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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.

y-axis -3 x-axis -6 Figure 1. The graph of f.
y-axis
-3
x-axis
-6
Figure 1. The graph of
f.

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

lim

x  3

f

(

)

x  

6

.

f (x) as x approaches

3

is equal to

6 . We write this in

x 2  9 2. Consider the rational function g ( x )  whose
x
2  9
2. Consider the rational function
g
(
x
)
whose graph is shown in Figure 2.
x  3
y-axis
-3
x-axis
-6
Figure 2. The graph of
g.

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 lim

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.

 x 2  9 if x   3 3. Consider the piecewise-defined function
 x
2  9
if
x   3
3. Consider the piecewise-defined function
h
(
x
)
x  3
 2
if
x
 
3
in Figure 3.
y-axis
-3
x-axis
-6
Figure 3. The graph of
h.

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 or 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

 x 2  9 x   3 4. Consider the piecewise-defined function t
 x
2  9
x   3
4. Consider the piecewise-defined function
t
x
if
(
)
x  3
 6
if
x
 
3
in Figure 4.
y-axis
-3
x-
axis
-6
Figure 4. The graph of t.

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

have

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

 1 if x  0 s ( x )    whose graph
 1
if
x 
0
s
(
x
)
whose graph is shown in Figure 5.
1
if
x
0
y-axis
1

x-axis

)    whose graph is shown in Figure 5.  1 if x 

-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

lim

s

x0

(

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.

Figure 6 y-axis y = f (x) x-axis
Figure 6
y-axis
y = f (x)
x-axis

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
2
x
 9
x  3

(

 

6)

( x  3)( x  3)  ( x  3)
(
x
3)(
x
3)
(
x 
3)

6



x 3

(

x  

3)

x

c

.

Because of this, it follows that

2 x  9 x  3
2
x
 9
x  3

 

(

6)

(

x  

3)

. This suggests that we take

, or 0.005. Hence, the existence of for any positive chosen.

So, by taking 0.005 , 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

2 x  9 x  3
2
x
 9
x  3

 

(

6)

0.005

.

6

Note: (a) and (b) can be extended naturally to cases where there are more than two functions.

IV.

lim f ( x ) f x ( ) x  c lim  
lim
f
(
x
)
f x
(
)
x
c
lim
M 
c)
,
M
L 0
.
x
c
g x
(
)
lim
g
(
x
)
x
c
4. lim
f
(
x
) 
L
Let
and n be a positive integer. Then
x
 c
n
 n
n
a) lim
f
(
x
)
lim
f
(
x
)
 L
.
x
c
x
c
b) lim
n f
(
x
)
n lim
f
(
x
)
n L
, provided L > 0 when n is even.
x
c
x
c
lim f (x)
 f (c) .
5. If f is a polynomial function, then
x
 c
Exercises: Evaluate the following limits.
3
lim(2
x
4
x
5)
2
a.
c. lim
4
x
lim (2
x  2
e. x  3
x  1

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 lim

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

2 x  9 lim  lim x  3 x  3 x 
2
x
 9
lim
 lim
x

3 x  3
x

3
2
 4
 t
lim
.
t  0
t

(

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:

2  4  t 2  4  t 2  4  t
2
 4
 t
2
4
 t
2
 4
 t
lim
 lim
 lim
t
0
t t
0
t
2
 4
 t
t
0
1 1
 lim
t  0
2
 4
 t
4
5. Exercises: Evaluate the following limits.
2
x
2 
3
x
2
9  x
a. lim
c. lim
x  3
x  1
x  1
x
 3
x  2
x  4
b. lim
d. lim
x  2
x
3  8
x  4
x  2

V. One Sided Limits

1. Right–hand limit or one–sided limit from the right

4  (4  t )   t 2  4  t
4
(4
 t
)
t
2
4
t

lim

t 0

t

t t  2  4 
t
t 
2
4

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

.

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, lim ( )

s

x0

x

does not exist. However,

we can define one-sided 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

and 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

lim f (x)

x

a

6. Example: Find

lim

x 2

f

(

x

)

and

lim

x 2

f

(

x

)

if

lim f (x)

 

x

a

f

(

x

)

, then lim f (x)

xa

x 5

.

Since

have

x

5


5

x

x

x 5

lim

x

2

f

(

)

f

(

)

x

lim (5

x

2

)

x

if

if

3

x

x

and

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

As

lim

x

2

f

(

x

)

lim

x

2

f

(

x

)

, we further say that the two-sided limit

lim

x2

f

(

x

)

exists.

7. Example: Find

lim

t 4

( )

r t

and

lim

t

4

( )

r t

if

( )

r t

t

4

4

t

if

if

t

t

4

4

.

To evaluate lim ( ) , 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 lim ( ) , 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

As lim

t

4

( )

r t

lim

t

4

( )

r t

, we conclude that

lim

t4

( )

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

 3 t  1    2 1  t 3 t 
3
t
 1
2
1  t
3
t
1

if

if

if

t

1

 

t

t

1

1

Determine whether or not the following limits exist by evaluating appropriate one-sided limits.

a)

lim

x2

h

(

x

)

VI. Infinite Limits

1. Definition

b)

lim

x

1 h x

(

)

c)

lim

x1

p

(

x

)

d) lim

x5

p

(

x

)

e)

lim

t

1 g t

( )

f)

lim

t1

( )

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 .

a lim f ( x )   a, , then f ( x ) 

Figure 7. The graph of

y

1

2

x

, then f ( x )  N . Figure 7. The graph of y 

Figure 8. One-Sided 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

 

.

One-sided 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 lim

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

2 3  t a) lim t  0  t 7. Theorems
2
3  t
a) lim
t  0
 t
7.
Theorems

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

 

or  for each of the following limits.   y  1 y 
or 
for each of the following limits.
y
 1
y
b)
lim
y  1
2
2
y 
1
2
y
y
1

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 non-zero 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