Using the intrinsic concept of tangent space, points P on an algebraic curve *C* are classified as *non-singular* or *singular*. Singular points include crossings over itself, and also types of *cusp*, for example that shown by the curve with equation X^{3} = Y^{2} at (0,0).

A curve *C* has at most a finite number of singular points. If it has none, it can be called *non-singular*. For this definition to be correct, we must use an algebraically closed field and a curve *C* in projective space (i.e. *complete* in the sense of algebraic geometry). If for example we simply look at a curve in the real affine plane there might be singular points 'at infinity', or that needed complex number co-ordinates for their expression.

The theory of non-singular algebraic curves over the complex numbers coincides with that of the compact Riemann surfaces. Every algebraic curve has a genus (mathematics) genus defined. In the Riemann surface case that is the same as the topologist's idea of genus of a 2-manifold. The genus enters into the statement of the Riemann-Roch theorem.

The case of genus 1 - elliptic curves - has in itself a large number of deep and interesting features. For higher genus *g* some of those carry over to the Jacobian variety, an abelian variety of dimension *g*