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New Zealand
Level 8 - NCEA Level 3

Complementary results



There are connections between the trigonometric functions that can make simplifications possible.

In a right-angled triangle, the two acute angles together make a right-angle. We say the acute angles are complementary (to one another). If the two acute angles have measures $\alpha$α and $\beta$β, then $\alpha+\beta=90^\circ$α+β=90° and so, $\beta=90^\circ-\alpha$β=90°α.

The diagram below illustrates the following relationships.




Thus, the 'co' in complementary explains the meaning of cosine in relation to sine, and to cotangent in relation to tangent. 

The statements 


$\sin\alpha\equiv\cos\left(90^\circ-\alpha\right)$sinαcos(90°α) and 


are called identities because they are true whatever the value of the angle $\alpha$α.

These identities are true not only in right-angled triangle trigonometry, but they also hold for angles of any size. This can be confirmed by thinking about the geometry in the unit circle diagram that is used for defining the trigonometric functions of angles of any magnitude.


Simplify the relation $\sin\left(90^\circ-\theta\right)=\sqrt{3}\sin\theta$sin(90°θ)=3sinθ

it will be a good plan to try to rearrange the equation so that the trigonometric functions are on one side and the coefficients are on the other. We divide both sides by $\sin\left(90^\circ-\theta\right)$sin(90°θ) and also by $\sqrt{3}$3 to obtain $\frac{1}{\sqrt{3}}=\frac{\sin\theta}{\sin\left(90^\circ-\theta\right)}$13=sinθsin(90°θ). But, $\sin\left(90^\circ-\theta\right)$sin(90°θ) is just $\cos\theta$cosθ.  So, the simplification we seek is


We recognise an exact value for $\tan$tan and conclude that $\theta=30^\circ$θ=30° if $\theta$θ is acute. You should check that there is also a third quadrant solution, $\theta=210^\circ$θ=210°.

Worked Examples

Question 1

By finding the ratio represented by $\sin\theta$sinθ, $\cos\theta$cosθ and $\tan\theta$tanθ in the given figure, we want to prove that $\frac{\sin\theta}{\cos\theta}=\tan\theta$sinθcosθ=tanθ.

  1. Write down the expression for $\sin\theta$sinθ.

  2. Write down the expression for $\cos\theta$cosθ.

  3. Hence, form an expression for $\frac{\sin\theta}{\cos\theta}$sinθcosθ.

  4. Write down the expression for $\tan\theta$tanθ.

  5. Does $\frac{\sin\theta}{\cos\theta}=\tan\theta$sinθcosθ=tanθ?









Question 2

Prove that $\frac{\tan x\cos x}{\sin x}=1$tanxcosxsinx=1.

Question 3

Simplify the following expression using complementary angles:





Manipulate trigonometric expressions


Apply trigonometric methods in solving problems

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