topic badge
iGCSE (2021 Edition)

7.11 Amplitude, vertical shifts and dilations of trigonometric graphs

Lesson

The graphs of trigonometric functions $y=\sin x$y=sinx, $y=\cos x$y=cosx, and $y=\tan x$y=tanx have repeated sections. Functions that repeat themselves in fixed intervals are called periodic. The graphs of $y=\sin x$y=sinx and $y=\cos x$y=cosx are defined by their amplitude, phase and period, while the graph of $y=\tan x$y=tanx is defined by its period and phase only, as it does not have maximum or minimum values.

In this lesson, we will define amplitude and consider the transformation of trigonometric graphs through vertical shifts and dilations. In subsequent lessons we will look at the definition of the period and phase shifts of trigonometric functions.

Amplitude

The sine and cosine functions have a minimum value, a maximum value, and an average value about which they oscillate. Both of the basic functions $y=\sin x$y=sinx and $y=\cos x$y=cosx have a maximum value of $1$1, a minimum value of $-1$1, and an average value of $0$0. The distance of the maximum (or minimum) value from the average value is called the amplitude.

The range of sine and cosine functions is given by the difference between their maximum and minimum values. The amplitude is then half of the range (that is, $\frac{\text{max}-\text{min}}{2}$maxmin2). Note that the amplitude is always a positive number.

 

The tangent function can obtain a value of any real number depending on the angle - that is, the tangent function varies between $+\infty$+ and $-\infty$, and so there is no meaningful interpretation of amplitude for the tangent function.

Vertical translations

In general, we say that the graph of a function $y=f\left(x\right)$y=f(x) is vertically translated when the resulting graph has the form $y=f\left(x\right)+c$y=f(x)+c, where $c$c is a non-zero constant.

Graphically speaking, a vertical translation takes each point on the graph of $y=f\left(x\right)$y=f(x) and adds (or subtracts) a constant to the $y$y-value of each point. For instance, all of the points on the graph of $y=\cos x$y=cosx shown below have been shifted upwards according to the constant term.

$y=\cos x$y=cosx vertically translated upwards by a positive constant $c$c.

 

The constant term does not necessarily have to be positive. In the case that $c$c is negative (that is $c<0$c<0), the resulting graph will be translated vertically downwards.

$y=\sin x$y=sinx vertically translated downwards by a negative constant $c$c.
 

Note that for the sine, cosine, and tangent functions, vertical translations do not change the domain. For sine and cosine functions the limits of the range either increase or decrease by the amount of the vertical translation, while the range of the tangent function remains unchanged when vertically translated.

Worked example

Example 1

Sketch the function $y=|2\sin x|$y=|2sinx| for $0\le x\le2\pi.$0x2π.

Think: First we should graph the function $y=2\sin x$y=2sinx without the absolute value signs. 

Do: We know that the amplitude of this function is $2$2 and the period of the function is $2\pi.$2π.

By substituting a few values of $x$x into the function we can quickly see the shape it will make:

  • When $x=0:\quad y=2\sin0=0$x=0: y=2sin0=0
  • When $x=\frac{\pi}{2}:\quad y=2\sin\frac{\pi}{2}=2\times1=2$x=π2: y=2sinπ2=2×1=2
  • When $x=\pi:\quad y=2\sin\pi=2\times0=0$x=π: y=2sinπ=2×0=0

By plotting these values we can sketch the function $y=2\sin x$y=2sinx:

To graph the absolute value function $y=|2\sin x|$y=|2sinx|, we must reflect the part of the curve that is below the $x$x-axis, by the $x$x-axis, to get: 

 

Practice questions

Question 1

Which of the following is the graph of $y=\sin x+4$y=sinx+4?

  1. Loading Graph...

    A

    Loading Graph...

    B

    Loading Graph...

    C

    Loading Graph...

    D

    Loading Graph...

    A

    Loading Graph...

    B

    Loading Graph...

    C

    Loading Graph...

    D

Question 2

Which of the following is the graph of $y=\tan x-1$y=tanx1?

  1. Loading Graph...

    A

    Loading Graph...

    B

    Loading Graph...

    C

    Loading Graph...

    D

    Loading Graph...

    A

    Loading Graph...

    B

    Loading Graph...

    C

    Loading Graph...

    D

Vertical dilations of sine and cosine functions

A vertical dilation of a function occurs when we multiply the function by a scale factor. That is, a function $kf\left(x\right)$kf(x) will be vertically dilated by a factor of $k$k. Equations of the form $y=k\sin x$y=ksinx or $y=k\cos x$y=kcosx undergo vertical dilation by a factor $k$k and have an amplitude of $k$k units.

Graphically this transformation corresponds to stretching the graph of $\sin x$sinx or $\cos x$cosxin the vertical direction when $k>1$k>1, and compressing the graph of $\sin x$sinx or $\cos x$cosx in the vertical direction when $00<k<1. This action of stretching and compressing the graph of a function is known as dilation. We can also reflect the graph across the $x$x-axis by multiplying the whole function by $-1$1. The diagram below shows sine graphs with different amplitudes.

When the graphs of $\sin x$sinx or $\cos x$cosx are vertically dilated by a factor $k$k, the domain remains constant but the range of the function changes by the factor of the dilation.

We can summarise the effects of vertical dilations on the graphs of $y=\sin x$y=sinx or $y=\cos x$y=cosx and their amplitudes as follows:

Function Dilation Amplitude
$y=k\sin x$y=ksinx

vertical stretch $|k|>1$|k|>1

vertical compression $0<|k|<1$0<|k|<1

horizontal reflection $k<0$k<0

$|k|$|k|
$y=k\cos x$y=kcosx

vertical stretch $|k|>1$|k|>1

vertical compression $0<|k|<1$0<|k|<1

horizontal reflection $k<0$k<0

$|k|$|k|

Worked examples

Example 2

State the amplitude of the function $f\left(x\right)=5\sin x$f(x)=5sinx.

Think: When we compare $f\left(x\right)$f(x) to the standard function $\sin x$sinx we can see that all the function values of $5\sin x$5sinx will be five times larger than all the function values of $\sin x$sinx. This means that the amplitude of $5\sin x$5sinx is also five times larger than the amplitude of $\sin x$sinx.

Do: The amplitude of $\sin x$sinx is $1$1, so the amplitude of $f\left(x\right)=5\sin x$f(x)=5sinx is $5\times1=5$5×1=5.

Reflect: We can obtain the graph of $f\left(x\right)=5\sin x$f(x)=5sinx by starting with the graph of $y=\sin x$y=sinx and applying a vertical dilation by a factor of $5$5.

 

Practice questions

Question 3

Determine the equation of the graphed function given that it is of the form $y=a\sin x$y=asinx or $y=a\cos x$y=acosx.

Loading Graph...

Question 4

Consider the function $y=-3\cos x$y=3cosx.

  1. What is the maximum value of the function?

  2. What is the minimum value of the function?

  3. What is the amplitude of the function?

  4. Select the two transformations that are required to turn the graph of $y=\cos x$y=cosx into the graph of $y=-3\cos x$y=3cosx.

    Vertical dilation.

    A

    Horizontal translation.

    B

    Reflection about the $x$x-axis.

    C

    Vertical translation.

    D

    Vertical dilation.

    A

    Horizontal translation.

    B

    Reflection about the $x$x-axis.

    C

    Vertical translation.

    D