Some of the content of this guide was modeled after a guide originally created by Openstax and has been adapted for the GPRC Learning Commons in September 2021. The graphs are generated using Desmos. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY 4.0 International License.
The limit of a function can be generalized as:
"as the value of x approaches a, f(x) approaches L."
The formula is written as shown below, where L is any real number and where x approaches but does not equal
One method to find a limit of a function is to use the values of nearby variables and observe how the result of the function trends towards a common value from the lower and higher variables. The table below shows the limit of f(x)=x² as x approaches 2 and is an example of evaluating a limit using functional values.
x  f(x) = x²  x  f(x)=x² 

1.0  1.0  3.0  9.0 
1.5  2.25  2.5 
6.25 
1.75  3.063  2.25  5.063 
1.875  3.516  2.125  4.516 
1.95  3.802  2.05  4.202 
1.99  3.96  2.01  4.04 
1.999  3.996  2.001  4.004 
Table 1: x approaching 2 for f(x)=x²
As the value of x gets closer and closer to 2, the value of f(x) gets closer and closer to 4. From this result, we can write the notation below:
Property  Description 


The limit of a constant, c, is equal to c 

The limit of the variable x as it approaches a is equal to a 

The limit of the variable x raised to the power n is the value of a raised to the power n


The limit of the variable x to the root of n is the value of a to the root of n
or

Table 2: Basic Limits Results
Not all functions can be defined at all points, so there is a concept of onesided limits. Onesided limits can be described as:
or
The function shown below has an undefined value at x = 1 or x = –1 and as we will show, two separate limits from the left and the right for x = 1.
The function can be rewritten as a combination of two functions over a specific domain:
With the new equations for the function, we can find the limits from the left, where x < 1, and the right, where x > 1:
Although we are able to determine a leftsided limit and a rightsided limit, these two limits are not equal. As there is no single number that the function approaches, we can conclude that the limit of the function does not exist.
As x approaches the value 4, we can see visually that the function will trend towards the value 2 from both the left and the right.
For the plot shown below, we are viewing the function
As x approaches the value 4, we can see visually that the function will trend towards the value 4 from both the left and the right.
For the plot shown below, we are viewing the function
As x approaches the value 0.5, we can see visually that the function will trend towards the value 0.125 from both the left and the right.
For the plot shown below, we are viewing the function
As x approaches the value 0.5, we can see visually that the function will trend towards the value 0.841 from both the left and the right. As this is an even root, the function is not valid for negative values of x.
For the plot shown below, we are viewing the function
As x approaches the value –0.5, we can see visually that the function will trend towards the value – 0.794 from both the left and the right. As this is an odd root, the function is valid for negative values of x.