# Computing Limits

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Computing Limits – HMC Calculus Tutorial

Intuitively, we say that $\displaystyle \lim_{x\to c} f(x)=L$ if $f$ is defined near, but not necessarily at, $c$ and $f(x)$ approaches $L$ as $x$ approaches $c$.

If we let $x$ approach $c$ from the left side only, we write $\displaystyle \lim_{x\to c^-} f(x)$ since $x$ is approaching $c$ from smaller values. Similarly, for $x$ approaching $c$ from the right, we write $\displaystyle \lim_{x\to c^+} f(x)$. The two-sided limit $\displaystyle \lim_{x\to c} f(x)$ exists if and only if both of these one-sided limits exist and are equal.

#### An Intuitive Example

Consider the graph of a function $f(x)$ shown below.

Evaluate each of the following. Click each one to check your reasoning.

#### Definition of the Limit

More rigorously, let $f$ be defined at all $x$ in an open interval containing $c$, except possibly at $c$ itself.

Then $\lim_{x\to c} f(x)=L$ if and only if for each $\varepsilon >0$, there exists a $\delta >0$ such that ${\small\textrm{if }} 0<|x-c|<\delta {\small\textrm{ then }}|f(x)-L|<\varepsilon.$ In words, $\displaystyle \lim_{x\to c} f(x)=L$ if and only if by taking $x$ close enough to $c$ we can get $f(x)$ arbitrarily close to $L$.

#### Properties of the Limit

Each of the following properties is proven using the rigorous definition of the limit. Let $\lim$ stand for $\displaystyle \lim_{x\to c}$, $\displaystyle \lim_{x\to c^+}$, or $\displaystyle \lim_{x\to c^-}$. Assume $\lim f(x)$ and $\lim g(x)$ both exist.

• Uniqueness  If $\lim f(x)=L_1$ and $\lim f(x)=L_2$, then $L_1=L_2$.

• Addition  $\lim [f(x)+g(x)]=\lim f(x) +\lim g(x)$.

• Scalar multiplication  $\lim [\alpha f(x)]=\alpha \lim f(x)$.

• Multiplication  $\lim [f(x)g(x)]=\lim f(x) \cdot \lim g(x)$.

• Division  $\displaystyle \lim \frac{f(x)}{g(x)}=\frac{\lim f(x)}{\lim g(x)}$, provided $\lim g(x)\neq 0$.

• Powers  $\displaystyle \lim [f(x)]^n=[\lim f(x)]^n$ for any positive integer $n$.

In practice, much of the time we can “reason out” the value of a limit without explicitly using the $\varepsilon$–$\delta$ definition.

###### Example
• $\displaystyle\lim_{x\to 2} \sqrt{x^2+12}=4$ since the function $f(x)=\sqrt{x^2+12}$ is continuous at $x=2$ and $f(2)=4$.
• $\displaystyle\lim_{x\to \infty} \frac{1}{x}=0$ since as $x$ increases, $\displaystyle \frac{1}{x}$ gets arbitrarily close to $0$.
• $\displaystyle\lim_{x\to 0^+} \ln |x|$ tends to $-\infty$ and so does not exist since as $x$ decreases to $0$, $\ln |x|$ gets arbitrarily large in magnitude and negative.
• $\displaystyle\lim_{x\to 3} \frac{x^2-9}{x-3}=6$ even though $\displaystyle f(x)=\frac{x^2-9}{x-3}$ is undefined at $3$ since $\displaystyle \frac{x^2-9}{x-3}=x+3$ and $\displaystyle \lim_{x\to 3} x+3 =6$.

What about something like $\displaystyle\lim_{x\to 0} \frac{\sin x}{x}$? When we cannot easily “reason out” the value of a limit, we can often use numerical methods or L’Hôpital’s Rule to determine the value of the limit. Can you convince yourself that $\displaystyle\lim_{x\to 0} \frac{\sin x}{x}=1$?

### Key Concepts

Let $f$ be defined at all $x$ in an open interval containing $c$, except possibly at $c$ itself.

Then $\lim_{x\to c} f(x)=L$ if and only if for each $\varepsilon >0$, there exists a $\delta >0$ such that ${\small\textrm{if }} 0<|x-c|<\delta {\small\textrm{ then }}|f(x)-L|<\varepsilon.$ In words, $\displaystyle \lim_{x\to c} f(x)=L$ if and only if by taking $x$ close enough to $c$ we can get $f(x)$ arbitrarily close to $L$.