or column is equivalent to $ac = g$ and $ac' = g$ implying that $c = c'$. This is because $ac = g = ac'$. Multiplying $a^{-1}$ to both side gives $c = c'$. Do the same thing for $ca = g$ and $c'a = g$.


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