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Pro-finite group

In mathematics, a pro-finite group G is a group that, in a sense, is very "close" to being finite.

Table of contents
1 Definition
2 Examples
3 Properties
4 Ind-finite groups


Formally, a pro-finite group is the inverse limit of finite groups. Pro-finite groups are naturally regarded as topological groups: each of the finite groups carries the discrete topology, and since G is a subset of the product of these discrete spaces, it inherits a topology which turns it into a topological group.


Every finite group is pro-finite, but that is boring. Important examples of pro-finite groups are the p-adic integers. The Galois theory of field extensions of infinite degree gives rise naturally to Galois groups that are pro-finite. The fundamental groups considered in algebraic geometry are also pro-finite groups, roughly speaking because the algebra can only 'see' finite coverings of an algebraic variety.


Every pro-finite group is a compact Hausdorff space: since all finite discrete spaces are compact Hausdorff spaces, their product will be a compact Hausdorff space by Tychonoff's theorem. G is a closed subset of this product and is therefore also compact Hausdorff.

Every pro-finite group is totally disconnected and even more: a topological group is pro-finite if and only if it is Hausdorff, compact and totally disconnected.

Ind-finite groups

There is a notion of ind-finite group, which is the dual. That would be a group G that is the direct limit of finite groups. The usual terminology is different: a group G is called locally finite if every finitely-generated subgroup is finite. This is equivalent, in fact, to being 'ind-finite'.

By applying Pontryagin duality, one can see that abelian pro-finite groups are in duality with locally finite discrete abelian groups. The latter are just the abelian torsion groups.