# The Stacks Project

## Tag 01J5

### 25.13. Points of schemes

Given a scheme $X$ we can define a functor $$h_X : \textit{Sch}^{opp} \longrightarrow \textit{Sets}, \quad T \longmapsto \mathop{\rm Mor}\nolimits(T, X).$$ See Categories, Example 4.3.4. This is called the functor of points of $X$. A fun part of scheme theory is to find descriptions of the internal geometry of $X$ in terms of this functor $h_X$. In this section we find a simple way to describe points of $X$.

Let $X$ be a scheme. Let $R$ be a local ring with maximal ideal $\mathfrak m \subset R$. Suppose that $f : \mathop{\rm Spec}(R) \to X$ is a morphism of schemes. Let $x \in X$ be the image of the closed point $\mathfrak m \in \mathop{\rm Spec}(R)$. Then we obtain a local homomorphism of local rings $$f^\sharp : \mathcal{O}_{X, x} \longrightarrow \mathcal{O}_{\mathop{\rm Spec}(R), \mathfrak m} = R.$$

Lemma 25.13.1. Let $X$ be a scheme. Let $R$ be a local ring. The construction above gives a bijective correspondence between morphisms $\mathop{\rm Spec}(R) \to X$ and pairs $(x, \varphi)$ consisting of a point $x \in X$ and a local homomorphism of local rings $\varphi : \mathcal{O}_{X, x} \to R$.

Proof. Let $A$ be a ring. For any ring homomorphism $\psi : A \to R$ there exists a unique prime ideal $\mathfrak p \subset A$ and a factorization $A \to A_{\mathfrak p} \to R$ where the last map is a local homomorphism of local rings. Namely, $\mathfrak p = \psi^{-1}(\mathfrak m)$. Via Lemma 25.6.4 this proves that the lemma holds if $X$ is an affine scheme.

Let $X$ be a general scheme. Any $x \in X$ is contained in an open affine $U \subset X$. By the affine case we conclude that every pair $(x, \varphi)$ occurs as the end product of the construction above the lemma.

To finish the proof it suffices to show that any morphism $f : \mathop{\rm Spec}(R) \to X$ has image contained in any affine open containing the image $x$ of the closed point of $\mathop{\rm Spec}(R)$. In fact, let $x \in V \subset X$ be any open neighbourhood containing $x$. Then $f^{-1}(V) \subset \mathop{\rm Spec}(R)$ is an open containing the unique closed point and hence equal to $\mathop{\rm Spec}(R)$. $\square$

As a special case of the lemma above we obtain for every point $x$ of a scheme $X$ a canonical morphism $$\tag{25.13.1.1} \mathop{\rm Spec}(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \longrightarrow X$$ corresponding to the identity map on the local ring of $X$ at $x$. We may reformulate the lemma above as saying that for any morphism $f : \mathop{\rm Spec}(R) \to X$ there exists a unique point $x \in X$ such that $f$ factors as $\mathop{\rm Spec}(R) \to \mathop{\rm Spec}(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \to X$ where the first map comes from a local homomorphism $\mathcal{O}_{X, x} \to R$.

In case we have a morphism of schemes $f : X \to S$, and a point $x$ mapping to a point $s \in S$ we obtain a commutative diagram $$\xymatrix{ \mathop{\rm Spec}(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \ar[r] \ar[d] & X \ar[d] \\ \mathop{\rm Spec}(\mathcal{O}_{S, s}) \ar[r] & S }$$ where the left vertical map corresponds to the local ring map $f^\sharp_x : \mathcal{O}_{S, s} \to \mathcal{O}_{X, x}$.

Lemma 25.13.2. Let $X$ be a scheme. Let $x, x' \in X$ be points of $X$. Then $x' \in X$ is a generalization of $x$ if and only if $x'$ is in the image of the canonical morphism $\mathop{\rm Spec}(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \to X$.

Proof. A continuous map preserves the relation of specialization/generalization. Since every point of $\mathop{\rm Spec}(\mathcal{O}_{X, x})$ is a generalization of the closed point we see every point in the image of $\mathop{\rm Spec}(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \to X$ is a generalization of $x$. Conversely, suppose that $x'$ is a generalization of $x$. Choose an affine open neighbourhood $U = \mathop{\rm Spec}(R)$ of $x$. Then $x' \in U$. Say $\mathfrak p \subset R$ and $\mathfrak p' \subset R$ are the primes corresponding to $x$ and $x'$. Since $x'$ is a generalization of $x$ we see that $\mathfrak p' \subset \mathfrak p$. This means that $\mathfrak p'$ is in the image of the morphism $\mathop{\rm Spec}(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) = \mathop{\rm Spec}(R_{\mathfrak p}) \to \mathop{\rm Spec}(R) = U \subset X$ as desired. $\square$

Now, let us discuss morphisms from spectra of fields. Let $(R, \mathfrak m, \kappa)$ be a local ring with maximal ideal $\mathfrak m$ and residue field $\kappa$. Let $K$ be a field. A local homomorphism $R \to K$ by definition factors as $R \to \kappa \to K$, i.e., is the same thing as a morphism $\kappa \to K$. Thus we see that morphisms $$\mathop{\rm Spec}(K) \longrightarrow X$$ correspond to pairs $(x, \kappa(x) \to K)$. We may define a preorder on morphisms of spectra of fields to $X$ by saying that $\mathop{\rm Spec}(K) \to X$ dominates $\mathop{\rm Spec}(L) \to X$ if $\mathop{\rm Spec}(K) \to X$ factors through $\mathop{\rm Spec}(L) \to X$. This suggests the following notion: Let us temporarily say that two morphisms $p : \mathop{\rm Spec}(K) \to X$ and $q : \mathop{\rm Spec}(L) \to X$ are equivalent if there exists a third field $\Omega$ and a commutative diagram $$\xymatrix{ \mathop{\rm Spec}(\Omega) \ar[r] \ar[d] & \mathop{\rm Spec}(L) \ar[d]^q \\ \mathop{\rm Spec}(K) \ar[r]^p & X }$$ Of course this immediately implies that the unique points of all three of the schemes $\mathop{\rm Spec}(K)$, $\mathop{\rm Spec}(L)$, and $\mathop{\rm Spec}(\Omega)$ map to the same $x \in X$. Thus a diagram (by the remarks above) corresponds to a point $x \in X$ and a commutative diagram $$\xymatrix{ \Omega & L \ar[l] \\ K \ar[u] & \kappa(x) \ar[l] \ar[u] }$$ of fields. This defines an equivalence relation, because given any set of extensions $\kappa \subset K_i$ there exists some field extension $\kappa \subset \Omega$ such that all the field extensions $K_i$ are contained in the extension $\Omega$.

Lemma 25.13.3. Let $X$ be a scheme. Points of $X$ correspond bijectively to equivalence classes of morphisms from spectra of fields into $X$. Moreover, each equivalence class contains a (unique up to unique isomorphism) smallest element $\mathop{\rm Spec}(\kappa(x)) \to X$.

Proof. Follows from the discussion above. $\square$

Of course the morphisms $\mathop{\rm Spec}(\kappa(x)) \to X$ factor through the canonical morphisms $\mathop{\rm Spec}(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \to X$. And the content of Lemma 25.13.2 is in this setting that the morphism $\mathop{\rm Spec}(\kappa(x')) \to X$ factors as $\mathop{\rm Spec}(\kappa(x')) \to \mathop{\rm Spec}(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \to X$ whenever $x'$ is a generalization of $x$. In case we have a morphism of schemes $f : X \to S$, and a point $x$ mapping to a point $s \in S$ we obtain a commutative diagram $$\xymatrix{ \mathop{\rm Spec}(\kappa(x)) \ar[r] \ar[d] & \mathop{\rm Spec}(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \ar[r] \ar[d] & X \ar[d] \\ \mathop{\rm Spec}(\kappa(s)) \ar[r] & \mathop{\rm Spec}(\mathcal{O}_{S, s}) \ar[r] & S. }$$

The code snippet corresponding to this tag is a part of the file schemes.tex and is located in lines 2145–2352 (see updates for more information).

\section{Points of schemes}
\label{section-points}

\noindent
Given a scheme $X$ we can define a functor
$$h_X : \Sch^{opp} \longrightarrow \textit{Sets}, \quad T \longmapsto \Mor(T, X).$$
See Categories, Example \ref{categories-example-hom-functor}.
This is called the {\it functor of points of $X$}.
A fun part of scheme theory is to find descriptions of
the internal geometry of $X$ in terms of this functor $h_X$.
In this section we find a simple way to describe
points of $X$.

\medskip\noindent
Let $X$ be a scheme. Let $R$ be a local ring with maximal ideal
$\mathfrak m \subset R$. Suppose that $f : \Spec(R) \to X$
is a morphism of schemes. Let $x \in X$ be the image of the closed point
$\mathfrak m \in \Spec(R)$. Then we obtain a local homomorphism
of local rings
$$f^\sharp : \mathcal{O}_{X, x} \longrightarrow \mathcal{O}_{\Spec(R), \mathfrak m} = R.$$

\begin{lemma}
\label{lemma-morphism-from-spec-local-ring}
Let $X$ be a scheme. Let $R$ be a local ring.
The construction above gives a bijective correspondence
between morphisms $\Spec(R) \to X$ and pairs
$(x, \varphi)$ consisting of a point $x \in X$ and
a local homomorphism of local rings $\varphi : \mathcal{O}_{X, x} \to R$.
\end{lemma}

\begin{proof}
Let $A$ be a ring. For any ring homomorphism $\psi : A \to R$
there exists a unique prime ideal $\mathfrak p \subset A$
and a factorization $A \to A_{\mathfrak p} \to R$ where the
last map is a local homomorphism of local rings. Namely,
$\mathfrak p = \psi^{-1}(\mathfrak m)$. Via
Lemma \ref{lemma-morphism-into-affine}
this proves that the lemma holds if $X$ is an affine scheme.

\medskip\noindent
Let $X$ be a general scheme. Any $x \in X$ is contained in
an open affine $U \subset X$. By the affine case we conclude that every pair
$(x, \varphi)$ occurs as the end product of the construction
above the lemma.

\medskip\noindent
To finish the proof it suffices to show that any morphism
$f : \Spec(R) \to X$ has image contained in any affine
open containing the image $x$ of the closed
point of $\Spec(R)$. In fact, let $x \in V \subset X$
be any open neighbourhood containing $x$. Then
$f^{-1}(V) \subset \Spec(R)$ is an open containing
the unique closed point and hence equal to $\Spec(R)$.
\end{proof}

\noindent
As a special case of the lemma above we obtain for every
point $x$ of a scheme $X$ a canonical morphism

\label{equation-canonical-morphism}
\Spec(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \longrightarrow X

corresponding to the identity map on the local ring of $X$ at $x$.
We may reformulate the lemma above as saying that for any
morphism $f : \Spec(R) \to X$ there exists a unique point
$x \in X$ such that $f$ factors as
$\Spec(R) \to \Spec(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \to X$
where the first map comes from a local homomorphism
$\mathcal{O}_{X, x} \to R$.

\medskip\noindent
In case we have a morphism of schemes $f : X \to S$,
and a point $x$ mapping to a point $s \in S$ we obtain
a commutative diagram
$$\xymatrix{ \Spec(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \ar[r] \ar[d] & X \ar[d] \\ \Spec(\mathcal{O}_{S, s}) \ar[r] & S }$$
where the left vertical map corresponds to the local ring map
$f^\sharp_x : \mathcal{O}_{S, s} \to \mathcal{O}_{X, x}$.

\begin{lemma}
\label{lemma-specialize-points}
Let $X$ be a scheme.
Let $x, x' \in X$ be points of $X$.
Then $x' \in X$ is a generalization of $x$ if and only if
$x'$ is in the image of the canonical morphism
$\Spec(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \to X$.
\end{lemma}

\begin{proof}
A continuous map preserves the relation of specialization/generalization.
Since every point of $\Spec(\mathcal{O}_{X, x})$ is a
generalization of the closed point we see every point in the image
of $\Spec(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \to X$ is a generalization of $x$.
Conversely, suppose that $x'$ is a generalization of $x$.
Choose an affine open neighbourhood $U = \Spec(R)$ of
$x$. Then $x' \in U$. Say $\mathfrak p \subset R$ and
$\mathfrak p' \subset R$ are the primes corresponding
to $x$ and $x'$. Since $x'$ is a generalization of $x$
we see that $\mathfrak p' \subset \mathfrak p$. This means
that $\mathfrak p'$ is in the image of the morphism
$\Spec(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) = \Spec(R_{\mathfrak p}) \to \Spec(R) = U \subset X$ as desired.
\end{proof}

\noindent
Now, let us discuss morphisms from spectra of fields.
Let $(R, \mathfrak m, \kappa)$ be a local ring
with maximal ideal $\mathfrak m$ and residue field $\kappa$.
Let $K$ be a field. A local homomorphism $R \to K$ by definition
factors as $R \to \kappa \to K$, i.e., is the same thing as
a morphism $\kappa \to K$. Thus we see that morphisms
$$\Spec(K) \longrightarrow X$$
correspond to pairs $(x, \kappa(x) \to K)$. We may define
a preorder on morphisms of spectra of fields to $X$
by saying that $\Spec(K) \to X$ dominates
$\Spec(L) \to X$ if $\Spec(K) \to X$
factors through $\Spec(L) \to X$. This suggests
the following notion: Let us temporarily
say that two morphisms $p : \Spec(K) \to X$ and
$q : \Spec(L) \to X$ are {\it equivalent} if there exists
a third field $\Omega$ and a commutative diagram
$$\xymatrix{ \Spec(\Omega) \ar[r] \ar[d] & \Spec(L) \ar[d]^q \\ \Spec(K) \ar[r]^p & X }$$
Of course this immediately implies that the unique points of
all three of the schemes $\Spec(K)$,
$\Spec(L)$, and $\Spec(\Omega)$
map to the same $x \in X$. Thus a diagram (by the remarks above)
corresponds to a point $x \in X$ and a commutative diagram
$$\xymatrix{ \Omega & L \ar[l] \\ K \ar[u] & \kappa(x) \ar[l] \ar[u] }$$
of fields. This defines an equivalence relation, because given
any set of extensions $\kappa \subset K_i$ there exists
some field extension $\kappa \subset \Omega$ such that all
the field extensions $K_i$ are contained in the extension $\Omega$.

\begin{lemma}
\label{lemma-characterize-points}
Let $X$ be a scheme. Points of $X$ correspond bijectively
to equivalence classes of morphisms from spectra of
fields into $X$. Moreover, each equivalence class contains
a (unique up to unique isomorphism) smallest element
$\Spec(\kappa(x)) \to X$.
\end{lemma}

\begin{proof}
Follows from the discussion above.
\end{proof}

\noindent
Of course the morphisms $\Spec(\kappa(x)) \to X$
factor through the canonical morphisms
$\Spec(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \to X$.
And the content of Lemma \ref{lemma-specialize-points} is in
this setting that the morphism $\Spec(\kappa(x')) \to X$
factors as
$\Spec(\kappa(x')) \to \Spec(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \to X$
whenever $x'$ is a generalization of $x$.
In case we have a morphism of schemes $f : X \to S$,
and a point $x$ mapping to a point $s \in S$ we obtain
a commutative diagram
$$\xymatrix{ \Spec(\kappa(x)) \ar[r] \ar[d] & \Spec(\mathcal{O}_{X, x}) \ar[r] \ar[d] & X \ar[d] \\ \Spec(\kappa(s)) \ar[r] & \Spec(\mathcal{O}_{S, s}) \ar[r] & S. }$$

Comment #2645 by Manuel Hoff on July 12, 2017 a 2:25 pm UTC

In 25.13.1, the last sentence mentions a map of local rings, but this map should go in the other direction right? Namely $O_{S,s} \rightarrow O_{X,x}$.

Comment #2665 by Johan (site) on July 28, 2017 a 5:16 pm UTC

Indeed, it does. Thanks. Fixed here.

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