Tag Archives: fractions

Finite Sum & Divisibility – 2


Earlier this year I discussed a finite analogue of the harmonic sum. Today I wish to discuss a simple fact about finite harmonic sums.

If p is a prime integer, the numerator of the fraction 1+\frac{1}{2}+\frac{1}{3}+\ldots + \frac{1}{p-1} is divisible by p.

We wish to treat the given finite sum modulo p, hence we can’t just add up fractions. We will have to consider each fraction as inverse of an integer modulo p. Observe that for 0<i<p, we have inverse of each element i in the multiplicative group \left(\mathbb{Z}/p\mathbb{Z}\right)^\times, i.e. there exist an i^{-1} such that i\cdot i^{-1}\equiv 1 \pmod p.

For example, for p=5, we have 1^{-1}=1, 2^{-1}=3, 3^{-1}=2 and 4^{-1}=4.

Hence we have
\displaystyle{i\cdot \frac{1}{i}\equiv 1 \pmod p ,\qquad (p-i)\cdot \frac{1}{p-i} \equiv 1 \pmod p }
for all 0<i<p.

Hence we have:
\displaystyle{i\left(\frac{1}{i}+\frac{1}{p-i}\right)\equiv i\cdot \frac{1}{i} - (p-i)\cdot \frac{1}{p-i} \equiv 0 \pmod p}

Thus we have:
\displaystyle{\frac{1}{i}+\frac{1}{p-i}\equiv 0 \pmod p}

The desired result follows by summation.

We can, in fact, prove that the above harmonic sum is divisible by p^2, see section 7.8 of G. H. Hardy and E. M. Wright’s An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers for the proof.