# Grothendieck topologies (topologies 4/6)

This post is the first goal in a series on sieves (subobjects of representable presheaves); I will give another generalisation in the next two posts. In the first post of the series, I defined sieves and gave basic examples, and last week I showed how the sheaf condition on a site can be stated in terms of sieves:

Corollary. Let be a (small) site. For a set of morphisms with the same target, write for the presheaf image of . Then a presheaf is a sheaf if and only if for every covering in , the inclusion induces an isomorphism

Thus, if is a site (a small category with a Grothendieck pretopology), we should be able to obtain the category of sheaves purely in terms of sieves. This is the notion of a Grothendieck topology that we describe at the end of this post.

Before giving the definition, note that any morphism in gives a pullback taking to its inverse image under (I avoid the word ‘pullback’ here to make sure this is truly a subpresheaf and not a presheaf with a monomorphism to defined uniquely up to unique isomorphism). Thus, is itself a presheaf (it takes values in since is small).

Also note the following method for producing sieves: if is a presheaf, a subpresheaf, and a section over some , we get a sieve by

By the Yoneda lemma, this is just the inverse image of along the morphism classifying . Note that is the maximal sieve if and only if .

Definition. Let be a small category. Then a Grothendieck topology on consists of a subpresheaf such that

1. For all , the maximal sieve is in .
2. If and with , then .
3. If is a sieve such that , then (equivalently, then is the maximal sieve ).

The sieves are called covering sieves. Since is a presheaf, we see that for any and any covering sieve , the pullback is covering. Condition 2 says that any sieve containing a covering sieve is covering. In the presence of condition 1, conditions 2 and 3 together are equivalent to the local character found in SGA IV, Exp. II, Def. 1.1:

• If with , such that for every morphism the inverse image of along is in , then .

Indeed, applying this criterion when immedately shows if , since the inverse image of along is the maximal sieve . Thus the local character implies criterion 2. The local character says that if contains a covering sieve , then is covering. Assuming criterion 2, the sieve contains a covering sieve if and only if is itself covering, so the local character is equivalent to criterion 3.

Remark. One property that follows from the axioms is that is closed under binary intersection, i.e. if then . Indeed, if for some , then

so . Axioms 2 and 3 give .

Example. Let be a pretopology on the (small) category ; see Tag 00VH for a list of axioms. For each , define the subset as those that contain a sieve of the form for some covering in . (See the corollary at the top for the definition of .) Concretely, this means that there exists a covering such that for all , i.e. is covered by morphisms that are in the given sieve .

Lemma. The association is a topology. It is the coarsest topology on for which each for is a covering sieve.

Proof. We will use the criteria of Tag 00VH. If , then there exists with . If is any morphism in , then by criterion 3 of Tag 00VH. But , because a morphism factors through if and only if factors through . Thus, , so , and is a subpresheaf of .

Condition 1 follows immediately from criterion 1 in Tag 00VH, and condition 2 is satisfied by definition. For condition 3, suppose satisfies . Then there exists with . This means that for all , i.e. for all . Thus, for each there exists in such that , i.e. for all and all . Thus, if denotes , then we get . But is a covering by criterion 2 of Tag 00VH, so .

If is any other Grothendieck topology for which each for is covering, then contains by criterion 2.

To state the obvious (hopefully), the notion of sheaf can therefore be defined on a Grothendieck topology in a way that coincides with the usual notion for a Grothendieck pretopology:

Definition. Let be a small category, and let be a Grothendieck topology. Then a presheaf is a sheaf if for any and any , the map induces an isomorphism

Thus, a Grothendieck topology is an internal characterisation (inside ) of which morphisms one needs to localise to get . In the last two posts, we will generalise this even further to a Lawvere–Tierney topology on an arbitrary topos.

# Covering sieves and the sheaf condition (topologies 3/6)

In the first post of this series, I explained how subobjects of the constant presheaf (resp. constant sheaf) on a small category (resp. small site) with terminal object correspond to left closed (resp. local) properties on . In this post, I will explain the main examples that intervene in setting up topoi, and show how to define the sheaf condition using sieves (instead of coverings).

For simplicity, assume is a small category with fibre products.

Definition. Given a set of morphisms with the same target , define the sieve generated by as the sieve on of those morphisms that factor through some .

It is in a sense the right ideal in generated by the . What does this look like as a subobject of ?

Example. If has one element, i.e. , then is the image of the morphism of representable presheaves . In the case where is already a monomorphism (this is always the case when is a poset, such as for some topological space ), then is itself injective (this is the definition of a monomorphism!), so is just .

In general, is the image of the map

induced by the maps . Indeed, an element of is a morphism , and it comes from some if and only if factors through .

This shows that, in fact, every sieve is of this form for some set : take as index set (the objects of) the slice category , which as in the previous post gives a surjection . This corresponds to generating an ideal by all its elements.

But we can also characterise without using the word ‘image’ (which somehow computes its first syzygy):

Lemma. Let be a set of morphisms with common target, and the sieve generated by . Then is the coequaliser of the diagram

where the maps are induced by the two projections .

We will give two proofs, one using the description of coequalisers of sets, and the other using that presheaves are colimits of representable presheaves, as discussed in the previous post.

Proof 1. The diagram

is a pullback, by the universal property of fibre products and since fibre products with a fixed set/presheaf of sets commute with coproducts. Then the same goes for the square

since is a monomorphism. But is an epimorphism (objectwise surjection) by definition, so this square is a pushout as well (in , epimorphisms are regular).

Proof 2. By the previous post, the presheaf is the colimit over of (see post for precise statement). Let be the diagram of the two projections, and let be the category of elements of , as in this post. There is a natural functor taking to and to , taking the morphisms in to the projections . We claim that is cofinal, hence the colimit can be computed over instead (see Tag 04E7).

To verify this, we use the criteria of Tag 04E6. If , then by definition the composition is given by a morphism that is contained in . Since is generated by the , this factors through some over , giving a map .

If and are two such maps, they factor uniquely through . The general result for and for (either of the form or of the form ) follows since elements of the form always map to the elements and , showing that the category is weakly connected.

Corollary. Let as above, and let be a presheaf on . Then

Proof. By the lemma above, we compute

so the result follows from the Yoneda lemma.

Corollary. Let be a (small) site. Then a presheaf is a sheaf if and only if for every object and every covering in the site, the inclusion induces an isomorphism

Proof. Immediate from the previous corollary.

Thus, the category of sheaves on can be recovered from if we know at which subobjects we should localise (make the inclusion invertible). Next week, we will use this to give a definition of a Grothendieck topology, abstracting and generalising the notion of a site (i.e. Grothendieck pretopology).

# Subterminal presheaves and sheaves (topologies 1/6)

Grothendieck pretopologies feature prominently in algebraic geometry, but the more beautiful concept of Grothendieck topologies is rarely touched upon. In a series of short posts, I aim to introduce some of these ideas, show how key concepts like the sheaf condition get very nice categorical descriptions in this language, and give examples of why topoi have much better formal properties than sites.

Let be a small category, and write for the functor category .

Definition. A sieve on an object is a subpresheaf of the representable presheaf .

Concretely, this means that each is a set of morphisms with the property that if is any morphism, then is in . Thus, this is like a “right ideal in “. Since is small, we see that sieves on form a set, which we will denote .

Lemma. Let and be small categories, an object, and a functor. Then there is a pullback map

defined by

If and is the forgetful functor, then gives a bijection

Proof. If is a sieve, then so is since and implies , so . For the second statement, given a sieve on , define the sieve on by

Then is a sieve on , and is the unique sieve on such that .

Beware that the notation could also mean the presheaf pullback , but we won’t use it as such.

Remark. In particular, it suffices to study the case where has a terminal object, which we will denote by (in analogy with the small Zariski and étale sites of a scheme , which have as a terminal object). We are thus interested in studying the subobjects of the terminal presheaf . We will do so both in the case of presheaves and in the case of sheaves. Note that is a sheaf: for any set (empty or not), the product is a singleton, so the diagrams

are vacuously equalisers whenever is a covering (or any collection of morphisms).

Definition. A property on a set is a function to the power set of a point . The property holds for if , and fails if .

Given a property on the objects of a small category , we say that is left closed if for any morphism , the implication holds. (This terminology is my own. Below, we confusingly prove that these are equivalent to what we described earlier as “right ideals”. This change of orientation arises from the fact that diagrams are drawn in the opposite direction compared to composition of morphisms.)

If is a site (a small category together with a Grothendieck pretopology), we say that is local if it is left closed, and for any covering in , if holds for all , then holds.

Lemma. Let be a small category with a terminal object .

1. Giving a subpresheaf of is equivalent to giving a left closed property on the objects of .
2. If is a site, then giving a subsheaf of the presheaf is equivalent to a giving a local property .

A homotopy theorist might say that a local property is a -truncated sheaf [of spaces] on .

Proof. 1. The terminal presheaf takes on values at every , thus any subpresheaf takes on the values and , hence is a property on the objects of . The presheaf condition means that for every morphism , there is a map , which is exactly the implication since there are no maps .

Alternatively, one notes immediately from the definition that a sieve on an object is the same thing as a subcategory of which is left closed.

2. Being a subpresheaf translates to a left closed property by 1. Then is a sheaf if and only if, for every covering in , the diagram

is an equaliser. If one is empty, then so is since is left closed, so the diagram is always an equaliser.

Thus, in the sheaf condition, we may assume for all , i.e. holds for all . Since is left closed, this implies that for all , so the two arrows agree on , and the diagram is an equaliser if and only if . Running over all coverings in , this is exactly the condition that is local.