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Lecture 2: Limits

August 2, 2016

1. Limits
The concept of limit is one of the fundamental ideas that distinguishes Calculus from Algebra and Trignom-
etry. It is indeed the central concept on which the important notions of derivatives and integrals are defined.
Intuitively, we use limits to characterise how a function varies. Loosely speaking,
if a function f (x) gets arbitrarily close to L, as we get arbitrarily close to x0 , we say that lim f (x) = L.
xx0

x2 1
QUESTION: 1.1. How does the function f (x) = vary as x 1?
x1

x
QUESTION: 1.2. How about the function f (x) = as x 0?
|x|

So, really what value the function f (x) takes, as x approaches 0, in the above question seems to depend on
whether we approach 0 from the right or left. This necessitates the definition of one sided limits.

1.1. One Sided Limits


Let f (x) be defined on an interval (a, b), where a < b. If f (x) gets arbitrarily close to L, as x approaches a
from within the interval, we say that lim f (x) = L.
xa+
Let f (x) be defined on an interval (c, a), where c < a. If f (x) gets arbitrarily close to M , as x approaches
a from within the interval, we say that lim f (x) = M .
xa
x
Hence, for the function, f (x) = , we have, lim f (x) = 1 and lim = 1.
|x| x0+ x0
A function f (x) has a limit L, as x approaches x0 , if and only if it has left hand and right hand limits exist
and are equal, i.e.,

lim f (x) = L lim f (x) = L = lim f (x)


xx0 xx xx+
0 0
Evaluate the following for the func- 3

tion depicted by the graph :


2.5

lim f (x), lim f (x),


x0+ x0 2
lim f (x)
x0

f(x)
1.5

lim f (x), lim f (x),


x1+ x1
lim f (x) 1

x1
0.5
lim f (x), lim f (x),
x2+ x2
lim f (x) 0
x2 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5
x
3 3.5 4 4.5 5

lim f (x), lim f (x),


x3+ x3
lim f (x)
x3

lim f (x), lim f (x),


x4+ x4
lim f (x)
x4
Figure 1: Piecewise linear function

1. The right hand limit:


We say that f (x) has right hand limit L at x0 , i.e, lim f (x) = L,
xx+
0
if for every number > 0, a corresponding number > 0, such that x0 < x < x0 + =
|f (x) L| < .

2. The left hand limit:


We say that f (x) has left hand limit L at x0 , i.e, lim f (x) = L,
xx
0
if for every number > 0, a corresponding number > 0, such that x0 < x < x0 =
|f (x) L| < .

3. We say that f (x) has the limit L at x0 , i.e, lim f (x) = L,


xx0
if for every number > 0, a corresponding number > 0, such that x0 < x < x0 + , x 6= x0 ,
= |f (x) L| < . In other words, 0 < |x x0 | < = |f (x) L| < .

EXAMPLE: 1.1. Show that lim (5x 3) = 2


x1
Set x0 = 1, f (x) = 5x 3, and L = 2 in the definition of limit. For any given > 0, we have to
find suitable > 0 so that if x 6= 1 and x is within distance of x0 = 1, i.e., if

0 < |x 1| <

then, f (x) is within distance of L = 2, that is,

|f (x) 2| <

We find by working backwards from the - inequality:

|(5x 3) 2| = |5x 5| <


5|x 1| <
|x 1| < /5

Thus, we can take = /5. If 0 < |x 1| < = /5, then

|(5x 3) 2| = |5x 5| = 5|x 1| < 5(/5) =

This proves that lim (5x 3) = 2.


x1

Remark 1. The value of we found is not the only one for which the inequality |5x 5| < holds.
Any smaller positive will do as well.

QUESTION: 1.3. Verify: a) lim x = x0 and b) lim k = k.


xx0 xx0
1.2. Finding Deltas algebraically for given epsilons

EXAMPLE: 1.2. For the limit lim x 1 = 2, find a > 0 that works for = 1.
x5

We find for such problems as follows:

1. Solve the inequality |f (x) L| < to find an open interval (a, b) about x0 on which the
inequality holds for all x 6= x0 .
So, in our case, we need to solve | x 1 2| < 1, to find an interval about x0 = 5 on which
the inequality holds for all x 6= x0 .

| x 1 2| < 1

1 < x 1 2 < 1

1< x1<3
1<x1<9
2 < x < 10

2. Find a value of > 0, that places the open interval (x0 , x0 + ) centered at x0 inside the
interval (a, b). The inequality |f (x) L| < will hold for all x 6= x0 in this -interval.
So, in our case, we need to find a value of > 0 that places the centered interval 5 <
x < 5 + , inside the interval (2, 10). If we take to be smaller than3, then the inequality
0 < |x 5| < will automatically place x between 2 and 10 to make | x 1 2| < 1.

Let us now summarize the rules for finding limits. In words, we have:

1. The limit of the sum of two functions is the sum of their limits.

2. The limit of the difference of two functions is the difference of their limits.

3. The limit of the product of two functions is the product of their limits.

4. The limit of a constant times a function is that constant times the limit of the function.

5. The limit of the quotient of two functions is the quotient of their limits, provided the limit of
the denomitor is not zero.

6. The limit of any rational power of a function is that power of the limit of the function, provided
the latter is a real number.

EXERCISE: 1.1. Write the above mathematical facts written in plain english, as mathematical
statements.
EXERCISE: 1.2. Find the following limit, using the theorem above:
x3 + 4x2 3
lim
xx0 x2 + 5

Theorem 1. A function f (x) has a limit L as x approaches x0 if and only if the left hand and right hand
limits are equal.

Remark 2. We will not bother to prove this theorem now, but will do so after the formal definitions
of all these quantities have been introduced.

READING ASSIGNMENT: pg. 46-73


Thomass Calculus and Analytic Geometry, Thomas, Weir and Hass, Twelfth edition, Pearson

HOME ASSIGNMENT:
Ex. 2.2: 17, 21, 22, 36, 38, 39, 40, 51, 54, 55, 63, 65, 75, 76, 78, 80
Ex. 2.3: 11, 13, 17, 18, 19, 28, 29, 33, 34, 55, 56, 61, 64, 66