where the group operation on the left side of the equation is that of G and on the right side that of H.
From this property, one can deduce that h maps the identity element eG of G to the identity element eH of H,
Older notations for the homomorphism h(x) may be xh or xh, though this may be confused as an index or a general subscript. In automata theory, sometimes homomorphisms are written to the right of their arguments without parentheses, so that h(x) becomes simply x h.
In areas of mathematics where one considers groups endowed with additional structure, a homomorphism sometimes means a map which respects not only the group structure (as above) but also the extra structure. For example, a homomorphism of topological groups is often required to be continuous.
The purpose of defining a group homomorphism is to create functions that preserve the algebraic structure. An equivalent definition of group homomorphism is: The function h : G → H is a group homomorphism if whenever
In other words, the group H in some sense has a similar algebraic structure as G and the homomorphism h preserves that.
We define the kernel of h to be the set of elements in G which are mapped to the identity in H
The kernel and image of a homomorphism can be interpreted as measuring how close it is to being an isomorphism. The first isomorphism theorem states that the image of a group homomorphism, h(G) is isomorphic to the quotient group G/ker h.
If h : G → H and k : H → K are group homomorphisms, then so is k ∘ h : G → K. This shows that the class of all groups, together with group homomorphisms as morphisms, forms a category.
If G and H are abelian (i.e., commutative) groups, then the set Hom(G, H) of all group homomorphisms from G to H is itself an abelian group: the sum h + k of two homomorphisms is defined by
The commutativity of H is needed to prove that h + k is again a group homomorphism.
The addition of homomorphisms is compatible with the composition of homomorphisms in the following sense: if f is in Hom(K, G), h, k are elements of Hom(G, H), and g is in Hom(H, L), then
Since the composition is associative, this shows that the set End(G) of all endomorphisms of an abelian group forms a ring, the endomorphism ring of G. For example, the endomorphism ring of the abelian group consisting of the direct sum of m copies of Z/nZ is isomorphic to the ring of m-by-m matrices with entries in Z/nZ. The above compatibility also shows that the category of all abelian groups with group homomorphisms forms a preadditive category; the existence of direct sums and well-behaved kernels makes this category the prototypical example of an abelian category.