Skip to main content
\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)
Mathematics LibreTexts

7.4: Simplify Complex Rational Expressions

  • Page ID
    30942
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    Summary

    By the end of this section, you will be able to:

    • Simplify a complex rational expression by writing it as division
    • Simplify a complex rational expression by using the LCD

    Before you get started, take this readiness quiz.

    1. Simplify: \(\frac{\frac{3}{5}}{\frac{9}{10}}\).
      If you missed this problem, review [link].
    2. Simplify: \(\frac{1−\frac{1}{3}}{4^2+4·5}\).
      If you missed this problem, review [link].
    3. Solve: \(\frac{1}{2x}+\frac{1}{4}=\frac{1}{8}\).
      If you missed this problem, review [link].

    Simplify a Complex Rational Expression by Writing it as Division

    Complex fractions are fractions in which the numerator or denominator contains a fraction. We previously simplified complex fractions like these:

    3458x2xy63458x2xy6

    In this section, we will simplify complex rational expressions, which are rational expressions with rational expressions in the numerator or denominator.

    COMPLEX RATIONAL EXPRESSION

    A complex rational expression is a rational expression in which the numerator and/or the denominator contains a rational expression.

    Here are a few complex rational expressions:

    4y−38y2−91x+1yxy−yx2x+64x−6−4x2−364y−38y2−91x+1yxy−yx2x+64x−6−4x2−36

    Remember, we always exclude values that would make any denominator zero.

    We will use two methods to simplify complex rational expressions.

    We have already seen this complex rational expression earlier in this chapter.

    6x2−7x+24x−82x2−8x+3x2−5x+66x2−7x+24x−82x2−8x+3x2−5x+6

    We noted that fraction bars tell us to divide, so rewrote it as the division problem:

    (6x2−7x+24x−8)÷(2x2−8x+3x2−5x+6).(6x2−7x+24x−8)÷(2x2−8x+3x2−5x+6).

    Then, we multiplied the first rational expression by the reciprocal of the second, just like we do when we divide two fractions.

    This is one method to simplify complex rational expressions. We make sure the complex rational expression is of the form where one fraction is over one fraction. We then write it as if we were dividing two fractions.

    Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 6x−43x2−16.6x−43x2−16.

    Rewrite the complex fraction as division.Rewrite as the product of first times thereciprocal of the second.Factor.Multiply.Remove common factors.Simplify.6x−43x2−166x−4÷3x2−166x−4·x2−1633·2x−4·(x−4)(x+4)33·2(x−4)(x+4)3(x−4)3·2(x−4)(x+4)3(x−4)2(x+4)6x−43x2−16Rewrite the complex fraction as division.6x−4÷3x2−16Rewrite as the product of first times thereciprocal of the second.6x−4·x2−163Factor.3·2x−4·(x−4)(x+4)3Multiply.3·2(x−4)(x+4)3(x−4)Remove common factors.3·2(x−4)(x+4)3(x−4)Simplify.2(x+4)

    Are there any value(s) of x that should not be allowed? The original complex rational expression had denominators of x−4x−4 and x2−16.x2−16. This expression would be undefined if x=4x=4 or x=−4.x=−4.

    Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 2x2−13x+1.2x2−13x+1.

    23(x−1)23(x−1)

    Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 1x2−7x+122x−4.1x2−7x+122x−4.

    12(x−3)12(x−3)

    Fraction bars act as grouping symbols. So to follow the Order of Operations, we simplify the numerator and denominator as much as possible before we can do the division.

    Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 13+1612−13.13+1612−13.

    .
    Simplify the numerator and denominator.
    Find the LCD and add the fractions in the numerator.
    Find the LCD and subtract the fractions in the
    denominator.
    .
    Simplify the numerator and denominator. .
    Rewrite the complex rational expression as a division
    problem.
    .
    Multiply the first by the reciprocal of the second. .
    Simplify. 3

    Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 12+2356+112.12+2356+112.

    14111411

    Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 34−1318+56.34−1318+56.

    10231023

    We follow the same procedure when the complex rational expression contains variables.

    How to Simplify a Complex Rational Expression using Division

    Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 1x+1yxy−yx.1x+1yxy−yx.

    Step 1 is to simplify the sum in the numerator and the difference in the denominator of complex rational expression, the quantity 1 divided by x plus 1 divided by y all divided by the quantity x divided by y minus y divided by x. The common denominator of the fractions in the complex rational expression is x y. Multiply the numerator and denominator of 1 divided by x by y over y. Multiply the numerator and denominator of 1 divided by y by x over x. Multiply the numerator and denominator of x divided by y by x over x. Multiply the numerator and denominator of y over x by y over y. The result is the quantity y divided by x y plus x divided by x y all divided by the quantity x squared divided by x y minus y squared divided by x y. Add the fractions in the numerator and subtract the fractions in the denominator. The result is the sum of y and x divided by x y all divided by the difference between x squared and y squared divided by x y. We now have just one rational expression in the numerator and one in the denominator.Step 2 is to rewrite the complex rational expression as a division problem. Write the numerator divided by the denominator. The result is the quantity of the sum y and x divided by x y all divided by the quantity of the difference between x squared and y squared divided by x y.Step 3 is to divided the expressions. Multiply the first expression by the reciprocal of the second expression. The result is the quantity of the sum y and x divided by x y times the quantity x y divided by the difference between x squared and y squared. Factor any expressions if possible. The result is the product of x y and the sum of y and x all divided by the product of x y, the difference between x and y, and the sum of x and y. Remove the common factors, x y and the sum of x and y. Simplify. The result is 1 divided by the quantity x minus y.

    Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 1x+1y1x−1y.1x+1y1x−1y.

    y+xy−xy+xy−x

    Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 1a+1b1a2−1b21a+1b1a2−1b2.

    abb−aabb−a

    We summarize the steps here.

    SIMPLIFY A COMPLEX RATIONAL EXPRESSION BY WRITING IT AS DIVISION.

    1. Simplify the numerator and denominator.
    2. Rewrite the complex rational expression as a division problem.
    3. Divide the expressions.

    Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: n−4nn+51n+5+1n−5.n−4nn+51n+5+1n−5.

    .
    Simplify the numerator and denominator.
    Find common denominators for the numerator and
    denominator.
    .
    Simplify the numerators. .
    Subtract the rational expressions in the numerator and
    add in the denominator.
    .
    Simplify. (We now have one rational expression over
    one rational expression.)
    .
    Rewrite as fraction division. .
    Multiply the first times the reciprocal of the second. .
    Factor any expressions if possible. .
    Remove common factors. .
    Simplify. .

    Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: b−3bb+52b+5+1b−5.b−3bb+52b+5+1b−5.

    b(b+2)(b−5)3b−5b(b+2)(b−5)3b−5

    Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 1−3c+41c+4+c3.1−3c+41c+4+c3.

    3c+33c+3

    Simplify a Complex Rational Expression by Using the LCD

    We “cleared” the fractions by multiplying by the LCD when we solved equations with fractions. We can use that strategy here to simplify complex rational expressions. We will multiply the numerator and denominator by the LCD of all the rational expressions.

    Let’s look at the complex rational expression we simplified one way in Example. We will simplify it here by multiplying the numerator and denominator by the LCD. When we multiply by LCDLCDLCDLCD we are multiplying by 1, so the value stays the same.

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 13+1612−13.13+1612−13.

    .
    The LCD of all the fractions in the whole expression is 6.
    Clear the fractions by multiplying the numerator and
    denominator by that LCD.
    .
    Distribute. .
    Simplify. .
    .
    .

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 12+15110+15.12+15110+15.

    7373

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 14+3812−516.14+3812−516.

    103103

    We will use the same example as in Example. Decide which method works better for you.

    How to Simplify a Complex Rational Expressing using the LCD

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 1x+1yxy−yx.1x+1yxy−yx.

    Step 1 is to find the least common denominator of the complex rational expression, the sum of the quantity 1 divided by x and the quantity 1 divided by y all divided by the difference between the quantity x divided by y and the quantity y divided by x.Step 2 is to multiply the numerator and the denominator by the least common denominator, x y. The result is x y times the sum of the quantity 1 divided by x and the quantity 1 divided by y all divided by x y times the difference between the quantity x divided by y and the quantity y divided by x.Step 3 is to simplify the expression. Distribute x y in the numerator and the denominator. The result is x y times 1 divided by x plus x y times 1 divided by y all divided by x y times x divided by y plus x y times y divided by x. It simplifies to the sum of y and x divided by the quantity x squared minus y squared. Write the denominator as the difference of squares, the quantity x minus y times the quantity x plus y. The result is the quantity y plus x all divided by the quantity x minus y times the quantity x plus y. Remove the common factor, y plus x, from the numerator and denominator. The result is 1 divided by the quantity x minus y.

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 1a+1bab+ba.1a+1bab+ba.

    b+aa2+b2b+aa2+b2

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 1x2−1y21x+1y.1x2−1y21x+1y.

    y−xxyy−xxy

    SIMPLIFY A COMPLEX RATIONAL EXPRESSION BY USING THE LCD.

    1. Find the LCD of all fractions in the complex rational expression.
    2. Multiply the numerator and denominator by the LCD.
    3. Simplify the expression.

    Be sure to start by factoring all the denominators so you can find the LCD.

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 2x+64x−6−4x2−36.2x+64x−6−4x2−36.

    .
    Find the LCD of all fractions in the complex rational
    expression. The LCD is x2−36=(x+6)(x−6)x2−36=(x+6)(x−6).
    Multiply the numerator and denominator by the LCD. .
    Simplify the expression.
    Distribute in the denominator. .
    Simplify. .
    Simplify. .
    To simplify the denominator, distribute
    and combine like terms.
    .
    Factor the denominator. .
    Remove common factors. .
    Simplify. .
    Notice that there are no more factors
    common to the numerator and denominator.

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 3x+25x−2−3x2−4.3x+25x−2−3x2−4.

    3(x−2)5x+73(x−2)5x+7

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 2x−7−1x+76x+7−1x2−49.2x−7−1x+76x+7−1x2−49.

    x+216x−43x+216x−43

    Be sure to factor the denominators first. Proceed carefully as the math can get messy!

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 4m2−7m+123m−3−2m−4.4m2−7m+123m−3−2m−4.

    .
    Find the LCD of all fractions in the
    complex rational expression.
    The LCD is (m−3)(m−4).(m−3)(m−4).
    Multiply the numerator and
    denominator by the LCD.
    .
    Simplify. .
    Simplify. .
    Distribute. .
    Combine like terms. .

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 3x2+7x+104x+2+1x+5.3x2+7x+104x+2+1x+5.

    35x+2235x+22

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 4yy+5+2y+63yy2+11y+30.4yy+5+2y+63yy2+11y+30.

    2(2y2+13y+5)3y2(2y2+13y+5)3y

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: yy+11+1y−1.yy+11+1y−1.

    .
    Find the LCD of all fractions in the complex rational expression.
    The LCD is (y+1)(y−1).(y+1)(y−1).
    Multiply the numerator and denominator by the LCD. .
    Distribute in the denominator and simplify. .
    Simplify. .
    Simplify the denominator and leave the
    numerator factored.
    .
    .
    Factor the denominator and remove factors
    common with the numerator.
    .
    Simplify. .

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: xx+31+1x+3.xx+31+1x+3.

    xx+4xx+4

    Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 1+1x−13x+1.1+1x−13x+1.

    x(x+1)3(x−1)x(x+1)3(x−1)

    Access this online resource for additional instruction and practice with complex fractions.

    Key Concepts

    • How to simplify a complex rational expression by writing it as division.
      1. Simplify the numerator and denominator.
      2. Rewrite the complex rational expression as a division problem.
      3. Divide the expressions.
    • How to simplify a complex rational expression by using the LCD.
      1. Find the LCD of all fractions in the complex rational expression.
      2. Multiply the numerator and denominator by the LCD.
      3. Simplify the expression.

    Practice Makes Perfect

    Simplify a Complex Rational Expression by Writing it as Division

    In the following exercises, simplify each complex rational expression by writing it as division.

    2aa+44a2a2−162aa+44a2a2−16

    a−42aa−42a

    3bb−5b2b2−253bb−5b2b2−25

    5c2+5c−1410c+75c2+5c−1410c+7

    12(c−2)12(c−2)

    8d2+9d+1812d+68d2+9d+1812d+6

    12+5623+7912+5623+79

    12131213

    12+3435+71012+3435+710

    23−1934+5623−1934+56

    20572057

    12−1623+3412−1623+34

    nm+1n1n−nmnm+1n1n−nm

    n2+mm−n2n2+mm−n2

    1p+pqqp−1q1p+pqqp−1q

    1r+1t1r2−1t21r+1t1r2−1t2

    rtt−rrtt−r

    2v+2w1v2−1w22v+2w1v2−1w2

    x−2xx+31x+3+1x−3x−2xx+31x+3+1x−3

    (x+1)(x−3)2(x+1)(x−3)2

    y−2yy−42y−4+2y+4y−2yy−42y−4+2y+4

    2−2a+31a+3+a22−2a+31a+3+a2

    4a+14a+1

    4+4b−51b−5+b44+4b−51b−5+b4

    Simplify a Complex Rational Expression by Using the LCD

    In the following exercises, simplify each complex rational expression by using the LCD.

    13+1814+11213+1814+112

    118118

    14+1916+11214+1916+112

    56+29718−1356+29718−13

    1919

    16+41535−1216+41535−12

    cd+1d1d−dccd+1d1d−dc

    c2+cc−d2c2+cc−d2

    1m+mnnm−1n1m+mnnm−1n

    1p+1q1p2−1q21p+1q1p2−1q2

    pqq−ppqq−p

    2r+2t1r2−1t22r+2t1r2−1t2

    2x+53x−5+1x2−252x+53x−5+1x2−25

    2x−103x+162x−103x+16

    5y−43y+4+2y2−165y−43y+4+2y2−16

    5z2−64+3z+81z+8+2z−85z2−64+3z+81z+8+2z−8

    3z−193z+83z−193z+8

    3s+6+5s−61s2−36+4s+63s+6+5s−61s2−36+4s+6

    4a2−2a−151a−5+2a+34a2−2a−151a−5+2a+3

    43a−743a−7

    5b2−6b−273b−9+1b+35b2−6b−273b−9+1b+3

    5c+2−3c+75cc2+9c+145c+2−3c+75cc2+9c+14

    2c+295c2c+295c

    6d−4−2d+72dd2+3d−286d−4−2d+72dd2+3d−28

    2+1p−35p−32+1p−35p−3

    2p−552p−55

    nn−23+5n−2nn−23+5n−2

    mm+54+1m−5mm+54+1m−5

    m(m−5)(4m−19)(m+5)m(m−5)(4m−19)(m+5)

    7+2q−21q+27+2q−21q+2

    In the following exercises, simplify each complex rational expression using either method.

    34−2712+51434−2712+514

    13241324

    vw+1v1v−vwvw+1v1v−vw

    2a+41a2−162a+41a2−16

    2(a−4)2(a−4)

    3b2−3b−405b+5−2b−83b2−3b−405b+5−2b−8

    3m+3n1m2−1n23m+3n1m2−1n2

    3mnn−m3mnn−m

    2r−91r+9+3r2−812r−91r+9+3r2−81

    x−3xx+23x+2+3x−2x−3xx+23x+2+3x−2

    (x−1)(x−2)6(x−1)(x−2)6

    yy+32+1y−3yy+32+1y−3

    Writing Exercises

    In this section, you learned to simplify the complex fraction 3x+2xx2−43x+2xx2−4 two ways: rewriting it as a division problem or multiplying the numerator and denominator by the LCD. Which method do you prefer? Why?

    Answers will vary.

    Efraim wants to start simplifying the complex fraction 1a+1b1a−1b1a+1b1a−1b by cancelling the variables from the numerator and denominator, 1a+1b1a−1b.1a+1b1a−1b. Explain what is wrong with Efraim’s plan.

    Self Check

    ⓐ After completing the exercises, use this checklist to evaluate your mastery of the objectives of this section.

    This table has four columns and three rows. The first row is a header and it labels each column, “I can…”, “Confidently,” “With some help,” and “No-I don’t get it!” In row 2, the I can was simplify a complex rational expression by writing it as division. In row 3, the I can was simplify a complex rational expression by using the least common denominator.

    ⓑ After looking at the checklist, do you think you are well-prepared for the next section? Why or why not?

    Glossary

    complex rational expression
    A complex rational expression is a rational expression in which the numerator and/or denominator contains a rational expression.
    • Was this article helpful?