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Concept# Identity element

Summary

In mathematics, an identity element or neutral element of a binary operation is an element that leaves unchanged every element when the operation is applied. For example, 0 is an identity element of the addition of real numbers. This concept is used in algebraic structures such as groups and rings. The term identity element is often shortened to identity (as in the case of additive identity and multiplicative identity) when there is no possibility of confusion, but the identity implicitly depends on the binary operation it is associated with.
Let (S, ∗) be a set S equipped with a binary operation ∗. Then an element e of S is called a if e ∗ s = s for all s in S, and a if s ∗ e = s for all s in S. If e is both a left identity and a right identity, then it is called a , or simply an .
An identity with respect to addition is called an (often denoted as 0) and an identity with respect to multiplication is called a (often denoted as 1). These need not be ordinary addition and multiplication—as the underlying operation could be rather arbitrary. In the case of a group for example, the identity element is sometimes simply denoted by the symbol . The distinction between additive and multiplicative identity is used most often for sets that support both binary operations, such as rings, integral domains, and fields. The multiplicative identity is often called in the latter context (a ring with unity). This should not be confused with a unit in ring theory, which is any element having a multiplicative inverse. By its own definition, unity itself is necessarily a unit.
In the example S = {e,f} with the equalities given, S is a semigroup. It demonstrates the possibility for (S, ∗) to have several left identities. In fact, every element can be a left identity. In a similar manner, there can be several right identities. But if there is both a right identity and a left identity, then they must be equal, resulting in a single two-sided identity.
To see this, note that if l is a left identity and r is a right identity, then l = l ∗ r = r.

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