In

mathematics
Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes. These topics are represented in modern mathematics ...

, an identity element, or neutral element, of a binary operation
In mathematics, a binary operation or dyadic operation is a rule for combining two elements (called operands) to produce another element. More formally, a binary operation is an operation of arity two.
More specifically, an internal binary op ...

operating on a set
Set, The Set, SET or SETS may refer to:
Science, technology, and mathematics Mathematics
*Set (mathematics), a collection of elements
*Category of sets, the category whose objects and morphisms are sets and total functions, respectively
Electro ...

is an element of the set that leaves unchanged every element of the set when the operation is applied. This concept is used in algebraic structure
In mathematics, an algebraic structure consists of a nonempty set ''A'' (called the underlying set, carrier set or domain), a collection of operations on ''A'' (typically binary operations such as addition and multiplication), and a finite set o ...

s 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.
Definitions

Let be a set equipped with abinary operation
In mathematics, a binary operation or dyadic operation is a rule for combining two elements (called operands) to produce another element. More formally, a binary operation is an operation of arity two.
More specifically, an internal binary op ...

∗. Then an element of is called a if for all in , and a if for all in . If 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 $e$. The distinction between additive and multiplicative identity is used most often for sets that support both binary operations, such as rings, integral domain
In mathematics, specifically abstract algebra, an integral domain is a nonzero commutative ring in which the product of any two nonzero elements is nonzero. Integral domains are generalizations of the ring of integers and provide a natural s ...

s, and fields. The multiplicative identity is often called in the latter context (a ring with unity). This should not be confused with a unit
Unit may refer to:
Arts and entertainment
* UNIT, a fictional military organization in the science fiction television series ''Doctor Who''
* Unit of action, a discrete piece of action (or beat) in a theatrical presentation
Music
* ''Unit'' (a ...

in ring theory, which is any element having a multiplicative inverse
In mathematics, a multiplicative inverse or reciprocal for a number ''x'', denoted by 1/''x'' or ''x''−1, is a number which when multiplied by ''x'' yields the multiplicative identity, 1. The multiplicative inverse of a fraction ''a''/' ...

. By its own definition, unity itself is necessarily a unit.
Examples

Properties

In the example ''S'' = with the equalities given, ''S'' is a semigroup. It demonstrates the possibility for 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 is a left identity and is a right identity, then . In particular, there can never be more than one two-sided identity: if there were two, say and , then would have to be equal to both and . It is also quite possible for to have ''no'' identity element, such as the case of even integers under the multiplication operation. Another common example is thecross product
In mathematics, the cross product or vector product (occasionally directed area product, to emphasize its geometric significance) is a binary operation on two vectors in a three-dimensional oriented Euclidean vector space (named here E), and ...

of vectors, where the absence of an identity element is related to the fact that the direction of any nonzero cross product is always orthogonal
In mathematics, orthogonality is the generalization of the geometric notion of '' perpendicularity''.
By extension, orthogonality is also used to refer to the separation of specific features of a system. The term also has specialized meanings in ...

to any element multiplied. That is, it is not possible to obtain a non-zero vector in the same direction as the original. Yet another example of structure without identity element involves the additive semigroup of positive natural number
In mathematics, the natural numbers are those numbers used for counting (as in "there are ''six'' coins on the table") and ordering (as in "this is the ''third'' largest city in the country").
Numbers used for counting are called '' cardinal ...

s.
See also

* Absorbing element *Additive inverse
In mathematics, the additive inverse of a number is the number that, when added to , yields zero. This number is also known as the opposite (number), sign change, and negation. For a real number, it reverses its sign: the additive inverse (op ...

* Generalized inverse
In mathematics, and in particular, algebra, a generalized inverse (or, g-inverse) of an element ''x'' is an element ''y'' that has some properties of an inverse element but not necessarily all of them. The purpose of constructing a generalized in ...

* Identity (equation)
* Identity function
Graph of the identity function on the real numbers
In mathematics, an identity function, also called an identity relation, identity map or identity transformation, is a function that always returns the value that was used as its argument, un ...

* Inverse element
* Monoid
In abstract algebra, a branch of mathematics, a monoid is a set equipped with an associative binary operation and an identity element. For example, the nonnegative integers with addition form a monoid, the identity element being 0.
Monoid ...

* Pseudo-ring
* Quasigroup
* Unital (disambiguation)
Notes and references

Bibliography

* * * *Further reading

* M. Kilp, U. Knauer, A.V. Mikhalev, ''Monoids, Acts and Categories with Applications to Wreath Products and Graphs'', De Gruyter Expositions in Mathematics vol. 29, Walter de Gruyter, 2000, {{ISBN, 3-11-015248-7, p. 14–15 Algebraic properties of elements *Identity element Properties of binary operations 1 (number)