# Can a non-zero symmetric matrix have only zero eigenvalues

I know that a non-zero symmetric 2×2 matrix can't have only zero eigenvalues ( a zero eigenvalue with algebraic multiplicity 2), since such a matrix should have complex off diagonal entries to satisfy both trace and determinant being zero. I'm guessing if this is the case for the general case of any non-zero n×n symmetric matrix.

• It's also true for any symmetric matrix. It's similar to a diagonal matrix with it's eigenvalues put at the diagonal. May 27, 2017 at 10:14
• Thanks. Helping me to look at the problem from the perspective of spectral decomposition made it completely clear for me. May 27, 2017 at 10:25

A big classic is to show that if $A$ nilpotent then $\operatorname{tr}(A^k)=0$.
Another classic is to show that $\mathcal N(A)=\operatorname{tr}(^tAA)$ is a norm on square matrices.
If $A$ is nilpotent and symmetric, these two combine and $\mathcal{N}(A)=\operatorname{tr}(^tAA)=\operatorname{tr}(A^2)=0$ so $A=0$.
• The first one is an iff argument if we add " for all $\;k\in\Bbb N\;$" May 27, 2017 at 12:02