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A line that a curve approaches, as it heads towards infinity:

Types

There are three types: horizontal, vertical and oblique:

the curve can approach from any side (such as from above or below for a

horizontal asymptote),

or may actually cross over (possibly many times), and even move away and

back again.

The important point is that:

The distance between the curve and the asymptote tends to zero as

they head to infinity (or infinity)

Horizontal Asymptotes

It is a Horizontal Asymptote when:

as x goes to infinity (or infinity) the curve

approaches some constant value b

Vertical Asymptotes

It is a Vertical Asymptote when:

as x approaches some constant value c (from the left

or right) then the curve goes towards infinity (or

infinity).

Oblique Asymptotes

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as x goes to infinity (or infinity)then the curve goes

towards a liney=mx+b

(note: m is not zero as that is a Horizontal

Asymptote).

Example: (x2-3x)/(2x-2)

The graph of (x2-3x)/(2x-2) has:

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The graph of a quadratic function is a parabola. The axis of symmetry of a parabola is a vertical

line that divides the parabola into two congruent halves. The axis of symmetry always passes

through the vertex of the parabola. The x-coordinate of the vertex is the equation of the axis of

symmetry of the parabola.

For a quadratic function in standard form, y = ax2 + bx + c, the axis of symmetry is a vertical

line

Example:

Find the axis of symmetry of the parabola shown.

The x-coordinate of the vertex is the equation of the axis of symmetry of the parabola.

The vertex of the parabola is (2, 1).

So, the axis of symmetry is the line x = 2.

Example:

Find the axis of symmetry of the graph of y = x2 6 x + 5 using the formula.

For a quadratic function in standard form, y = ax2 + bx + c, the axis of symmetry is a vertical

line

Here, a = 1, b = 6, and c = 5.

Substitute.

Simplify.

Sections: Vertical asymptotes, Horizontal asymptotes, Slant asymptotes, Examples

Vertical asymptotes are vertical lines which correspond to the zeroes of the denominator of arational

function. (They can also arise in other contexts, such as logarithms, but you'll almost certainly first

encounter asymptotes in the context of rationals.)

Let's consider the following equation:

This is a rational function. More to the point, this is a fraction. Can you have a zero in the denominator of

a fraction? No. So if I set the denominator of the above fraction equal to zero and solve, this will tell me

the values that xcannot be:

x2 5x 6 = 0

(x 6)(x + 1) = 0

x = 6 or 1

So x cannot be

You can see how the graph avoided the vertical lines x = 6 and x = 1. This avoidance occurred

because x cannot be 1 or 6. In other words, the fact that the function's domain is restricted is reflected in

the function's graph. More usefully, you can use the domain to help you graph, because whichever values

are not allowed in the domain will be vertical asymptotes on the graph.

line to remind you not to graph there, like this:

the sides of the asymptote on the left. This is

common. As long as you don't draw the

graphcrossing the vertical asymptote, you'll be fine.)

Let's review this relationship between the domain and the vertical asymptotes.

Find the domain and vertical asymptotes(s), if any, of the following function:

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The domain is the set of all xvalues that I'm allowed to use.

The only values that could be

disallowed are those that give me

a zero in the denominator. So I'll

set the denominator equal to zero

and solve.

x2 + 2x 8 = 0

(x + 4)(x 2) = 0

x = 4 or x = 2

Since I can't have a zero in the

denominator, then I can't have x =

4 orx = 2 in the domain. This tells me that the vertical asymptotes (which tell me where the

graph can not go) will be at the values x = 4 or x = 2.

domain:

vertical asymptotes:

x = 4, 2

Note that the domain and vertical asymptotes are "opposites". The vertical asymptotes are at

and the domain is everywhere but 4 and 2. This is always true.

4 and 2,

Find the domain and vertical asymptote(s), if any, of the following function:

To find the domain and vertical asymptotes, I'll set the denominator equal to zero and solve. The

solutions will be the values that are not allowed in the domain, and will also be the vertical

asymptotes.

x2 + 9 = 0

x2 = 9

Oops! That doesn't solve! So there are no zeroes in the denominator. Since there are no zeroes

in the denominator, then there are no forbidden x-values, and the domain is "all x". Also, since

there are no values forbidden to the domain, there are no vertical asymptotes.

domain: all x

vertical asymptotes: none

Note again how the domain and vertical asymptotes were "opposites" of each other.

Find the domain and vertical asymptote(s), if any, of the following function:

x2 + 5x + 6 = 0

(x + 3)(x + 2) = 0

x = 3 or x = 2

Since I can't divide by zero, then I have vertical asymptotes at

domain is all other x-values.

domain:

vertical asymptotes:

x = 3 and x = 2

When graphing, remember that vertical asymptotes stand for x-values that are not allowed. Vertical

asymptotes are sacred ground. Never, on pain of death, can you cross a vertical asymptote. Don't even

try!

Finding Horizontal

Asymptotes

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but does not actually reach. Here is a simple graphical example where the

graphed function approaches, but never quite reaches, y=0. In fact, no

matter how far you zoom out on this graph, it still won't reach zero.

However, I should point out that horizontal asymptotes may only appear in one

direction, and may be crossed at small values of x. They will show up for

large values and show the trend of a function as x goes towards positive or

negative infinity.

"y=". You can expect to find horizontal asymptotes when you are plotting a

rational function, such as: [Math Processing Error]. Horizontal asymptotes occur

when the graph of the function grows closer and closer to a particular value

without ever actually reaching that value as x gets very positive or very

negative.

1) Put equation or function in y= form.

2) Multiply out (expand) any factored polynomials in the numerator or

denominator.

3) Remove everything except the terms with the biggest exponents of x found

in the numerator and denominator. These are the "dominant" terms.

Sample A: Find the horizontal asymptotes of:

negative infinity, so we need to figure out what this fraction approaches as x

gets huge. To do that, we'll pick the "dominant" terms in the numerator and

denominator. Dominant terms are those with the largest exponents. As x goes

to infinity, the other terms are essentially meaningless.

The largest exponents in this case are the same in the numerator and

denominator (3). The dominant terms in each have an exponent of 3. Get rid

of the other terms and then simplify by crossing-out the[Math Processing

Error] in the top and bottom:

In this case, 2/3 is the horizontal asymptote of the above function. You

should actually express it as y=2/3. This value is the asymptote because

when we approach x=infinity, the "dominant" terms will dwarf the rest and

the function will always get closer and closer to y=2/3. Here's a graph of

that function as a final illustration that this is correct:

If the exponent in the denominator of the function is larger than the exponent in

the numerator, the horizontal asymptote will be y=0, which is the x-axis. As

x approaches positive or negative infinity, that denominator will be much,

much larger than the numerator (infinitely larger, in fact) and will make the

overall fraction equal zero.

If there is a bigger exponent in the numerator of a given function, then there is

NO horizontal asymptote. For example:

exponent in the numerator, which is 3. See it? This will make the function

increase forever instead of closely approaching an asymptote. The plot of

this function is below. Note that again there are also vertical

asymptotes present on the graph.

the function to standard form as indicated in the above steps before Sample A.

That means we have to multiply it out, so that we can observe the dominant

terms.

Sample B, in standard form, looks like this:

Next: Follow the steps from before. We drop everything except the biggest

exponents of x found in the numerator and denominator. After doing so, the

above function becomes:

Cancel [Math Processing Error] in the numerator and denominator and we are

left with 2. Our horizontal asymptote for Sample B is the horizontal line y=2.

Related Lessons:

Asymptotes, Finding Asymptotes, Graphing Rational Functions, Rational Functions

Asymptote Calculator

Just type your function and select "Find the Asymptotes" from the drop down

box. Click answer to see all asymptotes (completely free), or sign up for a

free trial to see the full step-by-step details of the solution.

Horizontal Asymptotes (page 2 of 4)

Examples

just useful suggestions. Whereas you can never touch a vertical asymptote,

you can (and often do) touch and even cross horizontal asymptotes.

Whereas vertical asymptotes indicate very specific behavior (on the graph),

usually close to the origin, horizontal asymptotes indicate general behavior

far off to the sides of the graph. To get the idea of horizontal asymptotes,

let's looks at some simple examples.

Find the horizontal asymptote of the following function:

The horizontal asymptote tells me, roughly, where the graph will go when x

is really, really big. So I'll look at some very big values for x, some values of

x very far from the origin:x

100 000

0.0000099...

10 000

0.0000999...

1 000

0.0009979...

100 0.0097990...

10

0.0792079...

0.5

1.5

10

0.1188118...

100

0.0101989...

1 000 0.0010019...

10 000

0.0001000...

100 000

0.0000100...

Off to the sides of the graph, where x is strongly negative (such as 1,000)

or strongly positive (such as 10000), the "+2" and the "+1" in the

expression for y really don't matter so much. I ended up having a really big

number divided by a really big number squared, which "simplified" to be a

very small number. The y-value came mostly from the "x" and the "x2". And

since the x2 was "bigger" than the x, the x2 dragged the whole fraction

down to y = 0 (that is, the x-axis) when x got big.

The graph shows some slightly interesting behavior in the middle, near the

origin, but the rest of the graph is fairly boring, trailing along the x-axis.

If I zoom in on the origin, I can also see that the graph crosses the

horizontal asymptote (at the arrow): Copyright Elizabeth Stapel 20032011 All Rights Reserved

(It is common and perfectly okay to cross a horizontal asymptote. It's the

vertical asymptotes that I'm not allowed to touch.)

As I can see in the table of values and the graph, the horizontal asymptote is

the x-axis.

bigger than the degree on the numerator (namely, 1), and the horizontal

asymptote was y = 0 (the x-axis). This property is always true: If the

degree on x in the denominator is larger than the degree on x in the

numerator, then the denominator, being "stronger", pulls the fraction down

to the x-axis when x gets big. That is, if the polynomial in the denominator

has a bigger leading exponent than the polynomial in the numerator, then

the graph trails along the x-axis at the far right and the far left of the graph.

What happens if the degrees are the same in the numerator and

denominator?

Find the horizontal asymptote of the following:

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Unlike the previous example, this function has degree-2 polynomials top and

bottom; in particular, the degrees are the same in the numerator and the

denominator. Since the degrees are the same, the numerator and

denominator "pull" evenly; this graph should not drag down to the x-axis,

nor should it shoot off to infinity. But where will it go?

Again, I need to think in terms of big values for x. When x is really big, I'll

have, roughly, twice something big (minus an eleven) divided by once

something big (plus a nine). As you might guess from the last exercise, the

"11" and the "+9" won't matter much for really big values of x. Far off to

the sides of the graph, I'll roughly have "2x2/x2", which reduces to just 2.

Does a table of values bear this out? Let's check:x

100 000

1.9999999...

10 000

1.9999997...

1 000

1.9999710...

100 1.9971026...

10

1.7339449...

0.9

1.2222222...

0.9

10

1.7339449...

100

1.9971026...

1 000 1.9999710...

10 000

1.9999997...

100 000

1.9999999...

In the example above, the degrees on the numerator and denominator were

the same, and the horizontal asymptote turned out to be the horizontal line

whose y-value was equal to the value found by dividing the leading

coefficients of the two polynomials. This is always true: When the degrees of

the numerator and the denominator are the same, then the horizontal

asymptote is found by dividing the leading terms, so the asymptote is given

by:

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