If yy and zz are 2x2 Hermitian matrices, is there a way that I can mark them (with a property?) as Hermitian so that Mathematica can assume that it can factor out and simplify scalar multipliers from a dot product expression? In this example, we have -1 * -1 as the multiplier:

ClearAll[a, yy, zz]
a = -(-yy.zz).zz

This gives:


Can it be made to simplify to just:

  • $\begingroup$ Dave, just a gentle reminder that, if one of the answers provided below solve your problem, you might want to accept it by clicking on the gray check mark next to it. $\endgroup$
    – MarcoB
    Jul 27, 2015 at 19:44

3 Answers 3


To factor out numeric factors in any argument of Dot:

(2 yy.(3 zz)).(4 zz) //. Dot[a___, d_?NumericQ b_, c___] :> d Dot[a, b, c]

24 yy.zz.zz

Edit: If you want this to happen automatically, you can add the rule as a new definition for Dot:

Dot[a___, d_?NumericQ b_, c___] := d Dot[a, b, c]

Now the factoring happens by itself:

(2 yy.(3 zz)).(4 zz)

24 yy.zz.zz

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks; this is a nice and straightforward replacement that will do the job. I must say, though, that I was hoping that Mathematica could just "figure it out". $\endgroup$
    – David B
    Jul 27, 2015 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ @daveboden You can make it automatic, if you like -- see the edit. $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2015 at 21:21

Is the following sufficiently general?

t[e_] := e /. Dot[Times[z1_ /;!ArrayQ[z1], Dot[z2__]], z3__] :> z1 Dot[z2, z3]    
Simplify[a, TransformationFunctions -> {Automatic, t}]
(* yy.zz.zz *)

Easier and more generally applicable is to use TensorExpand:

In[]: -(-yy.zz).zz//TensorExpand
Out[]: yy.zz.zz

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