ternary ring

Let R be a set containing at least two distinct elements 0 and 1, and * a ternary operation on R. Write a*b*c the image of (a,b,c) under *. We call (R,*,0,1), or simply just R, a ternary ring if

  1. 1.

    a*0*b=0*a*b=b for any a,bR,

  2. 2.

    1*a*0=a*1*0=a for any aR,

  3. 3.

    given a,b,c,dR with ac, the equation x*a*b=x*c*d has a unique solution for x,

  4. 4.

    given a,b,cR, the equation a*b*x=c has a unique solution for x,

  5. 5.

    given a,b,c,dR, with ac, the system of equations


    has a unique solution for (x,y).

Given a ternary ring R, we may form two binary operations on R, one called the addition +, and the other the multiplication on R:

a+b := a*1*b,
ab := a*b*0.
Proposition 1.

(R,+,0) and (R-{0},,1) are loops, and 0 is the zero element in R under the multiplication .


We first show that (R,+,0) is a loop. Given a,bR, there is a unique cR such that a*1*c=b, but this is exactly a+c=b. In addition, there is a unique dR such that d*1*a=b=d*0*b. But d*1*a=b means d+a=b. This shows that (R,+) is a quasigroup. Now, a+0=a*1*0=a and 0+a=0*1*a=a, so 0 is the identity with respect to +. Therefore, (R,+,0) is a loop.

Next we show that (S,,1) is a loop, where S=R-{0}. Given a,bS, there is a unique cR such that c*a*0=b=c*0*b=b, since a0. From c*a*0=b, we get ca=b. Furthermore, c0, for otherwise b=c*a*0=0*a*0=0, contradicting the fact that bS. In addition, there is a unique dR such that we have a system of equations a*d*0=b and 0*d*0=0. From a*d*0=b we get ad=b. Furthermore d0, for otherwise b=a*d*0=a*0*0=0, contradicting the fact that bS. Thus, (S,,1) is a quasigroup. Now, a1=a*1*0=a and 1a=1*a*0=a, showing that (S,,1) is a loop.

Finally, for any aR, a0=a*0*0=0 and 0a=0*a*0=0. ∎

Another property of a ternary ring is that, if the ternary ring is finite, then conditions 4 and 5 are equivalent in the presence of the first three.

Let R be a ternary ring, and a,b,c are arbitrary elements of R. R is said to be linear if a*b*c=ab+c for all a,b,cR, left distributive if a(b+c)=ab+ac, right distributive if (a+b)c=ac+bc, and distributive if it is both left and right distributive.

For example, any division ring D, associative or not, is a linear ternary ring if we define the ternary operation * on D by a*b*c:=ab+c. Any associative division ring D is a distributive ternary ring. This easy verification is left to the reader. Semifields, near fields are also examples of ternary rings.

Remark. Ternary rings were invented by Marshall Hall in his studies of axiomatic projective and affine planesMathworldPlanetmath. Therefore, a ternary ring is also called a Hall ternary ring, or a planar ternary ring. It can be shown that in every affine plane, one can set up a coordinate systemMathworldPlanetmath, and from this coordinate system, one can construct a ternary ring. Conversely, given any ternary ring, one can define an affine plane so that its coordinate system corresponds to this ternary ring.


  • 1 R. Artzy, Linear GeometryMathworldPlanetmath, Addison-Wesley (1965)
Title ternary ring
Canonical name TernaryRing
Date of creation 2013-03-22 18:30:52
Last modified on 2013-03-22 18:30:52
Owner CWoo (3771)
Last modified by CWoo (3771)
Numerical id 6
Author CWoo (3771)
Entry type Definition
Classification msc 51A35
Classification msc 51E15
Classification msc 51A25
Synonym planar ternary ring
Synonym Hall ternary ring
Defines linear ternary ring
Defines left distributive
Defines right distributive
Defines distributive