Generating sets of finite groups

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We investigate the extent to which the exchange relation holds in finite groups G. We define a new equivalence relation ≡m, where two elements are equivalent if each can be substituted for the other in any generating set for G. We then refine this to a new sequence ≡(r)/m of equivalence relations by saying that x≡(r)/m y if each can be substituted for the other in any r-element generating set. The relations ≡(r)/m become finer as r increases, and we define a new group invariant ψ(G) to be the value of r at which they stabilise to ≡m. Remarkably, we are able to prove that if G is soluble then ψ(G) ∈ {d(G),d(G)+1}, where d(G) is the minimum number of generators of G, and to classify the finite soluble groups G for which ψ(G)=d(G). For insoluble G, we show that d(G) ≤ ψ(G) ≤ d(G)+5. However, we know of no examples of groups G for which ψ(G) > d(G)+1. As an application, we look at the generating graph of G, whose vertices are the elements of G, the edges being the 2-element generating sets. Our relation ≡(2)m enables us to calculate Aut(Γ(G)) for all soluble groups G of nonzero spread, and give detailed structural information about Aut(Γ(G)) in the insoluble case.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6751-6770
JournalTransactions of the American Mathematical Society
Issue number9
Early online date4 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Finite group
  • Generation
  • Generating graph


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