In algebraic geometry, in contrast, there is an intrinsic definition of **tangent space at a point P** of a variety *V*, that gives a vector space of dimension at least that of *V*. The points P at which the dimension is exactly that of *V* are called the **non-singular** points; the others are **singular** points. For example, a curve that crosses itself doesn't have a unique tangent line at that point. The singular points of *V* are those where the 'test to be a manifold' fails.

Once tangent spaces have been introduced, one can define vector fields, which are abstractions of the velocity field of particles moving on a manifold. A vector field attaches to every point of the manifold a vector from the tangent space at that point, in a smooth manner. Such a vector field serves to define a generalized ordinary differential equation on a manifold: a solution to such a differential equation is a differentiable curve on the manifold whose derivative at any point is equal to the tangent vector attached to that point by the vector field.

All the tangent spaces can be "glued together" to form a new differentiable manifold of twice the dimension, the tangent bundle of the manifold.

Table of contents |

1.1 Definition as directions of curves
2 Properties1.2 Definition via derivations 1.3 Definition via the cotangent space |

Suppose *M* is a C^{k} manifold (*k* ≥ 1) and *p* is a point in *M*. Pick a chart φ : *U* → **R**^{n} where *U* is an open subset of *M* containing *p*. Suppose two curves γ_{1} : (-1,1) → *M* and γ_{2} : (-1,1) → *M* with γ_{1}(0) = γ_{2}(0) = *p* are given such that φ o γ_{1} and φ o γ_{2} are both differentiable at 0. Then γ_{1} and γ_{2} are called *tangent at 0* if the ordinary derivatives of φ o γ_{1} and φ o γ_{2} at 0 coincide. This is an equivalence relation, and the equivalence classes are known as the **tangent vectors** of *M* at *p*. The equivalence class of the curve γ is written as γ'(0). The tangent space of *M* at *p*, denoted by T_{p}*M*, is defined as the set of all tangent vectors; it does not depend on the choice of chart φ.

To define the vector space operations on T_{p}*M*, we use a chart φ : *U* → **R**^{n} and define the map (dφ)_{p} : T_{p}*M* → **R**^{n} by (dφ)_{p}(γ'(0)) = (φ o γ)'(0). It turns out that this map is bijective and can thus be used to transfer the vector space operations from **R**^{n} over to T_{p}*M*, turning the latter into an *n*-dimensional real vector space. Again, one needs to check that this construction does not depend on the particular chart φ chosen, and in fact it does not.

Supppose *M* is a C^{∞} manifold. A real-valued function *g* : *M* → **R** belongs to C^{∞}(*M*) if *g* o φ^{-1} is infinitely often differentiable for every chart φ : *U* → **R**^{n}. C^{∞}(*M*) is a real associative algebra.

Pick a point *p* in *M*. A *derivation* at *p* is a linear map *D* : C^{∞}(*M*) → **R** which has the property that for all *g*, *h* in C^{∞}(*M*):

*D*(*gh*) =*D*(*g*)·*h*(*p*) +*g*(*p*)·*D*(*h*)

The relation between the tangent vectors defined earlier and derivations is as follows: if γ is a curve with tangent vector γ'(0), then the corresponding derivation is *D*(*g*) = (*g* o γ)'(0) (where the derivative is taken in the ordinary sense, since *g* o γ is a function from (-1,1) to **R**^{n}).

Again we start with a C^{∞} manifold *M* and a point *p* in *M*. Consider the ideal *I* in C^{∞}(*M*) consisting of all functions *g* such that *g*(*p*) = 0. Then *I* and *I*^{ 2} are real vector spaces, and T_{p}*M* may be defined as the dual space of the quotient space *I* / *I*^{ 2}. This latter quotient space is also known as the cotangent space of *M* at *p*.

While this definition is the most abstract, it is also the one most easily transferred to other settings, for instance to the varieties considered in algebraic geometry.

If *D* is a derivation, then *D*(*g*) = 0 for every *g* in *I*^{2}, and this means that *D* gives rise to a linear map *I* / *I*^{2} → **R**. Conversely, if *r* : *I* / *I*^{2} → **R** is a linear map, then *D*(*g*) = *r*((*g* - *g*(*p*)) + *I*^{ 2}) is a derivation. This yields the correspondence between the tangent space defined via derivations and the tangent space defined via the cotangent space.

Every differentiable map *f* : *M* → *N* between C^{k} manifolds induces natural linear maps between the corresponding tangent spaces:

- (d
*f*)_{p}: T_{p}*M*→ T_{f(p)}*N*

- (d
*f*)_{p}(γ'(0)) = (*f*o γ)'(0)

- (d
*f*)_{p}(*D*)(*g*) =*D*(*g*o*f*)

If *g* : *M* → **R** is an element of C^{∞}(*M*) and *v* is a tangent vector of *M* at *p*, then we can define the *directional derivative* of *g* at *p* in the direction *v*. The result is a number, written as D_{v}(*g*). If we think of *v* as the direction of a curve, *v* = γ'(0), then

- D
_{v}(*g*) = (*g*o γ)'(0)

- D
_{v}(*g*) =*D*(*g*).