In
mathematicsMathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...
, the
commutator gives an indication of the extent to which a certain
binary operationIn mathematics, a binary operation is a calculation involving two operands, in other words, an operation whose arity is two. Examples include the familiar arithmetic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division....
fails to be commutative. There are different definitions used in
group theoryIn mathematics and abstract algebra, group theory studies the algebraic structures known as groups.The concept of a group is central to abstract algebra: other wellknown algebraic structures, such as rings, fields, and vector spaces can all be seen as groups endowed with additional operations and...
and
ring theoryIn abstract algebra, ring theory is the study of rings—algebraic structures in which addition and multiplication are defined and have similar properties to those familiar from the integers...
.
Group theory
The
commutator of two elements,
g and
h, of a
groupIn mathematics, a group is an algebraic structure consisting of a set together with an operation that combines any two of its elements to form a third element. To qualify as a group, the set and the operation must satisfy a few conditions called group axioms, namely closure, associativity, identity...
,
G, is the element
 [g, h] = g^{−1}h^{−1}gh.
It is equal to the group's identity if and only if
g and
h commute (i.e., if and only if
gh =
hg). The
subgroupIn group theory, given a group G under a binary operation *, a subset H of G is called a subgroup of G if H also forms a group under the operation *. More precisely, H is a subgroup of G if the restriction of * to H x H is a group operation on H...
of
generatedIn abstract algebra, a generating set of a group is a subset that is not contained in any proper subgroup of the group. Equivalently, a generating set of a group is a subset such that every element of the group can be expressed as the combination of finitely many elements of the subset and their...
by all commutators is called the
derived group or the
commutator subgroupIn mathematics, more specifically in abstract algebra, the commutator subgroup or derived subgroup of a group is the subgroup generated by all the commutators of the group....
of
G. Note that one must consider the subgroup generated by the set of commutators because in general the set of commutators is not closed under the group operation. Commutators are used to define
nilpotentIn mathematics, more specifically in the field of group theory, a nilpotent group is a group that is "almost abelian". This idea is motivated by the fact that nilpotent groups are solvable, and for finite nilpotent groups, two elements having relatively prime orders must commute...
and
solvableIn mathematics, more specifically in the field of group theory, a solvable group is a group that can be constructed from abelian groups using extensions...
groups.
N.B. The above definition of the commutator is used by group theorists. Many other mathematicians define the commutator as
 [g, h] = ghg^{−1}h^{−1}.
Identities
Commutator identities are an important tool in
group theoryIn mathematics and abstract algebra, group theory studies the algebraic structures known as groups.The concept of a group is central to abstract algebra: other wellknown algebraic structures, such as rings, fields, and vector spaces can all be seen as groups endowed with additional operations and...
, . The expression
a^{x} denotes the
conjugate of
a by
x, defined as
x^{−1}a x.


 and
 and
 and
The second relation is called anticommutativityIn mathematics, anticommutativity is the property of an operation that swapping the position of any two arguments negates the result. Anticommutative operations are widely used in algebra, geometry, mathematical analysis and, as a consequence, in physics: they are often called antisymmetric...
, while the third is the Jacobi identityIn mathematics the Jacobi identity is a property that a binary operation can satisfy which determines how the order of evaluation behaves for the given operation. Unlike for associative operations, order of evaluation is significant for operations satisfying Jacobi identity...
.
Additional relations:
Graded rings and algebras
When dealing with graded algebraIn mathematics, in particular abstract algebra, a graded algebra is an algebra over a field with an extra piece of structure, known as a gradation ....
s, the commutator is usually replaced by the graded commutator, defined in homogeneous components as
Derivations
Especially if one deals with multiple commutators, another notation turns out to be useful involving the adjoint representation:

Then is a derivationIn abstract algebra, a derivation is a function on an algebra which generalizes certain features of the derivative operator. Specifically, given an algebra A over a ring or a field K, a Kderivation is a Klinear map D: A → A that satisfies Leibniz's law: D = b + a.More...
and is linear, i.e., and , and a Lie algebraIn mathematics, a Lie algebra is an algebraic structure whose main use is in studying geometric objects such as Lie groups and differentiable manifolds. Lie algebras were introduced to study the concept of infinitesimal transformations. The term "Lie algebra" was introduced by Hermann Weyl in the...
homomorphism, i.e., , but it is not always an algebra homomorphism, i.e. the identity does not hold in general.
Examples:
Anticommutator
The anticommutator of two elements a and b of a ring or an associative algebra is defined by
 {a, b} = ab + ba.
The anticommutator is used less often than the commutator, but can be used for example to define Clifford algebraIn mathematics, Clifford algebras are a type of associative algebra. As Kalgebras, they generalize the real numbers, complex numbers, quaternions and several other hypercomplex number systems. The theory of Clifford algebras is intimately connected with the theory of quadratic forms and orthogonal...
s and Jordan algebraIn abstract algebra, a Jordan algebra is an algebra over a field whose multiplication satisfies the following axioms:# xy = yx # = x ....
s.
See also
 Anticommutativity
In mathematics, anticommutativity is the property of an operation that swapping the position of any two arguments negates the result. Anticommutative operations are widely used in algebra, geometry, mathematical analysis and, as a consequence, in physics: they are often called antisymmetric...
 Derivation (abstract algebra)
In abstract algebra, a derivation is a function on an algebra which generalizes certain features of the derivative operator. Specifically, given an algebra A over a ring or a field K, a Kderivation is a Klinear map D: A → A that satisfies Leibniz's law: D = b + a.More...
 Pincherle derivative
 Poisson bracket
In mathematics and classical mechanics, the Poisson bracket is an important binary operation in Hamiltonian mechanics, playing a central role in Hamilton's equations of motion, which govern the timeevolution of a Hamiltonian dynamical system...
 Moyal bracket
In physics, the Moyal bracket is the suitably normalized antisymmetrization of the phasespace star product.The Moyal Bracket was developed in about 1940 by José Enrique Moyal, but Moyal only succeeded in publishing his work in 1949 after a lengthy dispute with Dirac...
 Canonical commutation relation
In physics, the canonical commutation relation is the relation between canonical conjugate quantities , for example:[x,p_x] = i\hbar...
 Associator
In abstract algebra, the term associator is used in different ways as a measure of the nonassociativity of an algebraic structure.Ring theory:...
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