# Quasigroups by Mark Seemann

*A brief introduction to quasigroups for object-oriented programmers.*

This article is part of a larger series about monoids, semigroups, and other group-like algebraic structures. In this article, you'll get acquainted with the concept of a quasigroup. I don't think it plays that big of a role in software design, but it *is* a thing, and I thought that I'd cover it briefly with a well known-example.

During all this talk of monoids and semigroups, you've seen that normal arithmetic operations like addition and multiplication form monoids. Perhaps you've been wondering where subtraction fits in.

Subtraction forms a quasigroup.

What's a quasigroup? It's an invertible binary operation.

**Inversion**

What does it mean for a binary operation to be invertible? It means that for any two elements `a`

and `b`

, there must exist two other elements `x`

and `y`

that turns `a`

into `b`

.

This is true for subtraction, as this FsCheck-based test demonstrates:

[Property(QuietOnSuccess = true)] public void SubtractionIsInvertible(int a, int b) { var x = a - b; var y = a + b; Assert.True(a - x == b); Assert.True(y - a == b); }

This example uses the FsCheck.Xunit glue library for xUnit.net. Notice that although FsCheck is written in F#, you can also use it from C#. This test (as well as all other tests in this article) passes.

For any `a`

and `b`

generated by FsCheck, we can calculate unique `x`

and `y`

that satisfy `a - x == b`

and `y - a == b`

.

Subtraction isn't the only invertible binary operation. In fact, addition is also invertible:

[Property(QuietOnSuccess = true)] public void AdditionIsInvertible(int a, int b) { var x = b - a; var y = b - a; Assert.True(a + x == b); Assert.True(y + a == b); Assert.Equal(x, y); }

Here I added a third assertion that demonstrates that for addition, the inversion is symmetric; `x`

and `y`

are equal.

Not only is integer addition a monoid - it's also a quasigroup. In fact, it's a group. Being associative or having identity doesn't preclude a binary operation from being a quasigroup, but these properties aren't required.

**No identity**

No identity element exists for integer subtraction. For instance, *3 - 0* is *3*, but *0 - 3* is *not 3*. Therefore, subtraction can't be a monoid.

**No associativity**

Likewise, subtraction is not an associative operation. You can easily convince yourself of that by coming up with a counter-example, such as *(3 - 2) - 1*, which is *0*, but different from *3 - (2 - 1)*, which is *2*. Therefore, it can't be a semigroup either.

**Summary**

A quasigroup is an invertible binary operation. Invertibility is the only *required* property of a quasigroup (apart from being a binary operation), but if it has other properties (like associativity), it's still a quasigroup.

I haven't had much utility from thinking about software design in terms of quasigroups, but I wanted to include it in case you were wondering how subtraction fits into all of this.

What if, however, you have a binary operation with *no other* properties?

**Next:** Magmas.