nLab proper model category



Model category theory

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In a model category fibrations enjoy pullback stability and cofibrations are stable under pushout, but weak equivalences need not have either property. In a proper model category weak equivalences are also preserved under certain pullbacks and/or certain pushouts.

Put differently, in a proper model category, homotopy pullbacks and/or pushouts can be computed with less need for fibrant and/or cofibrant replacement.



A model category is called


More in detail this means the following. A model category is right proper if for every weak equivalence f:ABf : A \to B in WMor(C)W\subset Mor(C) and every fibration h:CBh : C \to B the pullback h *f:A× BCCh^* f : A \times_B C \to C in

A× CB A h *fW fW C hF B \array{ A \times_C B &\longrightarrow& A \\ \;\;\big\downarrow{}^{\mathrlap{\Rightarrow h^* f \in W}} && \big\downarrow{}^{\mathrlap{f \in W}} \\ C &\underset{h \in F}{\longrightarrow}& B }

is a weak equivalence.


The above definition is the way it is usually phrased, but in fact it is equivalent to a seemingly weaker condition that is sometimes easier to check: for right properness it suffices to assume that weak equivalences are preserved by pullback along fibrations between fibrant objects. That is, in the more explicit version above, we are free to assume that BB (hence also CC) is fibrant; this then implies the more general version without this hypothesis. See Proposition below.

The Rezk criterion for properness

The following criterion shows that the notion of left or right properness only depends on the underlying relative category of a model category, i.e., does not depend on fibrations or cofibrations. This is clear once we observe that the notion of a Quillen equivalence in the statement below can be replaced by the notion of a Dwyer–Kan equivalence of underlying relative categories, or just ordinary equivalences of underlying homotopy categories.


(Rezk, Proposition 2.7 (arXiv), Proposition 2.5 (journal).) A model category MM is left proper if and only if for every weak equivalence f:XYf\colon X\to Y the induced Quillen adjunction

X/MY/MX/M\leftrightarrows Y/M

is a Quillen equivalence. A model category MM is right proper if and only if for every weak equivalence f:XYf\colon X\to Y the induced Quillen adjunction

M/XM/YM/X\leftrightarrows M/Y

is a Quillen equivalence.


Left proper model categories

Non-left proper model categories

A class of model structures which tends to be not left proper are model structures on categories of not-necessarily commutative algebras.

For instance

  • the standard model structure on simplicial associative unital algebras (weak equivalences and fibrations are those of the underlying simplicial sets) is not left proper (see Rezk, Example 2.11 (arXiv), Example 2.7 (journal)).

But it is Quillen equivalent to a model structure that is left proper. This is discussed below.

Right proper model categories

Non-right proper model categories

Proper model categories

Model categories which are both left and right proper include

Reedy model structures


For \mathcal{R} a Reedy category and 𝒞\mathcal{C} a model category which is left or right proper, then also the Reedy model structure on Func(,𝒞)Func(\mathcal{R}, \mathcal{C}) is left or right proper, respectively.

This appears as Hirschorn (2002), Thm. 15.3.4 (2), there attributed to Daniel Kan.

Proper Quillen equivalent model structures

While some model categories fail to be proper, often there is a Quillen equivalent one that does enjoy properness.


Every model category whose acyclic cofibrations are monomorphisms is Quillen equivalent to its model structure on algebraic fibrant objects. In this all objects are fibrant, so that it is right proper.

(Nikolaus 10, theorem 2.18)


Let TT be a simplicial (possibly multi-colored) theory, and let TAlgT Alg be the corresponding category of simplicial T-algebras. This carries a model category structure where the fibrations and weak equivalences are those of the underlying simplicial sets in the classical model structure on simplicial sets.

Then there exists a morphism of simplicial theories TST \to S such that

  1. the induced adjunction SAlgTAlgS Alg \stackrel{\to}{\leftarrow} T Alg is a Quillen equivalence;

  2. SAlgS Alg is a proper simplicial model category.

This is the content of (Rezk 02)



The following says that left/right properness holds locally in every model category, namely between cofibrant/fibrant objects.


Given a model category,

  1. every pushout of a weak equivalence between cofibrant objects along a cofibration is again a weak equivalence;

  2. every pullback of a weak equivalence between fibrant objects along a fibration is again a weak equivalence.

A proof is spelled out in Hirschhorn, prop. 13.1.2, there attributed to Reedy.

This gives a large class of examples of left/right proper model categories:


  • A model category in which all objects are cofibrant is left proper.

  • A model category in which all objects are fibrant is right proper.

See in the list of Examples below for concrete examples.

Notice that the prop. applies only (in the right proper case, for concreteness) to pullbacks of fibrations along weak equivalences in which all three objects are fibrant, since a fibration with fibrant codomain also has fibrant domain. The definition of right proper, on the other hand, states this property in the case when none of the objects are assumed to be fibrant.

One might consider as an “in-between” assumption the situation when only the common codomain of the fibration and the weak equivalence (hence also the domain of the fibration) are fibrant; but it turns out that this apparently-weaker assumption is sufficient to imply full right properness. This can be found, for instance, as Lemma 9.4 of Bousfield 2001.


Suppose that in some model category, if XYX\to Y is a fibration and ZYZ\to Y a weak equivalence, with YY (hence also XX) fibrant, then the pullback X× YZXX\times_Y Z \to X is a weak equivalence. Then the model category is right proper, i.e. the same statement is true without the assumption that YY is fibrant.


Suppose given XYZX\to Y\leftarrow Z where XYX\to Y is a fibration and ZYZ\to Y a weak equivalence. Choose a fibrant replacement YRYY\to R Y, and factor XYRYX\to Y \to R Y as a weak equivalence XRXX\to R X followed by a fibration RXRYR X \to R Y. The assumption now applies to the cospan RXRYYR X \to R Y \leftarrow Y, so that the map RX× RYYRXR X \times_{R Y} Y \to R X is a weak equivalence. By 2-out-of-3, the induced map XRX× RYYX \to R X \times_{R Y} Y is also a weak equivalence.

Now by Ken Brown's lemma, the pullback functor along ZYZ\to Y preserves weak equivalences between fibrant objects, and in particular preserves this weak equivalence XRX× RYYX \to R X \times_{R Y} Y. Thus, the induced map X× YZRX× RYZX\times_Y Z \to R X \times_{R Y} Z is a weak equivalence. However, RX× RYZRXR X \times_{R Y} Z \to R X is a weak equivalence by the assumption, so by 2-out-of-3, the map X× YZXX\times_Y Z \to X is also a weak equivalence, as desired.

Homotopy (co)limits in proper model categories


In a left proper model category, ordinary pushouts along cofibrations are homotopy pushouts.

Dually, in a right proper model category, ordinary pullbacks along fibrations are homotopy pullbacks.


This is stated for instance in HTT, prop A.2.4.4 or in prop. 1.19 in Bar. We follow the proof given in this latter reference.

We demonstrate the first statement, the second is its direct formal dual.

So consider a pushout diagram

K Y cof L X \array{ K &\longrightarrow& Y \\ \big\downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in cof}} && \big\downarrow \\ L &\longrightarrow& X }

in a left proper model category, where the morphism KLK \to L is a cofibration, as indicated. We need to exhibit a weak equivalence XXX' \stackrel{}{\to} X from an object XX' that is manifestly a homotopy pushout of LKYL \leftarrow K \to Y.

The standard procedure to produce this XX' is to pass to a weakly equivalent diagram with the property that all objects are cofibrant and one of the morphisms is a cofibration. The ordinary pushout of that diagram is well known to be the homotopy pushout, as described there.

So pick a cofibrant replacement K\emptyset \hookrightarrow K' \stackrel{\simeq}{\to} of KK and factor KKYK' \to K \to Y as a cofibration followed by a weak equivalence KYYK' \hookrightarrow Y' \stackrel{\simeq}{\to} Y and similarly factor KKLK' \to K \to L as KLLK' \hookrightarrow L' \stackrel{\simeq}{\to} L

This yields a weak equivalence of diagrams

Y Y cof K K cof cof L L, \array{ Y &\stackrel{\simeq}{\leftarrow}& Y' \\ \uparrow && \uparrow^{\mathrlap{\in cof}} \\ K &\stackrel{\simeq}{\leftarrow}& K' \\ \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in cof}} && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in cof}} \\ L &\stackrel{\simeq}{\leftarrow}& L' } \,,

where now the diagram on the right is cofibrant as a diagram, so that its ordinary pushout

XL KY X' \coloneqq L' \coprod_{K'} Y'

is a homotopy colimit of the original diagram. To obtain the weak equivalence from there to XX, first form the further pushouts

K Y W K Y cof cof cof L X W LK KL L KY W L X, \array{ K &&&\to&&& Y \\ & \nwarrow^{\mathrlap{\in W}} &&&& \nearrow_{\mathrlap{\simeq}} & \\ && K' &\to& Y' && \\ \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in cof}} && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in cof}} && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in cof}} && \downarrow \\ && L' &\to& X' && \\ & {}^{\mathllap{\in W}} \swarrow &&&& \searrow^{\mathrlap{\simeq}} & \\ L'' \coloneqq K \coprod_{K'} L &&&\to&&& L'' \coprod_{K} Y \\ \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in W}} &&&&&& \downarrow \\ L &&&\to&&& X } \,,

where the total outer diagram is the original pushout diagram. Here the cofibrations are as indicated by the above factorization and by their stability under pushouts, and the weak equivalences are as indicated by the above factorization and by the left properness of the model category. The weak equivalence LLL'' \stackrel{\simeq}{\to} L is by the 2-out-of-3 property.

This establishes in particular a weak equivalence

XL KY. X' \stackrel{\simeq}{\to} L'' \coprod_K Y \,.

It remains to get a weak equivalence further to XX. For that, take the two outer squares from the above

K Y cof L L KY W L X. \array{ K &\to& Y \\ \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in cof}} && \downarrow \\ L'' &\to& L'' \coprod_{K'} Y \\ \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in W}} && \downarrow \\ L &\to& X } \,.

Notice that the top square is a pushout by construction, and the total one by assumption. Therefore by the pasting law, also the lower square is a pushout.

Then factor KYK \to Y as a cofibration followed by a weak equivalence KZYK \hookrightarrow Z \stackrel{\simeq}{\to} Y and push that factorization through the double diagram, to obtain

K cof Z W Y cof cof L cof L KZ W L KY W W L L KZ W X. \array{ K &\stackrel{\in cof}{\to}& Z &\stackrel{\in W}{\to}& Y \\ \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in \cof}} && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in cof}} && \downarrow \\ L'' &\stackrel{\in cof}{\to}& L'' \coprod_{K} Z &\stackrel{\in W}{\to}& L'' \coprod_{K'} Y \\ \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in W}} && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in W}} && \downarrow \\ L & \to& L \coprod_K Z &\stackrel{\in W}{\to}& X } \,.

Again by the behaviour of pushouts under pasting, every single square and composite rectangle in this diagram is a pushout. Using this, the cofibration and weak equivalence properties from before push through the diagram as indicated. This finally yields the desired weak equivalence

L KYX L'' \coprod_{K'} Y \stackrel{\simeq}{\to} X

by 2-out-of-3.

If we had allowed ourselved to assume in addition that KK itself is already cofibrant, then the above statement has a much simpler proof, which we list just for fun, too.

Proof of prop. assuming that the domain of the cofibration is cofibrant

Let ABA \hookrightarrow B be a cofibration with AA cofibrant and let ACA \to C be any other morphism. Factor this morphism as ACCA \hookrightarrow C' \stackrel{\simeq}{\to} C by a cofibration followed by an acyclic fibration. This give a weak equivalence of pushout diagrams

C C A = A B = B. \array{ C' &\stackrel{\simeq}{\to}& C \\ \uparrow && \uparrow \\ A &\stackrel{=}{\to}& A \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ B &\stackrel{=}{\to}& B } \,.

In the diagram on the left all objects are cofibrant and one morphism is a cofibration, hence this is a cofibrant diagram and its ordinary colimit is the homotopy colimit. Using that pushout diagrams compose to pushout diagrams, that cofibrations are preserved under pushout and that in a left proper model category weak equivalences are preserved under pushout along cofibrations, we find a weak equiovalence hocolimB AChocolim \stackrel{\simeq}{\to} B \coprod_A C

A cof C Wfib C cof cof cof B hocolim W B AC. \array{ A &\stackrel{\in cof}{\to}& C' &\stackrel{\in W \cap fib}{\to}& C \\ \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in cof}} && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in cof}} && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\in cof}} \\ B &\to& hocolim &\stackrel{\in W}{\to}& B \coprod_A C } \,.

The proof for the second statement is the precise formal dual.


A model category is right proper if and only if every fibration is a sharp map.

(Rezk 98)

Slice categories

For any model category MM, and any morphism f:ABf \colon A\to B, the base change of slice categories along ff

Σ f:M/AM/B:f * \Sigma_f \;\colon\; M/A \rightleftarrows M/B \;\colon\; f^*

is a Quillen adjunction between slice model categories (this Prop.).

If this adjunction is a Quillen equivalence, then ff must be a weak equivalence. In general, the converse can be proven only if AA and BB are fibrant.


The following are equivalent:

  1. MM is right proper.

  2. If ff is any weak equivalence in MM, then Σ ff *\Sigma_f \dashv f^* is a Quillen equivalence.

This is due to Rezk 02, Prop. 2.5.


The statement of Prop. may be read as saying MM is right proper iff all slice model categories have the “correct” Quillen equivalence type.

Since whether or not a Quillen adjunction is a Quillen equivalence depends only on the classes of weak equivalences, not the fibrations and cofibrations, it follows that being right proper is really a property of a homotopical category. In particular, if one model structure is right proper, then so is any other model structure on the same category with the same weak equivalences.

Local cartesian closure

Since most well-behaved model categories are equivalent to a model category in which all objects are fibrant — namely, the model category of algebraically fibrant objects — they are in particular equivalent to one which is right proper. Thus, right properness by itself is not a property of an (,1)(\infty,1)-category, only of a particular presentation of it via a model category.

However, if a Cisinski model category is right proper, then the (,1)(\infty,1)-category which it presents must be locally cartesian closed. Conversely, any locally cartesian closed (∞,1)-category has a presentation by a right proper Cisinski model category; see locally cartesian closed (∞,1)-category for the proof.


The concept originates in

  • Aldridge Bousfield, Eric Friedlander, def. 1.1.6 in Homotopy theory of Γ\Gamma-spaces, spectra, and bisimplicial sets, Springer Lecture Notes in Math., Vol. 658, Springer, Berlin, 1978, pp. 80-130. (pdf)

Textbook account:

The usefulness of right properness for constructions of homotopy categories is discussed in

The general theory can be found in

also in

Proposition can be found in

See also:

Examples of nonproper model structures can be found in:

Last revised on November 2, 2023 at 07:41:36. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.