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Linear subspace

In linear algebra and related elds of mathematics, a linear subspace (or vector subspace) is a vector space that
is a subset of some other (higher-dimension) vector space.
A linear subspace is usually called simply a subspace when
the context serves to distinguish it from other kinds of
subspaces.

whenever w is, and it follows that W is closed under subtraction as well. Since W is nonempty, there is an element
x in W, and x x = 0 is in W, so property 1 is satised.
One can also argue that since W is nonempty, there is an
element x in W, and 0 is in the eld K so 0x = 0 and
therefore property 1 is satised.

Denition and useful characteri- 2 Examples


zation of subspace

Example I: Let the eld K be the set R of real numbers,


let the vector space V be the real coordinate space
Let K be a eld (such as the real numbers), and let V be and
3
R
.
Take W to be the set of all vectors in V whose last
a vector space over K. As usual, we call elements of V
component
is 0. Then W is a subspace of V.
vectors and call elements of K scalars. Ignoring the full
extent of mathematical generalization, scalars can be un- Proof:
derstood simply as numbers. Suppose that W is a subset
of V. If W is a vector space itself (which means that it is
1. Given u and v in W, then they can be expressed as
closed under operations of addition and scalar multipliu = (u1 , u2 , 0) and v = (v1 , v2 , 0). Then u + v =
cation), with the same vector space operations as V has,
(u1 +v1 , u2 +v2 , 0+0) = (u1 +v1 , u2 +v2 , 0). Thus, u
then W is a subspace of V.
+ v is an element of W, too.
To use this denition, we don't have to prove that all the
2. Given u in W and a scalar c in R, if u = (u1 , u2 , 0)
properties of a vector space hold for W. Instead, we can
again, then cu = (cu1 , cu2 , c0) = (cu1 , cu2 ,0). Thus,
prove a theorem that gives us an easier way to show that
cu is an element of W too.
a subset of a vector space is a subspace.
Theorem: Let V be a vector space over the eld K, and
let W be a subset of V. Then W is a subspace if and only Example II: Let the eld be R again, but now let the
vector space be the Cartesian plane R2 . Take W to be
if W satises the following three conditions:
the set of points (x, y) of R2 such that x = y. Then W is
a subspace of R2 .
1. The zero vector, 0, is in W.
Proof:

2. If u and v are elements of W, then the sum u + v is


an element of W;

1. Let p = (p1 , p2 ) and q = (q1 , q2 ) be elements of W,


that is, points in the plane such that p1 = p2 and q1
= q2 . Then p + q = (p1 +q1 , p2 +q2 ); since p1 = p2
and q1 = q2 , then p1 + q1 = p2 + q2 , so p + q is an
element of W.

3. If u is an element of W and c is a scalar from K, then


the product cu is an element of W.

Proof: Firstly, property 1 ensures W is nonempty. Looking at the denition of a vector space, we see that properties 2 and 3 above assure closure of W under addition
2. Let p = (p1 , p2 ) be an element of W, that is, a point
and scalar multiplication, so the vector space operations
in the plane such that p1 = p2 , and let c be a scalar
are well dened. Since elements of W are necessarily elin R. Then cp = (cp1 , cp2 ); since p1 = p2 , then cp1
ements of V, axioms 1, 2 and 58 of a vector space are
= cp2 , so cp is an element of W.
satised. By the closure of W under scalar multiplication
(specically by 0 and 1), the vector spaces denitional In general, any subset of the real coordinate space Rn that
axiom identity element of addition and axiom inverse el- is dened by a system of homogeneous linear equations
ement of addition are satised.
will yield a subspace. (The equation in example I was z =
Conversely, if W is a subspace of V, then W is itself a 0, and the equation in example II was x = y.) Geometrivector space under the operations induced by V, so prop- cally, these subspaces are points, lines, planes, and so on,
erties 2 and 3 are satised. By property 3, w is in W that pass through the point 0.
1

4 DESCRIPTIONS

2.1

Examples related to calculus

This idea is generalized for higher dimensions with linear


span, but criteria for equality of k-spaces specied by sets
Example III: Again take the eld to be R, but now let of k vectors are not so simple.
the vector space V be the set RR of all functions from
A dual description is provided with linear functionals
R to R. Let C(R) be the subset consisting of continuous
(usually implemented as linear equations). One non-zero
functions. Then C(R) is a subspace of RR .
linear functional F species its kernel subspace F = 0 of
Proof:
codimension 1. Subspaces of codimension 1 specied by
two linear functionals are equal if and only if one func1. We know from calculus that 0 C(R) RR .
tional can be obtained from another with scalar multipli2. We know from calculus that the sum of continuous cation (in the dual space):
functions is continuous.
3. Again, we know from calculus that the product of a
continuous function and a number is continuous.

c K : F = cF (or F =

1
F)
c

It is generalized for higher codimensions with a system


Example IV: Keep the same eld and vector space as be- of equations. The following two subsections will present
fore, but now consider the set Di(R) of all dierentiable this latter description in details, and the remaining four
functions. The same sort of argument as before shows subsections further describe the idea of liner span.
that this is a subspace too.
Examples that extend these themes are common in
4.1
functional analysis.

Properties of subspaces

A way to characterize subspaces is that they are closed


under linear combinations. That is, a nonempty set W
is a subspace if and only if every linear combination of
(nitely many) elements of W also belongs to W. Conditions 2 and 3 for a subspace are simply the most basic
kinds of linear combinations.

Systems of linear equations

The solution set to any homogeneous system of linear


equations with n variables is a subspace in the coordinate
space K n :

a11 x1 + a12 x2 + + a1n xn = 0

x2

a21 x1 + a22 x2 + + a2n xn = 0



n
.
.. K :
.
.
.
.

.
..
..
..
..

xn

am1 x1 + am2 x2 + + amn xn = 0

In a topological vector space X, a subspace W need not


For example (over real or rational numbers), the set of all
be closed in general, but a nite-dimensional subspace is
vectors (x, y, z) satisfying the equations
[1]
always closed. The same is true for subspaces of nite
codimension, i.e. determined by a nite number of continuous linear functionals.
x + 3y + 2z = 0 and 2x 4y + 5z = 0
is a one-dimensional subspace. More generally, that is to
say that given a set of n independent functions, the dimension of the subspace in K k will be the dimension of
Descriptions of subspaces include the solution set to a the null set of A, the composite matrix of the n functions.
homogeneous system of linear equations, the subset of
Euclidean space described by a system of homogeneous
4.2 Null space of a matrix
linear parametric equations, the span of a collection of
vectors, and the null space, column space, and row space
Main article: Null space
of a matrix. Geometrically (especially, over the eld of
real numbers and its subelds), a subspace is a at in an
In a nite-dimensional space, a homogeneous system of
n-space that passes through the origin.
linear equations can be written as a single matrix equaA natural description of an 1-subspace is the scalar multion:
tiplication of one non-zero vector v to all possible scalar
values. 1-subspaces specied by two vectors are equal if
and only if one vector can be obtained from another with
Ax = 0.
scalar multiplication:
The set of solutions to this equation is known as the null
space of the matrix. For example, the subspace described
1
c K : v = cv (or v = v )
above is the null space of the matrix
c

Descriptions

4.5

Column space and row space

[
A=

3
Example The xz-plane in R3 can be parameterized by
the equations

1 3
2 4

2
.
5

x = t1 , y = 0, z = t2 .

Every subspace of K n can be described as the null space


of some matrix (see algorithms, below).

4.3

Linear parametric equations

As a subspace, the xz-plane is spanned by the


vectors (1, 0, 0) and (0, 0, 1). Every vector in
the xz-plane can be written as a linear combination of these two:

The subset of K n described by a system of homogeneous


linear parametric equations is a subspace:
(t1 , 0, t2 ) = t1 (1, 0, 0) + t2 (0, 0, 1).

x1 = a11 t1 + a12 t2 + + a1m tm

1
Geometrically, this
corresponds to the fact that

x 2

x2 = a21 t1 + a22 t2 + + a2m tm


every point on the xz-plane can be reached

n
t1 , . . . , t m K .
.. K : .
..
..
.. some for
from
the origin by
rst moving some distance

.
..

.
.
.

in the direction of
(1, 0, 0) and then moving
xn

xn = an1 t1 + an2 t2 + + anm tm


some distance in the direction of (0, 0, 1).
For example, the set of all vectors (x, y, z) parameterized
by the equations

4.5 Column space and row space

x = 2t1 +3t2 ,

y = 5t1 4t2 ,

and

z = t1 +2t2

Main article: Row and column spaces

is a two-dimensional subspace of K 3 , if K is a number


A system of linear parametric equations in a niteeld (such as real or rational numbers).[2]
dimensional space can also be written as a single matrix
equation:

4.4

Span of vectors

Main article: Linear span


x = At
In linear algebra, the system of parametric equations can
be written as a single vector equation:

x
y
z

2
3
= t1 5 + t24
1
2

where

A = 5 4 .
1 2

In this case, the subspace consists of all possible values


of the vector x. In linear algebra, this subspace is known
as the column space (or image) of the matrix A. It is precisely the subspace of K n spanned by the column vectors
of A.

The expression on the right is called a linear combination The row space of a matrix is the subspace spanned by its
of the vectors (2, 5, 1) and (3, 4, 2). These two vectors row vectors. The row space is interesting because it is the
are said to span the resulting subspace.
orthogonal complement of the null space (see below).
In general, a linear combination of vectors v1 , v2 , ... ,
vk is any vector of the form

4.6 Independence, basis, and dimension

Main articles: Linear independence, Basis (linear algebra) and Dimension (vector space)
The set of all possible linear combinations is called the In general, a subspace of K n determined by k paramespan:
ters (or spanned by k vectors) has dimension k. However,
there are exceptions to this rule. For example, the subspace of K 3 spanned by the three vectors (1, 0, 0), (0, 0,
Span{v1 , . . . , vk } = {t1 v1 + + tk vk : t1 , . . . , tk K}1),
. and (2, 0, 3) is just the xz-plane, with each point on
the
plane described by innitely many dierent values of
If the vectors v1 , ... , vk have n components, then their
t
n
1, t2, t3.
span is a subspace of K . Geometrically, the span is the
t1 v1 + + tk vk .

at through the origin in n-dimensional space determined In general, vectors v1 , ... , vk are called linearly indeby the points v1 , ... , vk.
pendent if

OPERATIONS AND RELATIONS ON SUBSPACES

5.2 Intersection
v
0

The vectors u and v are a basis for this two-dimensional subspace


of R3 .

t1 v1 + + tk vk = u1 v1 + + uk vk
for (t 1 , t 2 , ... , tk) (u1 , u2 , ... , uk).[3] If v1 , ..., vk are
linearly independent, then the coordinates t 1 , ..., tk for a
vector in the span are uniquely determined.
A basis for a subspace S is a set of linearly independent vectors whose span is S. The number of elements
in a basis is always equal to the geometric dimension of
the subspace. Any spanning set for a subspace can be
changed into a basis by removing redundant vectors (see
algorithms, below).
Example Let S be the subspace of R4 dened by the
equations
x1 = 2x2

and

x3 = 5x4 .

Then the vectors (2, 1, 0, 0) and (0, 0, 5, 1) are a basis for S. In particular, every vector that satises the
above equations can be written uniquely as a linear
combination of the two basis vectors:

(2t1 , t1 , 5t2 , t2 ) = t1 (2, 1, 0, 0) + t2 (0, 0, 5, 1).


The subspace S is two-dimensional. Geometrically, it is the plane in R4 passing through the
points (0, 0, 0, 0), (2, 1, 0, 0), and (0, 0, 5, 1).

5
5.1

Operations and relations on subspaces


Inclusion

In R3 , the intersection of two-dimensional subspaces is onedimensional

Given subspaces U and W of a vector space V, then their


intersection U W := {v V : v is an element of both U
and W} is also a subspace of V.
Proof:
1. Let v and w be elements of U W. Then v and w
belong to both U and W. Because U is a subspace,
then v + w belongs to U. Similarly, since W is a subspace, then v + w belongs to W. Thus, v + w belongs
to U W.
2. Let v belong to U W, and let c be a scalar. Then v
belongs to both U and W. Since U and W are subspaces, cv belongs to both U and W.
3. Since U and W are vector spaces, then 0 belongs to
both sets. Thus, 0 belongs to U W.
For every vector space V, the set {0} and V itself are
subspaces of V.

5.3 Sum
If U and W are subspaces, their sum is the subspace

U + W = {u + w : u U, w W } .

The set-theoretical inclusion binary relation specied a For example, the sum of two lines is the plane that conpartial order on the set of all subspaces (of any dimen- tains them both. The dimension of the sum satises the
sion).
inequality
A subspace cannot lie in any subspace of lesser dimension. If dim U = k, a nite number, and U W, then dim
max(dim U, dim W ) dim(U +W ) dim(U )+dim(W ).
W = k if and only if U = W.

6.2

Subspace membership

Here the minimum only occurs if one subspace is contained in the other, while the maximum is the most general case. The dimension of the intersection and the sum
are related:

dim(U + W ) = dim(U ) + dim(W ) dim(U W ).

5.4

Lattice of subspaces

5
See the article on row space for an example.
If we instead put the matrix A into reduced row echelon form, then the resulting basis for the row space is
uniquely determined. This provides an algorithm for
checking whether two row spaces are equal and, by extension, whether two subspaces of K n are equal.

6.2 Subspace membership

Aforementioned two operations make the set of all subspaces a bounded distributive lattice, where the {0} subspace, the least element, is an identity element of the sum
operation, and the identical subspace V, the greatest element, is an identity element of the intersection operation.

5.5

Other

If V is an inner product space, then the orthogonal complement of any subspace of V is again a subspace. This
operation, understood as negation (), makes the lattice
of subspaces a (possibly innite) Boolean algebra.

Input A basis {b1 , b2 , ..., bk} for a subspace


S of K n , and a vector v with n components.
Output Determines whether v is an element of
S
1. Create a (k + 1) n matrix A whose rows
are the vectors b1 , ... , bk and v.
2. Use elementary row operations to put A
into row echelon form.
3. If the echelon form has a row of zeroes,
then the vectors {b1 , ..., bk, v} are linearly dependent, and therefore v S .

In a pseudo-Euclidean space there are orthogonal complements too, but such operation does not form a Boolean 6.3 Basis for a column space
algebra (nor a Heyting algebra) because of null subspaces,
Input An m n matrix A
for which N N = N {0}. The same case presents the

operation in symplectic vector spaces.


Output A basis for the column space of A

Algorithms

1. Use elementary row operations to put A


into row echelon form.

2. Determine which columns of the echeMost algorithms for dealing with subspaces involve row
lon form have pivots. The corresponding
reduction. This is the process of applying elementary row
columns of the original matrix are a basis
operations to a matrix until it reaches either row echelon
for the column space.
form or reduced row echelon form. Row reduction has
the following important properties:
See the article on column space for an example.
1. The reduced matrix has the same null space as the This produces a basis for the column space that is a subset of the original column vectors. It works because the
original.
columns with pivots are a basis for the column space of
2. Row reduction does not change the span of the row the echelon form, and row reduction does not change the
vectors, i.e. the reduced matrix has the same row linear dependence relationships between the columns.
space as the original.
3. Row reduction does not aect the linear dependence 6.4
of the column vectors.

6.1

Basis for a row space


Input An m n matrix A.
Output A basis for the row space of A.

Coordinates for a vector


Input A basis {b1 , b2 , ..., bk} for a subspace
S of K n , and a vector v S
Output Numbers t 1 , t 2 , ..., tk such that v =
t 1 b1 + + tkbk

1. Use elementary row operations to put A


into row echelon form.

1. Create an augmented matrix A whose


columns are b1 ,...,bk , with the last column being v.

2. The nonzero rows of the echelon form are


a basis for the row space of A.

2. Use elementary row operations to put A


into reduced row echelon form.

8 TEXTBOOKS
3. Express the nal column of the reduced
echelon form as a linear combination of
the rst k columns. The coecients used
are the desired numbers t 1 , t 2 , ..., tk.
(These should be precisely the rst k entries in the nal column of the reduced
echelon form.)

If the nal column of the reduced row echelon form contains a pivot, then the input vector v does not lie in S.

6.5

Basis for a null space


Input An m n matrix A.
Output A basis for the null space of A
1. Use elementary row operations to put A
in reduced row echelon form.
2. Using the reduced row echelon form, determine which of the variables x1 , x2 ,
..., xn are free. Write equations for the
dependent variables in terms of the free
variables.
3. For each free variable xi, choose a vector
in the null space for which xi = 1 and the
remaining free variables are zero. The resulting collection of vectors is a basis for
the null space of A.

See the article on null space for an example.

4. This results in a homogeneous system of n


k linear equations involving the variables
c1 ,...,cn. The (n k) n matrix corresponding to this system is the desired matrix with
nullspace S.
Example If the reduced row echelon form of A is

1
0

0
0

0 3
1 5
0 0

0 2 0
0 1 4

1 7 9

then the column vectors c1 , ..., c6 satisfy the


equations

c3 = 3c1 + 5c2
c5 = 2c1 c2 + 7c4
c6 = 4c2 9c4
It follows that the row vectors of A satisfy the
equations

x3 = 3x1 + 5x2
x5 = 2x1 x2 + 7x4
x6 = 4x2 9x4 .

6.6

Basis for the sum and intersection of


two subspaces

Given two subspaces U and W of V, a basis of the sum


U + W and the intersection U W can be calculated
using the Zassenhaus algorithm

6.7

Equations for a subspace

Input A basis {b1 , b2 , ..., bk} for a subspace S of K n


Output An (n k) n matrix whose null space is S.
1. Create a matrix A whose rows are b1 , b2 , ...,
bk.
2. Use elementary row operations to put A into
reduced row echelon form.
3. Let c1 , c2 , ..., cn be the columns of the reduced
row echelon form. For each column without a
pivot, write an equation expressing the column
as a linear combination of the columns with
pivots.

In particular, the row vectors of A are a basis


for the null space of the corresponding matrix.

7 See also
Signal subspace
Multilinear subspace learning
Cyclic subspace

8 Textbooks
Axler, Sheldon Jay (1997), Linear Algebra Done
Right (2nd ed.), Springer-Verlag, ISBN 0-38798259-0
Lay, David C. (August 22, 2005), Linear Algebra and Its Applications (3rd ed.), Addison Wesley,
ISBN 978-0-321-28713-7

7
Meyer, Carl D. (February 15, 2001), Matrix Analysis and Applied Linear Algebra, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), ISBN 9780-89871-454-8
Poole, David (2006), Linear Algebra: A Modern
Introduction (2nd ed.), Brooks/Cole, ISBN 0-53499845-3
Anton, Howard (2005), Elementary Linear Algebra
(Applications Version) (9th ed.), Wiley International
Leon, Steven J. (2006), Linear Algebra With Applications (7th ed.), Pearson Prentice Hall

External links
Vector subspace at PlanetMath.org. .
Gilbert Strang, MIT Linear Algebra Lecture on the
Four Fundamental Subspaces at Google Video, from
MIT OpenCourseWare

10

References

[1] See Paul DuChateau. Basic Facts About Hilbert Space


(pdf). Retrieved September 17, 2012. for Hilbert spaces
[2] Generally, K can be any eld of such characteristic that
the given integer matrix has the appropriate rank in it. All
elds include integers, but some integers may equal to zero
in some elds.
[3] This denition is often stated dierently: vectors v1 , ..., vk
are linearly independent if t 1 v1 + + tkvk 0 for (t 1 , t 2 ,
..., tk) (0, 0, ..., 0). The two denitions are equivalent.

11

11
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