In set theory, inner model theory is the study of certain models of ZFC or some fragment or strengthening thereof. Ordinarily these models are transitive subsets or subclasses of the von Neumann universe V, or sometimes of a generic extension of V. Inner model theory studies the relationships of these models to determinacy, large cardinals, and descriptive set theory. Despite the name, it is considered more a branch of set theory than of model theory.
One important use of inner models is the proof of consistency results. If it can be shown that every model of an axiom A has an inner model satisfying axiom B, then if A is consistent, B must also be consistent. This analysis is most useful when A is an axiom independent of ZFC, for example a large cardinal axiom; it is one of the tools used to rank axioms by consistency strength.