1
LIMIT OF A FUNCTION
I. Intuitive Notion of the Limit of a Function
1. Consider the linear function
f (x) x 3
whose graph is shown in Figure 1.
x 
3.5 
3.2 
3.1 
3.01 
3.001 
2.999 
2.99 
2.9 
2.8 
2.5 
f (x) 
6.5 
6.2 
6.1 
6.01 
6.001 
5.999 
5.99 
5.9 
5.8 
5.5 
Observe that as x approaches 3 , either from the left or from the right, f (x) approaches
6 . This means the limit of
symbol as
^{l}^{i}^{m}
x 3
f
^{(}
^{)}
x
^{6}
.
f (x) as x approaches
3
is equal to
6 . We write this in
2
x 
3.5 
3.2 
3.1 
3.01 
3.001 
2.999 
2.99 
2.9 
2.8 
2.5 
g(x) 
6.5 
6.2 
6.1 
6.01 
6.001 
5.999 
5.99 
5.9 
5.8 
5.5 
Observe that as x approaches
3 , either from the left or from the right, g(x) approaches
6 . This means the limit of g(x) as x approaches 3 is equal to 6 , or ^{l}^{i}^{m}
x 3
g x
^{)}
^{(}
^{6}
. The
only difference between this case and the preceding example is that g is not defined at as indicated by the gap in the graph; elsewhere functions f and g are equal.
x 3
Remark: In finding the limit of a function _{F} as x approaches a value c , we only need to consider x values sufficiently close to c and observe how _{F} behaves at these x values. It is not necessary that F is defined at x c inorder for the limit of F to exist there. The limit of F exists as long as it approaches the same value as x approaches c from either from the right or from the left.
whose graph is shown
x 
3.5 
3.2 
3.1 
3.01 
3.001 
2.999 
2.99 
2.9 
2.8 
2.5 
h(x) 
6.5 
6.2 
6.1 
6.01 
6.001 
5.999 
5.99 
5.9 
5.8 
5.5 
Observe that as x approaches
3 , either from the left or from the right, h(x) approaches
_{} _{6} _{o}_{r} lim
x 3
g x
)
(
6
, eventhough h(3) 6 .
Observe too that h is equal to f and g
except at x 3 .
3
whose graph appears
x 
3.5 
3.2 
3.1 
3.01 
3.001 
2.999 
2.99 
2.9 
2.8 
2.5 
t(x) 
6.5 
6.2 
6.1 
6.01 
6.001 
5.999 
5.99 
5.9 
5.8 
5.5 
Function
_{h}_{a}_{v}_{e}
example by filling the gap at x 3 .
t
behaves exactly the same as function
t
(
)
x
f
in the first example and note that we also
in the second
lim
x 3
6
. Function t is what we get when we redefine function g
5. Consider the function
xaxis
1
Figure 5. The graph of s.
4
Observe that as x approaches 0 from the left, the function s approaches _{}_{1} but as x approaches 0 from the right, s approaches 1. Because of the different function values to which s is approaching
as x approaches 0 from both directions, we say that
^{l}^{i}^{m}
s
x 0
^{(}
x
^{)}
does not exist.
II. Formal Definition of the Limit of a Function
1. The Definition
Let f be a function that is defined at every number in some open interval containing a number c,
except possibly at c itself. The limit of f (x) as x approaches c is L, written as
if the following statement is true:
,
lim
x
c
f
(
x
)
L
Given any _{} _{} _{0} , however small, there exists a _{} _{} _{0} such that
if
0 x
c
, then
f (x) L
.
2. Remarks:
a. As noted earlier,
lim
x
c
f
(
x
)
L
if whenever x assumes a sequence of values that approaches
the number c (both from the left of c and from the right of c), the corresponding sequence of
function values of f
approaches L.
b. The number L being the limit of
f (x) at x = c can be interpreted geometrically as follows:
f (x) on the vertical
axis can be made to lie in the open interval L , L by simply letting x on the
horizontal axis be confined in the open interval c , c . In other words, if
for any chosen positive value of , however small, the function values
x c , c , then f (x) L , L . Figure 6 illustrates this.
5
c. The number depends on the chosen .
d. The limit of a function at a number is unique.
e. It is possible for the limit to exist even if
f
Part I.)
is not defined at
x = c. (See illustration (2) of
f. It is possible for the limit value L to be different from f (c) . (See illustration (3) of Part I.)
3. Illustration:
Recall the function in illustration (2) of Part I. Prove that 
lim 
x 2 9 6 , using 

x 3 
x 3 

0.005 . 

According to the definition, we need to find a 
_{} _{} _{0} 
such that if 
0 
x 
c 
, then 

f (x) L 
. In this particular case, 
f 
( 
x 
) ^{} 
x 
2 
9 
, L 6 , and c 3 . 

x 3 

First, observe that f ( x ) L 
2
x
9
x 3

( 
6)
(
x
3)(
x
3)
(
x
3)

6 
x 3 
( x 
3) 

x 
c 
. 
Because of this, it follows that
(
6)
(
x
3)
. This suggests that we take
_{} _{} _{} , or _{} _{} _{0}_{.}_{0}_{0}_{5}_{.} Hence, the existence of _{} for any positive chosen.
So, by taking _{} _{} _{0}_{.}_{0}_{0}_{5} , we have indeed
0
(
x
3)
Note: One may set some other value for .
III. Basic Limit Theorems
1. Let m and b constants. Then
lim(
x
c
2. Let k be a constant. Then
lim k
mx
k
.
b
)
mc
b
.
3.
Let
a)
b)
x 
c 

lim f ( 
x ) 
L 
and 
lim g 
( 
x ) 
M . Then 

x c lim f x ( 
) g 
( x ) 
x lim 
c f ( x ) 
lim 
g ( x 
) 

L 

M 

x c 
x 
c 
x 
c 

lim x c f x ( 
) g 
( 
x ) 
lim x c 
f ( x 
) 

lim x c g 
( x ) 
LM 
. 
.
0.005
(
6)
0.005
.
6
Note: (a) and (b) can be extended naturally to cases where there are more than two functions.
IV.
x)
5
b.
lim 2x
x 1
3
x
1
1
x
2
d. lim
x 4
2
x
1
x 3
f. lim
^{}
x
4
cos
sin
csc 2
^{0} .
The Case of the Indeterminate Form 0
1. Applying the basic limit theorems of Part III are simply done by direct substitution. However, direct substitution fails to work when it results into any of these forms:
0
0
,
,0
0
,0 ,
0
,1
,
.
These are called the indeterminate forms.
2. When the evaluation of a limit leads to the indeterminate form 0/0, the limit may or may not exist. To find this out, we need to remove the indeterminacy by
a) factoring and canceling the factor that zeroes out the numerator and denominator, or
b) rationalizing either the numerator or denominator.
(Dealing with the other indeterminate forms requires techniques beyond the scope of this lecture.)
7
3. Example: Consider the function
g
(
x
) ^{}
x
2
9
x 3
in illustration (2) of Part I. Find ^{l}^{i}^{m}
x
_{3} g
^{(}
x
^{)} .
Direct substitution of _{x} _{} _{}_{3} to g(x) leads to the indeterminate form 0/0. Note that the factor _{x} _{} _{3} zeroes out the numerator and denominator and so must be removed from g by cancellation. We proceed with the evaluation as follows:
4. Example: Find
(
x
3)(
x
3)
(
x
3)
lim (
x 3
x
3)
6
.
Direct substitution of _{t} _{} _{0} leads to the indeterminate form 0/0. We remove the factor _{t} _{} _{0} or t from the numerator and denominator by rationalizing the numerator. We proceed with the evaluation as follows:
V. One Sided Limits
1. Right–hand limit or one–sided limit from the right
lim
t 0
t
e. lim
f.
x
2
lim
y 3
3
x
x
2
x
10
x
2
3
x
y 3
2
(1/
y
)
(1/3)
Let f be a function that is defined at every number in some open interval (a, c). The limit of
f (x) , as
x
approaches
a
from the right, is
L, written as
lim
x
a
f
(
x
)
L
if the following
statement is true: Given any 0 , however small, there exists a 0 such that :
If 0 x a , then
f (x) L
.
2.
Left–hand limit or one–sided limit from the left.
8
Let f be a function that is defined at every number in some open interval (d, a). The limit of
f (x) , as
x
approaches
a
from the left, is
L, written as
lim
x
a
f
(
x
)
L
if the following
statement is true: Given any 0 , however small, there exists a 0 such that :
If 0 a x , then
f (x) L
.
3. Illustration
Recall the signum function in Figure 5. As noted earlier, ^{l}^{i}^{m} ^{(} ^{)}
s
x 0
x
does not exist. However,
we can define onesided limits at x = 0. It can be observed that as x approaches 0 from the left, the function s approaches _{}_{1}_{,} and as x approaches 0 from the right, the function
approaches 1. In symbol,
lim
x 0
s
(
x
)
1
_{a}_{n}_{d} lim
x 0
s x
.
(
)
1
4. Remarks:
a) To distinguish from the one–sided limits,
lim
x
a
f
(
x
)
L
will be referred to as two–sided limit.
b) The basic limit theorems in Pat III remain valid for one–sided limits.
5.
Theorem:
lim
x
a
f
(
x
)
L
if and only if
lim 
f 
( 
x 
) 

lim 
f 
( 
x 
) 

L 



. 

x 

a 
x 

a 
Note: This theorem implies that if
^{l}^{i}^{m} ^{f} ^{(}^{x}^{)}
x
a
6. Example: Find
^{l}^{i}^{m}
x 2
f
^{(}
x
^{)}
_{a}_{n}_{d}
lim
x 2
f
(
x
)
if
^{l}^{i}^{m} ^{f} ^{(}^{x}^{)}


x 
a 

f 
( 
x 
) 
_{,} _{t}_{h}_{e}_{n} lim f (x)
xa
x 5
.
Since
_{h}_{a}_{v}_{e}
x
5
5
x
x
x 5
lim
x
2
f
(
)
f
(
)
x
lim (5
x
2
)
x
if
if
3
x
x
_{a}_{n}_{d}
5
5
and 2 < 5, we take the form
lim
x
2
f x
(
)
lim (5
x
2
x
)
3
.
does not exist.
f (x) 5 x . So, we
_{A}_{s}
lim
x
2
f
(
x
)
lim
x
2
f
(
x
)
, we further say that the twosided limit
^{l}^{i}^{m}
x 2
f
^{(}
x
^{)}
exists.
7. Example: Find
^{l}^{i}^{m}
t 4
^{(} ^{)}
r t
_{a}_{n}_{d}
lim
t
4
( )
r t
if
( )
r t
t
4
4
t
if
if
t
t
4
4
.
To evaluate ^{l}^{i}^{m} ^{(} ^{)} , first note that t approaches 4 from the right and so we consider _{t} _{} _{4} .
t
4
r t
The form of r(t) we need to take is r(t) 4 t . Hence,
lim
t
4
( )
r t
lim(4
t
4
t
)
0
.
9
To evaluate ^{l}^{i}^{m} ^{(} ^{)} , we note that t approaches 4 from the left and so we consider
t
4
r t
The form of r(t) we need to take is r(t) t 4 . Hence,
lim
t
4
( )
r t
lim(
t
4
t
4)
8
_{A}_{s} lim
t
4
( )
r t
lim
t
4
( )
r t
, we conclude that
^{l}^{i}^{m}
t 4
^{(} ^{)}
r t
does not exist.
_{t} _{} _{4} .
8. Exercises:
Consider the following functions:
i)
h x
(
)
3
2
x
4
ii)
p
(
x
)
2
3
1
if
if
if
x
x
x
1
1
1
iii)
( )
g t
if
if
if
t
1
t
t
1
1
Determine whether or not the following limits exist by evaluating appropriate onesided limits.
_{a}_{)}
lim
x 2
h
(
x
)
VI. Infinite Limits
1. Definition
b)
lim
x
_{1} h x
(
)
_{c}_{)}
lim
x 1
p
(
x
)
_{d}_{)} lim
x 5
p
(
x
)
e)
lim
t
_{1} g t
( )
_{f}_{)}
lim
t 1
( )
g t
Let f be a function that is defined at every number in some open interval containing a number a, except possibly at a itself.
a)
number N > 0, there exists a _{} _{} _{0} such that if
As x
approaches
f (x) increases without bound, written as
0
x
a
x
a
lim f (x)
a,
, then f (x) N .
b)
number N > 0, there exists a _{} _{} _{0} such that if
As x
approaches
f (x) decreases without bound, written as
0
x
a
x
a
lim f (x)
a,
, then f (x) N .
Figure 7. The graph of
y
1
2
x
Figure 8. OneSided Infinite Limits
if for any
if for any
10
Figure 7 illustrates an infinite limit of a function y f (x) at _{x} _{} _{0} where the function increases without bound as x approaches 0 either from the left or from the right. In symbol, we
write
1
lim x
x 0
2
.
Onesided infinite limits may be defined accordingly from (a) and (b). In this case, instead of
x a , we consider
2. Remark:
x a
or
x a
. Figure 8 illustrates this.
_{} _{} does not represent large number; it simply tells about the behavior of the function as x approaches a. So, in both cases, limits do not actually exist.
3. Theorem: If r is any positive integer, then
(a)
lim
x 0
1
x
r
(b)
lim
x 0
1
x ^{r}
if
if
r
r
is
is
odd
even
4. Theorems: If a is any real number and
f (x) and
g(x) are functions such that ^{l}^{i}^{m}
x
a
and
lim
x
a
g
(
x
a)
If
c > 0
)
c
, where c is a nonzero constant, then
and if
f (x) 0 through positive values of f (x) , then
g
lim f
(
x
)
x
a
(
x
)
.
b) f (x) 0 through negative values of
If
c > 0
and if
f (x) , then
g
lim f
(
x
)
x
a
(
x
)
.
c)
d)
If
If
c < 0
c < 0
and if
and if
f (x) 0 through positive values of
f (x) 0 through negative values of
f (x) , then
f (x) , then
lim g f
x
x
a
(
x
)
(
)
lim g f
x
x
a
(
x
)
(
)
.
.
f
^{(}
x
^{)} ^{} ^{0}
(Note: The above theorems on infinite limits are also valid for one–sided infinite limits.)
5. Examples
a) Determine if
lim
x 2
x 2
2
x
4
b) Discuss the behavior of
is
f
(
x
)
or
.
1
(
x
4)
3
as x approaches 4.
11
6.
Exercises: Indicate either
a) lim f (x)
If
x
a
b) lim f (x)
If
x
a
and
and
lim
x
a
lim
x
a
or
b)
lim
x 0
g
g
(
(
x
)
x
)
c
c
for each of the following limits.
4
x
3
2
5
2
x
3
3
x
c)
lim
2
tan
, where c is any constant, then
, where c is any constant, then
lim f (x) 

g(x) 

. 

x 

a 

lim f (x) 

g(x) 

. 

x 

a 
8.
Theorems: If
lim f (x)
x
a
and
a)
lim f (x) g(x)
x
a
if
c > 0
lim
x
a
g
(
x
)
b)
c
, where c is a nonzero constant, then
lim f (x) g(x)
x
a
if
c < 0.
9.
Theorem: If
lim f (x)
x
a
a)
lim f (x) g(x)
x
a
if
and
c > 0
lim
x
a
g
(
x
)
c
, where c is a nonzero constant, then
b)
lim f (x) g(x)
x
a
if
c < 0.
8.
Remark: Theorems 7  9 are also valid for one–sided infinite limits.
9. Exercise: Indicate either
a)
1
2
1 1
x
lim
x 0
x
4
3
x
10. Vertical Asymptotes
The line x = a is called a vertical asymptote of the graph of the function f (x) if at least one of the following statements is true:
a)
lim f (x)
x
a
b)
lim f (x)
x
a
c)
lim f (x)
x
a
d)
lim f (x)
x
a
To illustrate, consider the function
f
(
)
x
1
2
x
whose graph appears in Figure 7. The line _{x} _{} _{0}
serves as a vertical asymptote of the graph of f since
1
lim x
x 0
2
.
12
11. Exercises:
a)
f
(
x
)
Find the equation(s) of vertical asymptote(s) of the graphs of
4
(
x
5)
2
b)
( )
g t
t
2
1
^{} t
2
2
VII. Limits at Infinity
1. Definition
a)
limit of
however small, there exists a number N > 0 such that if x > N, then
Let
f (x)
f (x)
be a function that is defined at every number in some interval (a,) . The
as x increases without bound is L, written as
lim
x
f
(
x
)
L
f (x) L
if for any
.
_{} _{} _{0} ,
b) Let f (x) be a function that is defined at every number in some interval (, a) . The limit
if for any _{} _{} _{0} , however
small, there exists a number N > 0 such that if x < N, then
of
f (x) as x decreases without bound is L, written as
lim
x
f
(
x
)
L
f (x) L
.
2. Illustration
f
(
x
)
1
2
x
As an illustration, recall the function
behavior of the function as x tends to positive infinity (or increases without bound) or negative infinity (decreases without bound). In either case, f approaches a finite value which is 0. In
symbol, we write
and its graph shown in Figure 7. Observe the
1
lim
x _{x}
_{2} ^{} 0
.
2. Theorem: For any positive integer r,
3. Remarks:
lim
x
1
r
x
lim
x
1
r
x
0
.
a) Basic limit theorems in Part II remain valid for limits at infinity.
b) When evaluating the limit of a rational function p / q at infinity, multiply the numerator
and denominator by
denominator. Moreover, if
n , where n is the greater degree between the numerator and
1/ x
(i) 
degree (p) = degree (q), then the limit is a nonzero constant. 
(ii) 
degree (p) < degree (q), then the limit is zero. 
(iii) 
degree (p) > degree (q), then the limit does not exist. 
4.
Example:
Evaluate
lim
x
4
x
3
2
x
5
5
3
x
2
2
x
.
13
Since the highest power of x
appearing is
x
3
, multiply both numerator and denominator by
1/ x
3 . We proceed with the evaluation as follows:
lim
x
4
x
3
2
x
5
5
3
x
2
2
x
lim
x
4
x
3
2
x
5
1
3
x
5
3
x
2
2
x
1
x
3
lim
x
4
2
2
x
5
3
x
5
2
x
1
1
lim 4
x
2 lim
x
2
x
5 lim
x
1
x
3
x
4
2(0)
5(0)
4
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