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Proof of the Brown–Erdős–Sós conjecture in groups

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 July 2019

Department of Mathematics, ETH Zurich, Switzerland. e-mails:,
Department of Mathematics, ETH Zurich, Switzerland. e-mails:,
Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford OX2 6GG. e-mail:


The conjecture of Brown, Erdős and Sós from 1973 states that, for any k ≥ 3, if a 3-uniform hypergraph H with n vertices does not contain a set of k +3 vertices spanning at least k edges then it has o(n2) edges. The case k = 3 of this conjecture is the celebrated (6, 3)-theorem of Ruzsa and Szemerédi which implies Roth’s theorem on 3-term arithmetic progressions in dense sets of integers. Solymosi observed that, in order to prove the conjecture, one can assume that H consists of triples (a, b, ab) of some finite quasigroup Γ. Since this problem remains open for all k ≥ 4, he further proposed to study triple systems coming from finite groups. In this case he proved that the conjecture holds also for k = 4. Here we completely resolve the Brown–Erdős–Sós conjecture for all finite groups and values of k. Moreover, we prove that the hypergraphs coming from groups contain sets of size $\Theta (\sqrt k )$ which span k edges. This is best possible and goes far beyond the conjecture.

Research Article
© Cambridge Philosophical Society 2019

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The first and the second author were supported in part by SNSF grant 200021-175573.

Supported in part by ERC Starting Grant 633509 and ERC Starting Grant 676632.



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