Quick description
This page lists various constructions of new examples of groups and subgroups from known examples, and gives some brief notes of what each construction is good for.
General discussion
This is a list of various standard constructions of groups and subgroups.

Direct products

Semidirect products

Extensions

Central extensions


Fibre products

Wreath products

Free products

Amalgamated free products

HNN extensions

Graphs of groups
Extensions
A group is an extension of groups and if there is a short exact sequence
(In other words, the is the quotient of by .) The following example takes advantage of two features of extensions.

The subgroup is to as the trivial subgroup is to .

Often can be chosen to have better properties than . In particular, any presentation for corresponds to an extension where is free.
Example 1
It is a famous and nontrivial fact that there exists a finite group presentation
in which the word problem is unsolvable. That is, there is no algorithm that will tell you whether or not a given word in the generators represents the identity in . (We will not use the fact that is finite in this example. But it will be important in Example 2 below.)
We will use group extensions to produce a different pathology in a much better behaved group—a free group.
Let be the free group on . The relations can be thought of as elements of . By the universal property of free groups, the obvious map extends to a surjection . The kernel of this surjection is precisely , the normal subgroup of generated by the relations. That is, we have a short exact sequence
The fact that the word problem is unsolvable in can now be restated precisely as the assertion that there are normal subgroups of with unsolvable membership problem.
So we see that the existence of the highly pathological group corresponds to a different sort of pathological behaviour in the wellbehaved group
Fibred products
The fibred product construction in the category of groups is the same as in the category of sets. If and are surjections then the fibred product of and is the subgroup of defined as the preimage of the diagonal subgroup of under the map . That is,
Fibred products can be used to improve the finiteness properties of subgroups. Example 1 showed how to construct a nontrivial subgroup of a free group with unsolvable membership problem. Although was finitely generated as a normal subgroup of , it is a consequence of Greenberg's Theorem (Greenberg's Theorem states that every finitely generated normal subgroup of a finitely generated free group is of finite index) that is not finitely generated as a group. In fact, every finitely generated subgroup of a free group has solvable membership problem.
In the following example, we will use a fibred product to construct a finitely generated subgroup of a direct product of two free groups that has unsolvable membership problem.
Example 2
Let be a finitely presented group with unsolvable word problem as in Example 1 and let be the quotient map derived from the presentation. Let be the fibre product of two copies of , a subgroup of . Then
where is the diagonal subgroup of . The membership problem for in is unsolvable, (indeed, is an element of if and only if is trivial in ) and this translates precisely to the statement that the membership problem for in is unsolvable. But the finite set
generates .
We have proved the following.
Comments
Tensor products are not
Sat, 25/04/2009  05:55 — emertonTensor products are not really defined for groups, but rather for modules
over rings. Abelian groups are modules, and so tensor products are defined for abelian groups, but this is a construction of a very different flavour
to all the other constructions listed on this page.
Perhaps it would be better to have a comment somewhere on the page to this effect
(i.e. that one can define the tensor product of two abelian groups), and then just
link to the How to use tensor products page for more details.
If there are no objections, I will do this some time soon.
I agree
Sat, 25/04/2009  09:28 — JoseBroxYes, I was thinking about the tensor product for abelian groups as a special case of a product construction (in Ring theory it is quite usual to think of everything as modules). Feel free to change it as you say, I added it just as a suggestion (I put it on the list because there really isn't any more on the stub at the moment!)
There could be a link
Mon, 11/05/2009  05:11 — emertonThere could be a link somewhere among the later examples to Use topology to study your group, although I haven't thought very carefully about where it would sit best.