3 Evaluating
Limits Analytically
Direct Substitution
One of the easiest and most useful ways to evaluate a limit
analytically is direct substitution (substitution and
evaluation):
If you can plug c into f(x) and generate a real
number answer in the range of f(x), that generally
implies that the limit exists (assuming f(x) is
continuous at c).
Example:
3
2
lim
x
x
=
3
2 =8
Always check for
substitution first.
The slides that follow investigate why Direct Substitution is valid.
Properties of Limits
Let b and c be real numbers, let n be a positive integer, and
let f and g be functions with the following limits:
Constant Function
Limit of x
Limit of a Power of x
Scalar Multiple
lim()
xc
fx L
= lim()
xc
gx K
=
lim
x c
b b
=
lim
x c
x c
=
lim
n n
x c
x c
=
 
lim()
xc
bfxbL
=
Properties of Limits
Let b and c be real numbers, let n be a positive integer, and
let f and g be functions with the following limits:
Sum Difference
Product
Quotient
Power
lim()
xc
fx L
= lim()
xc
gx K
=
 
lim()()
xc
fxgxLK
=
 
lim()()
xc
fxgxLK
=
()
lim , 0
()
xc
fx L
K
gx K
= =
 
lim()
n
n
xc
fx L
=
Example
Let and . Find the following limits.
( )
5
lim 4
x
f x
=
( )
5
lim 2
x
g x
=
1. lim
x5
fx ()+5gx ()
 
lim
x5
fx ()+lim
x5
5gx ()

lim
x5
fx ()+5lim
x5
gx ()
2. lim
x5
fx ()gx ()
 
3. lim
x5
fx ()
gx ()
4+52 ()
6
lim
x5
fx ()lim
x5
gx ()
42 ( )
8
lim
x5
f x ( )
lim
x5
g x ( )
4
2
2
Example 2
( )
532
2
Evaluate lim29311
x
xxx
+
()()()
()
5 3 2
2 2 2 2
lim2lim9lim3lim11
x x x x
xxx
=+
Sum/Difference Property
5 3 2
2 2 2
2lim9lim3lim11
x x x
x x x
(((
=+
Power Property
()()()
5 3 2
22923211 =+
Limit of x Property
7 =
D
i
r
e
c
t
S
u
b
s
t
i
t
u
t
i
o
n
Direct substitution is a valid analytical method to evaluate
the following limits.
If p is a polynomial function and c is a real number, then:
If r is a rational function given by r(x) = p(x)/q(x), and c is a real
number, then
If a radical function where n is a positive integer. The following
limit is valid for all c if n is odd and only c>0 when n is even:
Direct Substitution
lim() ()
xc
pxpc
=
()
lim()() , ()0
()
xc
pc
rxrc qc
qc
== =
lim
n n
x c
x c
=
Direct substitution is a valid analytical method to evaluate
the following limits.
If the f and g are functions such that
Then the limit of the composition is:
If c is a real number in the domain of a trigonometric function
then:
Direct Substitution
lim() lim()()
xc xL
gxLandfxfL
= =
( )
lim(())lim()()
xc xc
fgxf gxfL
= =
limsinsin
xc
x c
= limcos cos
xc
x c
=
limtantan
xc
x c
= limcot cot
xc
x c
=
limsec sec
xc
x c
= limcsc csc
xc
x c
=
Example 1
Find if , and
if f and g are continuous functions.
( ) ( )
5
lim
x
g f x
( )
5 10 f =
( ) ( )
18 3, 5 18, f g = =
( )
10 2 g =
( ) ( )
( )
5 5
lim lim ( )
x x
g f x g f x
=
( )
10 g =
( )
(5) g f =
2 =
Example 2
3
2
Evaluate lim
6
x
x
x
 

+
\ .
3 2
3 6
=
+
Direct Substitution can
be used since the
function is well defined
at x=3
1
9
=
For what value(s) of x can the limit not be
evaluated using direct substitution?
At x=6 since it makes the
denominator 0:
66 +=0
Indeterminate Form
0
0
=
An example of an
indeterminate form
because the limit can
currently not be
determined. 1/0 is
NOT indeterminate.
Often limits can not be evaluated at a value using
Direct Substitution. If this is the case, try to find
another function that agrees with the original
function except at the point in question. In other
words
How can we simplify: ?
2
2
4 4
2
x x
x x
+
Evaluate the limit analytically:
2
2
4 4
2
2
lim
x x
x x
x
+
( )
( ) ( )
2
2
2 42 4
2 2 2
+
=
Note: If direct substitution results in 0/0 (or other
indeterminates: /,
x
0, ), the limit probably exists.
Strategies for Finding Limits
To find limits analytically, try the following:
1. Direct Substitution (Try this FIRST)
2. If Direct Substitution fails, then rewrite then find a
function that is equivalent to the original function except
at one point. Then use Direct Substitution. Methods
for this include
Factoring/Dividing Out Technique
Rationalize Numerator/Denominator
Eliminating Embedded Denominators
Trigonometric Identities
Legal Creativity
Example 1
Evaluate the limit analytically:
2
2
4 4
2
2
lim
x x
x x
x
+
( )( )
( )( )
2 2
2 1
2
lim
x x
x x
x
+
=
Factor the numerator and
denominator
( )( )
( )( )
2 2
2 1
2
lim
x x
x x
x
+
=
Cancel common factors
2
1
2
lim
x
x
x
+
=
2 2
2 1
+
=
Direct substitution
0 =
At first Direct
Substitution fails
because x=2 results
in 0/0. (Remember
that this means the
limit probably exists.)
This function is
equivalent to the
original function except
at x=2
Example 2
Evaluate the limit analytically:
2 2
2
2
lim
y
y
y
+
2 2
2 2
y
y
+ +
+ +
=
Cancel common factors
( )
( )
2
2 22
2
lim
y
y y
y
++
=
1
22
2
lim
y
y
++
=
Direct substitution
1 1
4
222 ++
= =
Example 3
Evaluate the limit analytically:
1 1
3
3
3
lim
x
x
x
3
3
x
x
Cancel the
denominators
of the fractions
in the
numerator
( )
3
33
3
lim
x
x x
x
=
If the subtraction is
backwards, Factoring a
negative 1 to flip the signs
( )
( )
3
33
3
lim
x
x x
x
=
( )
( )
3
33
3
lim
x
x x
x
=
Direct substitution
1 1
33 9
==
Cancel common factors
1
3
3
lim
x
x
=
= lim
h0
h h10 ( )
h
Example 4
Evaluate the limit analytically:
Expand the
the expression
to see if
anything
cancels
Direct substitution
Factor to see if anything
cancels
lim
h0
h5 ( )
2
25
h
= lim
h0
h5 ( ) h5 ( )25
h
= lim
h0
h
2
10h+2525
h
= lim
h0
h
2
10h
h
= 10
= lim
h0
h 10 ( )
= 0 10
= lim
xt 4
sin xcosx ( )
sin xcosx ( )cosx
Example 5
Evaluate the limit analytically:
Rewrite the
tangent
function using
cosine and
sine
Direct substitution
Eliminate the
embedded fraction
lim
xt 4
1tanx
sin xcosx
= lim
xt 4
1
sin x
cosx
sin xcosx
cosx
cosx
= lim
xt 4
cosxsin x
sin xcosx ( )cosx
=
1
2 2
= lim
xt 4
1
cosx
=
1
cos
t
4
( )
If the subtraction
is backwards,
Factoring a
negative 1 to flip
the signs
= 2
Two Freebie Limits
0
sin
lim 1
x
x
x
=
0
1cos
lim 0
x
x
x
=
The following limits can be assumed to be true (they will be proven later in the
year) to assist in finding other limits:
Use the identities to help with these limits. They are located on the first page of
your textbook.
Example 1
Evaluate the limit analytically:
sin3
5
0
lim
x
x
x
3
3
If 3x is the
input of the
sine function
then 3x needs
to be in the
denominator
3sin3
5 3
0
lim
x
x
x
=
3 sin3
5 3
0
lim
x
x
x
=
3 sin3
5 3
0
lim
x
x
x
=
Assumed Trig Limit
3
5
=
Scalar Multiple Property
3
5
1 =
Isolate the freebie
= lim
x0
sin
2
x
x sin x 1+cosx ( )
Example 2
Evaluate the limit analytically:
Try multiplying
by the
reciprocal
A freebie limit and Direct
substitution
lim
x 0
1cosx
x sin x
= lim
x0
1+cosxcosxcos
2
x
x sin x 1+cosx ( )
1+cosx
1+cosx
= lim
x0
1cos
2
x
x sin x 1+cosx ( )
= lim
x 0
sin x
x 1+cosx ( )
=1
1
1+cos0
Use the
Trigonometry
Laws
=
1
2
= lim
x0
sin x
x
lim
x0
1
1+cosx
Split up the limits
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