LIMITS & CONTINUITY

LIMIT OF A FUNCTION
The concept of the limit of a function is the starting point of calculus. Without limits calculus does not exist. Every notion in calculus can be expressed in some forms of limits.

What is limit of a function? To understand it, let’s take the following examples : Consider the function
` a

f x = 2x @ 3 . At x = 3, the value of the function becomes
` a

f 3 = 2.3 @ 5 = 1. Here the function is defined and real. But, how does the function behave when x gets closer to 3 but not exactly 3? Putting a few values we see that as x approaches 3, f(x) approaches 1.

sinfff πf πf ffff ffff f2x f f f f Consider another function f x = fffff If we take the interval @ ff ff we can find A , 3x 4 4 πf πf πf f ff f f ff f the value of the function at x = @ ff ff, ff as given below, , etc 6 15 9
` a
D E e πf G f f f f d e sin 2 A @ 6 πf fffffffffff ff fffffffffff f f ffffffffff D E f @ = ffffffffff= 0.5513, 6 πf f f f f 3 @ 6 D E πf f f f f d e sin 2 A 9ff πf fffffff f f ffffff fffff D E = f ff = fffffff 0.6138 9 πf f f 3 ff 9 F d d e sin 2 A 15 πf ffffffff ff ff ff fffffff fffffff D E = fffffff= 0.6473, 15 πf ff f f 3 ff D

πf ff ff f f
E

f

15

` a sinff fff fff f0 which But what happens to this function at x = 0? Putting x = 0 in f, we get f 0 = ffff 0

is undefined. So, the function f is undefined at x = 0. But we see that it is not undefined at other x values close to 0. There it is defined and has real values. So how does the function behave there, when x goes closer to 0, but not exactly 0?

To know the behavior, we take a few values of x closer to 0 (both from x>0 and x<0) and put them in the function as given in the table below and note the behavior : x f(x) x f(x) 0.1 0.05 0.03 0.02 0.01 0.005

0.66223 0.66555 0.66626 0.66649 0.66662 0.66665 -0.1 -0.05 -0.03 -0.02 -0.01 -0.005

0.66223 0.66555 0.66626 0.66649 0.66662 0.66665

2f f The value of f(x) gets closer and closer to 0.666….. or fas x gets closer to 0 from both 3 sides.
` a sinfff 2f ffff f ffff f2x This behavior is written as lim f x = lim fffff f , which reads “the limit of f(x) as x = xQ 0 x Q 0 3x 3

2f f f tends to 0 is f ” . It means, as the value of x gets closer and closer to 0 (i.e. x 3

2f 2f f f ) approaches 0), f(x) is defined there and gets closer to f (or it approaches f . [There is 3 3 an easier limit evaluation method to find this value, which is discussed later in trigonometric limits].
2 xfffff @4 fffff ffff Taking another example, lim fffff= 4 means as the value of x gets closer and closer to xQ 2 x @2 2 xfffff @4 fffff fffff 2, ffff gets closer to 4 (though the function is undefined at x=2). x @2

Thus, the limit of a function f(x) at x = c gives us an idea about how this function behaves, when the value of x goes very near to c (but not equal to c).
lim f x = L
` a

xQc

[read as “the limit of f(x) as x tends to c is L” ]
“as x approaches c, f(x) approaches L” or

means

“as the value of x goes very close to c, but not equal to c, f(x)goes very close to L”.

Definition of limit :

The limit of a function

lim f x = A xQa
` a

if and only if, for any chosen number ε > 0 , however small, there exists a number δ > 0 ` a such that, whenever 0 < |x @ a| < δ , then |f x @ A| < ε A Note that, the limit of a function gives an idea about how the function behaves close to a particular x value. It does not necessarily give the value of the function at x. That means, lim f x and f c may or may not be equal. xQc
Using the definitions we can prove the following limits :
xQ c

` a

` a

lim |x| = |c|

xQ c

lim x = c

xQ c

lim a = a

Example : Using the definition show that lim 3x @ 1 = 5 .
xQ 2

Solution :

`

a

Finding a δ : Let ε > 0 A We try to find a number δ > 0 such that, ` a whenever 0 < |x @ 2| < δ , then | 3x @ 1 @ 5| < ε A ` a Now , | 3x @ 1 @ 5| = |3x @ 6| = 3|x @ 2| To make | 3x @ 1 @ 5| < ε
` a

or

3|x @ 2| < ε we have to make |x @ 2| < εf f f A 3

εf f f 3

So we have to choose a δ such that 0< δ ≤ Showing that the δ works : εf f f then 3|x @ 2| < ε If 0 < |x @ 2| < 3 ` a So, | 3x @ 1 @ 5| < ε # lim 3x @ 1 = 5
xQ 2

`

a

ONE SIDED LIMITS: RIGHT AND LEFT LIMITS
To analyze the behavior of the function f(x) when x approaches a, we can separately look at the behavior from one side only i.e. from the left side (when x<a) and from the right side (when x>a ).
lim f x = A is the left hand limit which means “as x approaches a through values less x Q a@ than a, f(x) approaches A.”
Definition of Left-Hand Limit :
Let f be a function defined at least on an interval c,a , then if and only if, for any chosen number, ε > 0 , however small, there exists a ` a number δ > 0 such that, whenever a @ δ<x<a , then |f x @ A| < ε A
xQ a

` a

`

a

x Q a@

lim f x = A
` a

lim+ f x = B is the right hand limit which means “as x approaches a through values
` a

more than a, f(x) approaches B.”
Definition of Right-Hand Limit :

Let f be a function defined at least on an interval a,d , then

if and only if, for any chosen number, ε > 0 , however small, there exists a ` a number δ > 0 such that, whenever a < x < a + δ , then |f x @ A| < ε A

b

c

xQ a

lim+ f x = A
` a

The existence of limit from the left does not imply the existence of limit from the right, and vice versa.

EXISTENCE OF LIMIT AT A POINT
For a function f(x), when can we say that the limit exists at a point x=a and what would be its value in relation to the left and right limits at that point?

lim f x exists and its value will be equal to A, xQ a if and only if, ` a lim f x and lim+ f x both exist, and both are equal to A x Q a@
` a
xQ a

` a

Example : Find

xQ0

lim@ p x

w w w w w w w

and

xQ 0

lim+ p x , and comment if lim p x exists.
xQ 0

w w w w w w w

w w w w w w w

Solution :

xQ0

w w w w w w w lim@ p x does not exist since x<0 here and p x is not defined when x<0 A

w w w w w w w

xQ 0

lim+ p x = 0 as we see that p x appproaches 0 as x approaches 0 A
w w w w w w w w w w w w w w

w w w w w w w

w w w w w w w

xQ 0

lim p x does not exist as lim@ p x does not exist.
xQ0

Example : Evaluate (a) (b) (c) |xfffff f@ff ff 3|f fff lim@ fffff xQ 3 x @3
xQ3

lim+

|xfffff fffff f@ff ff 3|f fff x @3

xQ 3

|xfffff @ 3| fffff ffff lim fffff x @3

Solution : (a) As x approaches 3 from the left, x < 3 i.e. (x-3) is negative, and |x-3| = -(x-3), hence
|xfffff @fffffff x @3 fffff ffffffff f@ff fffffff ff 3|f fffffff fff lim@ = = @1 xQ 3 x @3 x @3
` a

(b) As x approaches 3 from the right, x > 3 i.e. (x-3) is positive, and |x-3| = (x-3), hence
xQ 3

lim+

|xfffff xffff fffff f@ff f@ff ffff ff 3|f ff3 f fff fff = =1 x @3 x @3 |xfffff fffff f@ff ff 3|f fff does not exist A xQ 3 x @3 lim

|xfffff |xfffff f@ff ff 3|f fff f@ff ff 3|f fff (c) As lim@ fffff≠ lim+ fffff, xQ 3 x @3 x @3 xQ 3

INFINITE LIMITS
Some functions increase or decrease without bounds (that is goes towards + 1 or @ 1 ) near certain values of the independent variable x. When this happens, we say that the function has infinite limit. So we can write,
xQa

lim f x = + 1 or xlima f x = @1 . The Q
` a ` a

unction has a vertical asymptote at x = a if either of the above limits hold true.

fffff fx ff fff f ` a A function of the form ffffwill have an infinite limit at x=a if there the limit of g(x) is g x
zero but the limit of f(x) is non –zero.
1f ff ff Example : Evaluate lim ff xQ 0 x2

` a

Solution :

LIMITS AT INFINITY
In some cases we may need to observe the behavior of the function when the independent variable x increases or decreases without bound, that is, x Q + 1 or x Q @ 1 . If in such a case the function approaches a real number A , then we can write lim f x = A or xQ +1
` a

lim f x = A xQ@1
` a

and f(x) has a horizontal asymptote at y = A.
2

Example : Evaluate
Solution :

3x @ 7 ffffffffff ffffffffff fffffffff lim ffffffffff. x Q + 1 5x 2 @ 2x + 3

3x 2 @ 7 ffffffffff ffffffffff fffffffff lim1 ffffffffff xQ + 5x 2 @ 2x + 3 e d = x2 3 @

=

=

3f f = f 5

7f ff ff f f 2 xffff ffffffffffff ffffffffffff fffffff d e lim ffffffffffff xQ +1 2f ff f 3f f ff f f f 2 x 5@ + 2 x x d e 7f ff ff f f 3@ 2 x ffffffffff F ffffffffff ffffffffff fffffffff e lim d As x approaches + 1 , xQ +1 2f 3f f ff f f f 5 @ f+ ff x x2 ` a fffff0fff fffffffff ffffffff f3ffffff f@ f a lim `
xQ +1

G 1f f f f approaches 0 x

5@0 + 0

THEOREMS ON LIMITS
1 A If f x = c, where c is a constant, then xlima f x = c Q
` a ` a

If xlima f x = A and xlima g x = B where A,B < 1 Q Q 2 A xlima kf x = kA where k is a constant Q
` a ` a ` a

3 A xlima f x F g x = xlima f x F xlima g x = A F B Q Q Q
B ` a B ` a ` aC ` a ` a

4 A xlima f x A g x = xlima f x A xlima g x = A A B Q Q Q
` aC ` a ` a ` a B C fffff xffffffff Af x f Qf f x ffff ffafffff ff ffff lim fffff f ff ` ` a 5 A xlima ffa = ff ffff= f if B ≠ 0 Q g x lim g x B xQ a
www www www www www w`wa ww w w w wwwww wwwww wwwww wwwww wwwww wwwww wwwww wwwwa ` w w w w w w w w nw

` a

n n 6 A xlima q f x = q xlima f x = p A , Q Q

if p A is a real number

w w w w w w w w nw

The uniqueness of a limit :
If then,
xQ a

lim f x = A
` a

and A = B

xQ a

lim f x = B
` a

The Pinching Theorem :

If x is close to a but different from a, a function f always lies between two functions h and g. If, as x tends to a, both h and g tend to the same limit A, then f(x) also tends to A at x = a.
Suppose, If then h x ≤ f x ≤ g x lim h x = A xQ a
` a ` a ` a ` a

for all x where 0 < |x @ a| < p and p>0, lim g x = A, xQ a
` a

and lim f x = A A xQ a
` a

LIMITS OF TRIGONOMETRIC FUNCTIONS
The following trigonometric limits, which can be proven by the definition, is quite useful :
xQ c

lim sin x = sin c

xQ c

lim cos x = cos c

sinff fff fff fx = lim ffff 1 xQ 0 x sinfff ffff ffff f4x Example : Find lim fffff xQ0 x Solution :
sinfff fffff ffff ffff f4x xQ 0 x f g sinfff fffff ffff ffff f4x = lim 4 xQ 0 4x lim = 4 lim = 4 B1 =4
4x Q 0

1fffcosff @ ffff fffffff fffff x f lim ffffffff 0 = xQ 0 x

f

sinfff fffff ffff ffff f4x 4x

g

B F

as x Q 0, we can write 4x Q 0 using lim sinff G ffff fff fff fx =1 xQ 0 x

C

tanffff fffffff ffffff ff 3x Example : Find lim fffffff x Q 0 2x 2 + 5x

xQ0

lim

2x 2 + 5x

tanffff fffffff fffffff ffffff ff 3x
F ffffffffffffff G sin 3x ffffffffffffff ffffffffffffff fffffffffffff ` a

= lim = lim

xQ0

x 2x + 5 A cos 3x

xQ0

F sinfff fffff fffff 1 1 G ffff fffff fffff ffff fffff ffff f3x Solution : = 3 lim fffff fffffB fffff B xQ0 3x 2x + 5 cos 3x

F fffffffffffffff G 3 sin 3x fffffffffffffff fffffffffffffff fffffffffffffff ` a

3 x 2x + 5 A cos 3x

= 3 lim =3 1 = 3f f f 5

xQ0

F sinfff fffff ffff ffff f3x G

3x

B lim

xQ 0

F fffff 1 G fffff fffff fffff

2x + 5

B lim

xQ 0

F fffff 1 G fffff fffff ffff

cos 3x

f gf g ` a 1f 1f f f f

5

1

CONTINUITY
While observing the graphs of different functions we note that some functions are discontinuous at some points. For example, the graph of
x=
` a 1f πf ff f f f f f A The graph of f x = is discontinuous at x = 0. 2 x

f x = tan x is discontinuous at
` a

2 ` a xffffff @ 2x ffffff fffff In the above graph of f x = ffffff, we see that the graph is discontinuous at x=2, but x @2

continuous at all other points.

Is there any other method, by which we know if the graph of a function is continuous or discontinuous at a point? The answer is, we can know it by using limits.

Definition of Continuity : A function f x is continuous at a, ` a ` a if and only if xlima f x = f a Q

` a

We can also define continuity as : f is continuous at a if and only if, for each ε > 0 there exists δ > 0 such that ` a ` a if |x @ c| < δ then |f x @ f c | < ε A thus, f(x) will be continuous at a, 1. if f(a) is defined, 2. if xlima f x exists and Q 3. if
xQ a

lim f x = f a A
` a ` a

` a

A function f(x) is discontinuous at x = a, if any of the above conditions of continuity fails there. Geometrically it means that there is no gap, split or missing point in the graph of f(x) at a.

A function f is continuous in a closed interval [a, b] if it is continuous at every point in [a,b]. So, the function f x = tan x is continuous in the interval
` a D

πf πf f f f f @ ff ff as it is , 4 4
E

continuous at all the points in this interval, whereas it is not continuous in the interval
F πf 3πf ff ff f ff f ff fG

4

,

πf f f as it is discontinuous at x = ff A 4 2

A function is said to be continuous if it is continuous at every point of its domain. So,
f x = x 2 + 4 is a continuous function as it is continuous at every point in its domain (its domain is the set of real numbers R).
` a

ONE-SIDED CONTINUITY:

Definition :A function f x is continuous from left at a, if and only if A function f x is continuous from right at a, if and only if
` a

` a

lim f x = f a x Q a@
` a ` a

` a ` a

xQa

lim+ f x = f a

THEOREMS ON CONTINUITY
The most important theorems of continuity are: If the functions f and g are continuous at a, then

1 A f + g is continuous at a, 2 A αf is continuous at a for each real α, 3 A f g is continuous at a, ` a ff f f 4 A ffis continuous at a provided g a ≠ 0 A g 5 A If g is continuous at a and f is continuous at g a , then the composition of functions f ο g is continuous at a A
` a

Two more theorems on continuity are :
The Intermediate @ Value Theorem : B C ` a ` a 6 A If f is continuous on a,b and C is a number between f a and f b , then there is at least one number c between a and b for which f c = C A
` a

The Maximun @ Minimum Theorem : B C 7 A If f is continuous on a,b , then f takes on both a maximum value M and a minimum value N on a,b A
B C

Example : Determine the continuity of a) b) Solution :
a
a
xQ@3

f x = 3x @ 5 at x = -3
2 ` a xfffff @9 fffff ffff f x = fffff at x = -3 x+3

` a

lim + f x = lim @ f x =
a ` a ` ` a

xQ@3 xQ@3

lim + 3x @ 5 = 3 @ 3 @ 5 = @ 14
` ` a a ` ` a a

xQ@3

lim @ 3x @ 5 = 3 @ 3 @ 5 = @ 14

f @ 3 = 3 @ 3 @ 5 = @ 14 Hence, f is continuous at x = @ 3 A
` a ` a

2 ` a ` a @9 xfffff fffff ffff b For f x = fffff we find that f @ 3 is undefined and does not exist A x+3 Hence, f is discontinuous at x = @ 3 A

Example : Discuss the continuity of
` a f x = ^ x @ 3 , x ≠ 3 at x = 3. ^ Z 6, x =3 X 2 ^ xfffff ^ fffff @9 \ fffff ffff

Solution :

x @3 similarly lim@ f x = 6
xQ 3 xQ 3 xQ 3

lim+ f x = lim+
` a ` a

` a` a x ff3 fff@fff ffffffffffff fffffffffff ffffffff 3 f f+ f x fff

= lim+ x + 3 = 3 + 3 = 6
xQ 3

# lim f x = 6
xQ 3

` a

`

a

and f 3 = 6 ` a ` a As lim f x = f 3 ; f is continuous at x = 3 A
` a
xQ 3

Example : Discuss the continuity of f x =
` a V

6 + 3x, x 2 @ 4,

x< @ 2 at x = -2. x ≥@2

Solution :
` a

1

f @2 = @2 @4 =4@4 =0
`
xQ@2

` a

2

lim @ f x = lim @ 6 + 3x = 6 + 3 @ 2 = 0 lim + f x = lim + x 2 @ 4 = @ 2 @ 4 = 0
` a ` a
xQ@2

a

`

a2

` a

xQ@2

`

xQ@2

Hence lim f x = 0
xQ@2 xQ@2

b

a

as

c `

xQ@2

lim + f x

a2

`

a

As lim f x = f @ 2 ; f is continuous at x = 3 A
` a ` a

` a

= lim @ f x
xQ@2

` a

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