I know that complex numbers can form a vector space over the field of real numbers as they obey the core axioms that constitute a vector space, however in vector spaces, the only operations that are defined are vector addition and scalar multiplication, which means vector multiplication isn’t defined, if that’s the case, then how come the multiplication of two complex numbers ( two vectors) can yield another complex number (i.e vector) ?

Am I missing something obvious ?

Note that I am well aware of the dot product and the cross product, so I’m talking about the normal vector multiplication that is not defined in a vector space

Thanks in advance

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The fact that $\mathbb C$ is a vector space over $\mathbb R$ doesn't mean it can't have additional structure. $\endgroup$
    – lulu
    Mar 24, 2018 at 12:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What you're noticing is that $\mathbb{C}$ is not merely a vector space over $\mathbb{R}$, it is an algebra over $\mathbb{R}$. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algebra_over_a_field $\endgroup$ Mar 24, 2018 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ A bit weaker than what Joshua said I believe: but $\mathbb{C}:\mathbb{R}$ is also a field extension. Actually field extensions become vector spaces over their smaller fields upon losing some of their structure (look into the "forgetful functor") $\endgroup$ Mar 24, 2018 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Joshua Ruiter Thank youuuu, that makes a lot of sense $\endgroup$
    – Cbb7
    Mar 24, 2018 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Cbb7 Please remember that you can choose an answer among the given if the OP is solved, more details here meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5234/… $\endgroup$
    – user
    Mar 27, 2018 at 14:08

2 Answers 2


Complex numbers are a vector space over $\mathbb{R}$ and thus can be handled as vectors and used to solve geometric problems but they have a different "more extended" structure with multiplication, conjugate, and so on.

  • $\begingroup$ A “more extended” structure ? $\endgroup$
    – Cbb7
    Mar 24, 2018 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ See my comment above. $\endgroup$ Mar 24, 2018 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ Well then if I can extend the structure of the complex numbers space to include vector multiplication, how come I can’t do it in the Euclidean space for example ? $\endgroup$
    – Cbb7
    Mar 24, 2018 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Cbb7 The structure of complex numbers includes the structure of vector space, that means that we can do with complex number what we do with vector spaces but not the converse (that we can do with vectors what you do with complex numbers). $\endgroup$
    – user
    Mar 24, 2018 at 12:44

You're correct that not all vector spaces have vector multiplication. I don't see why you'd have a problem with a vector space having vector multiplication though. Nothing says that cannot happen.

  • $\begingroup$ Ok, well the question then would be, why do some vector spaces have an additional/more extended structure that define vector multiplication whereas other vector spaces don’t $\endgroup$
    – Cbb7
    Mar 24, 2018 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ Your question is comparable to: "Birds are, by definition, flying creatures, and flying creatures are not necessarily blue. Despite this, there are blue birds. Why?" The answer is, of course, there's nothing saying we can't have blue birds, likewise there's nothing saying we can't have a vector space with a vector multiplication. If your bird is blue, that doesn't mean it's no longer a flying creature, and if your vector space has vector multiplication, that doesn't mean it's no longer a vector space. $\endgroup$
    – Kaynex
    Mar 24, 2018 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I do think that the wording of my question was very poor, my issue was ( it’s solved now) concerned with the why do we need to define multiplication in some vector spaces whereas we don’t do that in others, as it turns out, defining vector multiplication, say in complex number, can help a lot in solving a lot of geometrical problems and so defining vector multiplication actually become necessary. $\endgroup$
    – Cbb7
    Mar 24, 2018 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ Secondly, I had an issue with the deceptive arbitrariness of the way vector multiplication is defined in a certain vector space but I think it’s defined in a particular to serve a certain purpose wihtout of course violating the axioms of the vector space. Anyhow this is what I gathered from all the answers, and I very much appreciate your help. Pls feel free to correct anything wrong that I said ^^ $\endgroup$
    – Cbb7
    Mar 24, 2018 at 15:10

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