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6.3: Verifying Trigonometric Identities

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    Learning Objectives.

    • Verify the fundamental trigonometric identities.
    • Simplify trigonometric expressions using algebra and the identities.

    In this section, we will begin an examination of the fundamental trigonometric identities, including how we can verify them and how we can use them to simplify trigonometric expressions.

    Trigonometric Identities

    Identities enable us to simplify complicated expressions. We can use algebraic techniques to simplify trigonometric expressions. Basic properties and formulas of algebra, such as the difference of squares formula and the perfect squares formula, will simplify the work involved with trigonometric expressions and equations. Consequently, any trigonometric identity can be written in many ways.

    To verify the trigonometric identities, we usually start with the more complicated side of the equation and essentially rewrite the expression until it has been transformed into the same expression as the other side of the equation. Sometimes we have to factor expressions, expand expressions, find common denominators, or use other algebraic strategies to obtain the desired result.

    We will begin with reviewing the fundamental identities already introduced in a previous section: the Pythagorean Identities, the Even-Odd (or Negative Angle) Identities, the Reciprocal Identities, and the Quotient Identities.


    The Pythagorean Identities are based on the properties of a right triangle.

    \({\sin}^2 \theta+{\cos}^2 \theta=1\) \(1+{\cot}^2 \theta={\csc}^2 \theta\) \(1+{\tan}^2 \theta={\sec}^2 \theta\)

    The Even-Odd (or Negative Angle) Identities relate the value of a trigonometric function at a given angle to the value of the function at the opposite angle of a right triangle.

    \(\tan(−\theta)=−\tan \theta\) \(\sin(−\theta)=−\sin \theta\) \(\cos(−\theta)=\cos \theta\)
    \(\cot(−\theta)=−\cot \theta\) \(\csc(−\theta)=−\csc \theta\) \(\sec(−\theta)=\sec \theta\)

    The Reciprocal Identities define reciprocals of the trigonometric functions.

    \(\sin \theta=\dfrac{1}{\csc \theta}\) \(\cos \theta = \dfrac{1}{\sec \theta}\) \(\tan \theta=\dfrac{1}{\cot \theta}\) 
     \(\csc \theta=\dfrac{1}{\sin \theta}\) \(\sec \theta=\dfrac{1}{\cos \theta}\)  \(\cot \theta=\dfrac{1}{\tan \theta}\)

    The Quotient Identities define relationships among the trigonometric functions.

    \(\tan \theta=\dfrac{\sin \theta}{\cos \theta}\) \(\cot \theta=\dfrac{\cos \theta}{\sin \theta}\)

    \(\PageIndex{1}\) Summary of Basic Trigonometric Identities

    These relationships are called identities. Identities are statements that are true for all values of the input on which they are defined. For example, \( 2x+6 = 2(x+3) \) is an example of an identity. Identities are usually something that can be derived from definitions and relationships we already know. The Pythagorean Identity we learned earlier was derived from the Pythagorean Theorem and the definitions of sine and cosine. We will discuss the role of identities more after an example.

    Simplifying a Trigonometric Expression

    Just as we often need to simplify algebraic expressions, it is often also necessary or helpful to simplify trigonometric expressions. To do so, we utilize the definitions and identities we have established.

    Example \(\PageIndex{2}\): Simplify

    Simplify \(\dfrac{\sec \left(\theta \right)}{\tan \left(\theta \right)}\).


    \( \begin{array} {lll }
    \dfrac{ \;\;    \sec \left(\theta \right)\;\;}{\tan \left(\theta \right)}    &= \dfrac{\;\;  \dfrac{1}{\cos(\theta)}     \;\;}{  \dfrac{\sin(\theta)}{\cos(\theta)} } &\text{Simplify: rewrite both functions in terms of sine and cosine } \\
        &= \dfrac{1}{\cos \left(\theta \right)} \cdot \dfrac{\cos \left(\theta \right)}{\sin \left(\theta \right)}&\text{Divide fractions: invert and multiply } \\
        &= \dfrac{1}{\sin \left(\theta \right)} &\text{Cancel the cosines } \\
        &= \csc \left(\theta \right) &\text{Simplify: use Reciprocal Identity } \\
    \end{array} \)

    By showing that \(\dfrac{\sec \left(\theta \right)}{\tan \left(\theta \right)}\) can be simplified to \(\csc \left(\theta \right)\), we have, in fact, established a new identity: \(\dfrac{\sec \left(\theta \right)}{\tan \left(\theta \right)} =\csc \left(\theta \right)\).

    try-it.png Try It \(\PageIndex{2}\)

    Simplify the expression by rewriting and using identities: \({\csc}^2 \theta−{\cot}^2 \theta\)


    {\csc}^2 \theta−{\cot}^2 \theta &= (1+{\cot}^2 \theta) -{\cot}^2 \theta    & \text{Use the Pythagorean Identity:  } 1+{\cot}^2 \theta = {\csc}^2 \\
     &= 1+{\cot}^2 \theta-{\cot}^2 \theta\\
     &= 1 \end{align*}\]

    Verifying A Trigonometric Identity

    Occasionally a question may ask you to “prove the identity” or “establish the identity.” This is the same idea as when an algebra book asks a question like “show that \((x-1)^{2} =x^{2} -2x+1\).” In this type of question, we must show the algebraic manipulations that demonstrate that the left and right side of the equation are in fact equal. You can think of a “prove the identity” problem as a simplification problem where you know the answer: you know what the end goal of the simplification should be, and just need to show the steps to get there.

    To prove an identity, in most cases you will start with the expression on one side of the identity and manipulate it using algebra and trigonometric identities until you have simplified it to the expression on the other side of the equation. Do not treat the identity like an equation to solve – it is NOT an equation! The proof is establishing the two expressions are equal, so we must take care to work with one side at a time rather than applying an operation simultaneously to both sides of the equation.

    Example \(\PageIndex{3}\): Verify

    Prove the identity \(\dfrac{1+\cot (\alpha )}{\csc (\alpha )} =\sin (\alpha )+\cos (\alpha )\).


    Since the left side seems a bit more complicated, we will start there and simplify the expression until we obtain the right side. We can use the right side as a guide for what might be good steps to make. In this case, the left side involves a fraction while the right side doesn’t, which suggests we should look to see if the fraction can be reduced.

    Additionally, since the right side involves sine and cosine and the left does not, it suggests that rewriting the cotangent and cosecant using sine and cosine might be a good idea.

    \( \begin{array} {l|ll }
    \dfrac{1+\cot (\alpha )}{\csc (\alpha )}   &=    \sin (\alpha )+\cos (\alpha ) & \text{Rewrite the cotangent and cosecant} \\[2pt]
    = \dfrac{\; 1+\dfrac{\cos (\alpha )\; \;}{\sin (\alpha )} }{\dfrac{1}{\sin (\alpha )} }  &     & \text{Divide fractions: invert and multiply} \\[2pt]
    = \left(1+\dfrac{\cos (\alpha )}{\sin (\alpha )} \right) \cdot \dfrac{\sin (\alpha )}{1}  &    &  \text{Distribute}  \\[2pt]
    = 1\cdot \dfrac{\sin (\alpha )}{1} +\dfrac{\cos (\alpha )}{\sin (\alpha )} \cdot \dfrac{\sin (\alpha )}{1}  &    & \text{Simplify fractions}   \\[2pt]
    = \sin (\alpha )+\cos (\alpha ) \;\;\color{Cerulean}{✓}&    &\text{Establish the identity} \\
    \end{array} \)

    Notice that in the second step, we could have combined the 1 and \(\dfrac{\cos (\alpha )}{\sin (\alpha )}\) before inverting and multiplying. It is very common when proving or simplifying identities for there to be more than one way to obtain the same result.

    We can also utilize identities we have previously learned, like the Pythagorean Identity, while simplifying or proving identities.

    Graphically Confirming a Trigonometric Identity

    One way to quickly confirm whether or not an identity is valid, is to graph the expression on each side of the equal sign. If the resulting gtaphs are identical, then the equation is an identity.  

    Example \(\PageIndex{4}\): Confirm graphically

    Graph both sides of the identity \(\cot \theta=\dfrac{1}{\tan \theta}\). In other words, on the graphing calculator, graph \(y=\cot \theta\) and \(y=\dfrac{1}{\tan \theta}\).


    See Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\).


    We see only one graph because both expressions generate the same image. One is on top of the other. This is a good way to prove any identity. If both expressions give the same graph, then they must be identities.

    Graph of y = cot(theta) and y=1/tan(theta) from -2pi to 2pi. They are the same!
    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\)

    Verifying Trig Identities 

    how-to.png How to: Given a trigonometric identity, verify that it is true.

    1. Work on one side of the equation. Do NOT - absolutely NOT EVER - use Properties of Equality like adding/subtracting/multiplying/or dividing the same expression to both sides of the equal sign. Work ONLY on one side of the equal sign.
    2. It is usually better to start with the more complex side, as it is easier to simplify than to build.
    3. Look for opportunities to
    • Multiply expressions out and combine like terms
      or factor expressions and cancel,
    • Split apart fractions
      or rewrite fractions with  a common denominator and combine fractions into a single fraction,
    • Simplify two term denominators by using a Pythagorean substitution
      or simplify two term denominators by multiplying numerator and denominator by the conjugate of the binomial denominator.
    1. Observe which functions are in the final expression, and look for opportunities to use identities and/or employ substitutions that would make both sides of both sides of the equal sign have
    • the number of terms  
    • the same functions in the numerators and/or denominators.
    1. If these steps do not yield the desired result, try converting all terms to sines and cosines.

    Example \(\PageIndex{5}\): Creating and Verifying an Identity

    Create an identity for the expression \(2 \tan \theta \sec \theta\) by rewriting strictly in terms of sine.


    There are a number of ways to begin, but here we will use the quotient and reciprocal identities to rewrite the expression:

    \[\begin{align*} 2 \tan \theta \sec \theta
    &= 2\left (\dfrac{\sin \theta}{\cos \theta}\right )\left(\dfrac{1}{\cos \theta}\right )\\
    &= \dfrac{2\sin \theta}{{\cos}^2 \theta}\\
    &= \dfrac{2\sin \theta}{1-{\sin}^2 \theta} &&\text{Substitute } 1-{\sin}^2 \theta \text{ for } {\cos}^2 \theta

    Thus,  \(2 \tan \theta \sec \theta=\dfrac{2 \sin \theta}{1−{\sin}^2 \theta}\)


    Example \(\PageIndex{6}\): Verify a Trigonometric Identity - Cancel

    Verify \(\tan \theta \cos \theta=\sin \theta\).


    We will start on the left side, as it is the more complicated side:

    \( \begin{array} {l|ll }
    \tan \theta \cos \theta     &=   \sin \theta      &\text{Use the Quotient Identity: } \dfrac{\sin \theta}{\cos \theta}  \\[2pt]
    = \left(\dfrac{\sin \theta}{\cos \theta}\right)\cos \theta     &     &\text{Rewrite as product of fractions}    \\[2pt]
    = \dfrac{\sin \theta}{\cos \theta} \cdot \dfrac{\cos \theta }{1}    &     &\text{Cancel}    \\[2pt]
    = \sin \left(\theta \right) \;\;\color{Cerulean}{✓}&    &\text{Establish the identity} \\
    \end{array} \)


    This identity was fairly simple to verify, as it only required writing \(\tan \theta\) in terms of \(\sin \theta\) and \(\cos \theta\).

    try-it.png Try It  \(\PageIndex{6}\)

    Verify the identity \(\csc \theta \cos \theta \tan \theta=1\).


    \( \csc \theta \cos \theta \tan \theta     = \left(\dfrac{1}{\sin \theta}\right)    \cos \theta    \left(\dfrac{\sin \theta}{\cos \theta}\right)     
    = \dfrac{1}{\sin \theta}   \cdot \dfrac{\cos \theta}{1}   \cdot \dfrac{\sin \theta}{\cos \theta}    
    = \dfrac{\cos \theta  \sin \theta}{ \sin \theta  \cos \theta}    
    = 1 \;\;\color{Cerulean}{✓}\)

    Example \(\PageIndex{7}\): Verify a Trigonometric Identity - Multiply Out

    Verify the following equivalency:

    \((1+\sin x)(1+\sin(−x))={\cos}^2 x\)


    Working on the left side of the equation, we have

    \( \begin{array} {l|ll }
    (1+\sin x)(1+\sin(−x))     &=   \cos^2 x   &\text{Use the Even/Odd Identity: } \sin(-x) = -\sin x  \\[2pt]
    = (1+\sin x)(1-\sin x)    &     &\text{Multiply out}    \\[2pt]
    = 1 - \sin x + \sin x   -\sin^2 x     &    &\text{Combine like terms} \\[2pt]
    = 1 - \sin^2 x     &    &\text{Use the Pythagorean Identity: } \cos ^{2} x+\sin ^{2} x=1  \\[2pt]
    =  \cos^2 x      \;\;\color{Cerulean}{✓}     &    &\text{Establish the identity} \\
    \end{array} \)

    Example \(\PageIndex{8}\): Verify a Trigonometric Identity - Factor

    Establish the identity \(\dfrac{\cos ^{2} \left(\theta \right)}{1+\sin \left(\theta \right)} =1-\sin \left(\theta \right)\).


    Since the left side of the identity is more complicated, it makes sense to start there. To simplify this, we will have to reduce the fraction, which would require the numerator to have a factor in common with the denominator. Additionally, we notice that the right side only involves sine. Both of these suggest that we need to convert the cosine into something involving sine.

    Recall the Pythagorean Identity told us \(\cos ^{2} (\theta )+\sin ^{2} (\theta )=1\). By moving one of the trig functions to the other side, we can establish:

    \[\sin ^{2} (\theta )=1-\cos ^{2} (\theta )\quad \text{ and }\quad \cos ^{2} (\theta )=1-\sin ^{2} (\theta )\nonumber\]

    Utilizing this, we now can establish the identity. 

    \( \begin{array} {l|ll }
    \dfrac{\cos ^{2} \left(\theta \right)}{1+\sin \left(\theta \right)}      &=   1-\sin \left(\theta \right)   &\text{Use the Pythagorean Identity: } \cos ^{2} (\theta )+\sin ^{2} (\theta )=1  \\[2pt]
    = \dfrac{1-\sin ^{2} \left(\theta \right)}{1+\sin \left(\theta \right)}    &     &\text{Factor the numerator}    \\[2pt]
    = \dfrac{\left(1-\sin \left(\theta \right)\right)\left(1+\sin \left(\theta \right)\right)}{1+\sin \left(\theta \right)}      &    &\text{Cancel like factors } \\[2pt]
    = 1-\sin \left(\theta \right) \;\;\color{Cerulean}{✓}&    &\text{Establish the identity} \\
    \end{array} \)

    Example \(\PageIndex{9}\): Verify a Trigonometric Identity - Factor

    Verify the identity:

    \(\dfrac{{\sin}^2(−\theta)−{\cos}^2(−\theta)}{\sin(−\theta)−\cos(−\theta)}=\cos \theta−\sin \theta\)


    Let’s start with the left side and simplify:

    \( \begin{array} {l|ll }
    \dfrac{{\sin}^2(−\theta)−{\cos}^2(−\theta)}{\sin(−\theta)−\cos(−\theta)}     &=   \cos \theta−\sin \theta  &\text{ }   \\[4pt]
    = \dfrac{{[\sin(-\theta)]}^2-{[\cos(-\theta)]}^2}{\sin(-\theta)-\cos(-\theta)}   &     &\text{Use Even\Odd Identities:  } \sin(-x) = -\sin\space x\text { and } \cos(-x)=\cos \space x   \\[2pt]
    = \dfrac{{(-\sin \theta)}^2-{(\cos \theta)}^2}{-\sin \theta -\cos \theta}    &    &\text{Factor a difference of squares; Factor out a common negative. }  \\[2pt]
    = \dfrac{(\sin \theta-\cos \theta)(\sin \theta+\cos \theta)}{-(\sin \theta+\cos \theta)}         &    &\text{Cancel} \\
    = \dfrac{(\sin \theta-\cos \theta)}{-1}         &    &\text{ } \\
    = \cos \theta-\sin \theta     \;\;\color{Cerulean}{✓}     &    &\text{Establish the identity} \\
    \end{array} \)

    try-it.pngTry It \(\PageIndex{10}\): Factor

    Verify the identity \(\dfrac{{\sin}^2 \theta−1}{\tan \theta \sin \theta−\tan \theta}=\dfrac{\sin \theta+1}{\tan \theta}\).


    \( \dfrac{{\sin}^2 \theta-1}{\tan \theta \sin \theta-\tan \theta}= \dfrac{(\sin \theta +1)(\sin \theta -1)}{\tan \theta(\sin \theta -1)}= \dfrac{\sin \theta+1}{\tan \theta} \)

    Example \(\PageIndex{11}\): Verify a Trigonometric Identity - Add fractions

    Verify the identity: \((1−{\cos}^2 x)(1+{\cot}^2 x)=1\).


    \( \begin{array} {l|ll }
    (1-{\cos}^2 x)(1+{\cot}^2 x) &= 1 &\text{Use Quotient Identity:  }  \cot x = \dfrac{\cos x}{\sin x} \\
    = (1-{\cos}^2 x)\left(1+\dfrac{{\cos}^2 x}{{\sin}^2 x}\right) && \text{Find the common denominator} \\
    = (1-{\cos}^2 x)\left(\dfrac{{\sin}^2 x}{{\sin}^2 x}+\dfrac{{\cos}^2 x}{{\sin}^2 x}\right ) \\
    = (1-{\cos}^2 x)\left(\dfrac{{\sin}^2 x +{\cos}^2 x}{{\sin}^2 x}\right) &&\text{Use the Pythagorean Identity:  } \cos ^{2} x )+\sin ^{2} x )=1  \\
    = ({\sin}^2 x)\left (\dfrac{1}{{\sin}^2 x}\right )  && \text{Cancel} \\
    = 1 \end{array}\)

    Example \(\PageIndex{12}\): Verify a Trigonometric Identity - Split or Shear Fractions

    Verify the identity \(\dfrac{{\sec}^2 \theta−1}{{\sec}^2 \theta}={\sin}^2 \theta\)


    As the left side is more complicated, let’s begin there.

    \( \begin{array} {l|ll }
    \dfrac{{\sec}^2 \theta−1}{\sec^2 \theta}     &=   {\sin}^2 \theta   &\text{Use the Pythagorean Identity: } \tan ^2 (\theta )+1=\sec ^{2} (\theta )    \\[2pt]
    = \dfrac{ (\tan ^2 (\theta )+1)−1}{\sec^2 \theta}        &     &\text{Simplify}   \\[2pt]
    = \dfrac{{\tan}^2 \theta}{{\sec}^2 \theta}    &    &\text{"Shear" the fraction} \\[2pt]
    = \dfrac{\tan^2 \theta}{1} \cdot \dfrac{1}{\sec^2 \theta}    &    &\text{Use Reciprocal Identity:  } \dfrac{1}{\sec \theta}=\cos\theta  \\[2pt]
    = \tan^2 \theta \cdot \cos^2 \theta    &    &\text{Use Quotient Identity:  } \tan \theta = \dfrac{\sin \theta}{\cos\theta}  \\[2pt]
    = \dfrac{\sin^2 \theta}{\cos^2 \theta}\cdot \cos^2 \theta    &    &\text{Cancel}  \\[2pt]
    =  {\sin}^2 \theta     \;\;\color{Cerulean}{✓}     &    &\text{Establish the identity} \\
    \end{array} \)

    There is more than one way to verify an identity. Here is another possibility. Again, we can start with the left side.

    \( \begin{array} {l|ll }
    \dfrac{{\sec}^2 \theta−1}{{\sec}^2 \theta}     &=   {\sin}^2 \theta   &\text{Split the fraction apart}   \\[4pt]
    = \dfrac{{\sec}^2 \theta}{{\sec}^2 \theta}-\dfrac{1}{{\sec}^2 \theta}    &     &\text{Simplify. Use Reciprocal Identity:  } \dfrac{1}{\sec \theta}=\cos\theta   \\[2pt]
    = 1-{\cos}^2 \theta    &    &\text{Use the Pythagorean Identity: } \cos ^{2} (\theta )+\sin ^{2} (\theta )=1  \\[2pt]
    =  {\sin}^2 \theta     \;\;\color{Cerulean}{✓}     &    &\text{Establish the identity} \\
    \end{array} \)


    In the first method, we used the identity \({\sec}^2 \theta={\tan}^2 \theta+1\) and continued to simplify. In the second method, we split the fraction, putting both terms in the numerator over the common denominator. This problem illustrates that there are multiple ways we can verify an identity. Employing some creativity can sometimes simplify a procedure. As long as the substitutions are correct, the answer will be the same.

    try-it.png Try It \(\PageIndex{13}\): Complex Fraction

    Show that \(\dfrac{\cot \theta}{\csc \theta}=\cos \theta\).


    \( \dfrac{\cot \theta}{\csc \theta} = \dfrac{\dfrac{\cos \theta}{\sin \theta}}{\dfrac{1}{\sin \theta}} = \dfrac{\cos \theta}{\sin \theta}\cdot \dfrac{\sin \theta}{1} = \cos \theta \)

    Example \(\PageIndex{14}\): Verify a Trigonometric Identity - 2 term denominator

    Use algebraic techniques to verify the identity: \(\dfrac{\cos \theta}{1+\sin \theta}=\dfrac{1−\sin \theta}{\cos \theta}\).

    (Hint: Multiply the numerator and denominator on the left side by \(1−\sin \theta\), the conjugate of the denominator.)


    \(\begin{array} {l|ll}
    \dfrac{\cos \theta}{1+\sin \theta} &=\dfrac{1−\sin \theta}{\cos \theta} & \text{Multiply by a  \(\color{Cerulean}{"1"}\) composed of the conjugate of the denominator}\\
    =\dfrac{\cos \theta}{1+\sin \theta}  \color{Cerulean}{ \left(\dfrac{1-\sin \theta}{1-\sin \theta}\right) }&&\\
    = \dfrac{\cos \theta (1-\sin \theta)}{1-{\sin}^2 \theta}  &&\text{Use the Pythagorean Identity:  } \cos ^{2} \theta +\sin ^{2} \theta =1  \\
    = \dfrac{\cos \theta (1-\sin \theta)}{{\cos}^2 \theta}&&\\
    = \dfrac{1-\sin \theta}{\cos \theta}   \;\;\color{Cerulean}{✓}     &    &\text{Establish the identity}


    Use Identities to Solve Trigonometric Equations

    When solving some trigonometric equations, it becomes necessary to first rewrite the equation using trigonometric identities. One of the most common is the Pythagorean Identity, \(\sin ^{2} (\theta )+\cos ^{2} (\theta )=1\) which allows you to rewrite \(\sin ^{2} (\theta )\) in terms of \(\cos ^{2} (\theta )\) or vice versa. These identities become very useful whenever an equation involves a combination of sine and cosine functions.

    Example \(\PageIndex{15}\): Use Pythagorean Identities 

    Solve \(2\sin ^{2} (t)-\cos (t)=1\) for all solutions with \(0\le t<2\pi\).


    Since this equation has a mix of sine and cosine functions, it becomes more complicated to solve. It is usually easier to work with an equation involving only one trig function. This is where we can use the Pythagorean Identity.

    \[2\sin ^{2} (t)-\cos (t)=1\nonumber\]Using \(\sin ^{2} (\theta )=1-\cos ^{2} (\theta )\)
    \[2\left(1-\cos ^{2} (t)\right)-\cos (t)=1\nonumber\]Distributing the 2
    \[2-2\cos ^{2} (t)-\cos (t)=1\nonumber\]

    Since this is now quadratic in cosine, we rearrange the equation so one side is zero and factor.

    \[-2\cos ^{2} (t)-\cos (t)+1=0\nonumber\]Multiply by -1 to simplify the factoring
    \[2\cos ^{2} (t)+\cos (t)-1=0\nonumber\]Factor
    \[\left(2\cos (t)-1\right)\left(\cos (t)+1\right)=0\nonumber\]

    This product will be zero if either factor is zero, so we can break this into two separate cases and solve each independently.

    \(2\cos (t)-1=0\text{ or }\cos (t)+1=0\)
    \(\cos (t)=\dfrac{1}{2}\text{ or }\cos (t)=-1\)
    \(t=\dfrac{\pi }{3}\text{ or }t=\dfrac{5\pi }{3}\text{ or }t=\pi\)

    try-it.png Try It \(\PageIndex{15}\)

    Solve \(2\sin ^{2} (t)=3\cos (t)\) for all solutions with \(0\le t<2\pi\).


    \(2\left(1-\cos ^{2} (t)\right)=3\cos (t)\)
    \(2\cos ^{2} (t)+3\cos (t)-2=0\)
    \(\left(2\cos (t)-1\right)\left(\cos (t)+2\right)=0\)
    \(\cos (t)+2=0\) has no solutions;      \(2\cos (t)-1=0\) at \(t=\dfrac{\pi }{3} ,\dfrac{5\pi }{3}\)

    In addition to the Pythagorean Identity, it is often necessary to rewrite the tangent, secant, cosecant, and cotangent as part of solving an equation.

    Example \(\PageIndex{16}\): Use a Quotient Identity

    Solve \(\tan (x)=3\sin (x)\) for all solutions with \(0\le x<2\pi\).


    With a combination of tangent and sine, we might try rewriting tangent

    \(\tan (x)=3\sin (x)\)
    \[\dfrac{\sin (x)}{\cos (x)} =3\sin (x)\nonumber\]

    Multiplying both sides by cosine
    \[\sin (x)=3\sin (x)\cos (x) \nonumber\]

    At this point, you may be tempted to divide both sides of the equation by sin(\(x\)).

    Resist the urge. When we divide both sides of an equation by a quantity, we are assuming the quantity is never zero. In this case, when sin(\(x\)) = 0 the equation is satisfied, so we’d lose those solutions if we divided by the sine.

    To avoid this problem, we can rearrange the equation so that one side is zero (You technically can divide by sin(x), as long as you separately consider the case where sin(x) = 0. Since it is easy to forget this step, the factoring approach used in the example is recommended.).

    \[\sin (x)-3\sin (x)\cos (x)=0\nonumber\]Factoring out sin(\(x\)) from both parts
    \[\sin (x)\left(1-3\cos (x)\right)=0 \nonumber\]

    From here, we can see we get solutions when \(\sin (x)=0\) or \(1-3\cos (x)=0\).

    Using our knowledge of the special angles of the unit circle,

    \[\sin (x)=0\text{ when }x = 0\text{ or }x = \pi\nonumber\]

    For the second equation, we will need the inverse cosine.

    \(1-3\cos (x)=0\)
    \[\cos (x)=\dfrac{1}{3}\nonumber\]

    Using our calculator or technology
    \[x=\cos ^{-1} \left(\dfrac{1}{3} \right)\approx 1.231\nonumber\]

    Using symmetry to find a second solution
    \[x=2\pi -1.231=5.052 \nonumber\]

    We have four solutions on \(0 \le x<2\pi\):

    \[x = 0, 1.231, \quad\pi , 5.052\nonumber\]

    Example \(\PageIndex{17}\): Use Reciprocal Identities

    Solve \(\sec (\theta )=2\cos (\theta )\) to find the first four positive solutions.


    \(\dfrac{1}{\cos (\theta )} =2\cos (\theta ) \)
    \(  \dfrac{1}{2} =\cos ^{2} (\theta ) \)
    \(   \cos (\theta )=\pm \sqrt{\dfrac{1}{2} } =\pm \dfrac{\sqrt{2} }{2} \)
    \(   \theta =\dfrac{\pi }{4} ,\dfrac{3\pi }{4} ,\dfrac{5\pi }{4} ,\dfrac{7\pi }{4} \)

    Example \(\PageIndex{18}\): Use Reciprocal Identities

    Solve \(\dfrac{4}{\sec ^{2} (\theta )} +3\cos \left(\theta \right)=2\cot \left(\theta \right)\tan \left(\theta \right)\) for all solutions with \(0\le \theta <2\pi\).


    \[\dfrac{4}{\sec ^{2} (\theta )} +3\cos \left(\theta \right)=2\cot \left(\theta \right)\tan \left(\theta \right)\nonumber\] Using the reciprocal identities
    \[4\cos ^{2} (\theta )+3\cos (\theta )=2\dfrac{1}{\tan (\theta )} \tan (\theta )\nonumber\] Simplifying
    \[4\cos ^{2} \left(\theta \right)+3\cos \left(\theta \right)=2\nonumber\] Subtracting 2 from each side
    \[4\cos ^{2} \left(\theta \right)+3\cos \left(\theta \right)-2=0\nonumber\]

    This does not appear to factor nicely so we use the quadratic formula, remembering that we are solving for cos( \(\theta\)).

    \[\cos (\theta )=\dfrac{-3\pm \sqrt{3^{2} -4(4)(-2)} }{2(4)} =\dfrac{-3\pm \sqrt{41} }{8}\nonumber\]

    Using the negative square root first,

    \[\cos (\theta )=\dfrac{-3-\sqrt{41} }{8} =-1.175\nonumber\]

    This has no solutions, since the cosine can’t be less than -1.

    Using the positive square root,

    \[\cos (\theta )=\dfrac{-3+\sqrt{41} }{8} =0.425\nonumber\]
    \[\theta =\cos ^{-1} \left(0.425\right)=1.131\nonumber\] By symmetry, a second solution can be found
    \[\theta =2\pi -1.131=5.152\nonumber\]

    Key Concepts

    • There are multiple ways to represent a trigonometric expression. Verifying the identities illustrates how expressions can be rewritten to simplify a problem.
    • Graphing both sides of an identity will verify it. 
    • Simplifying one side of the equation to equal the other side is another method for verifying an identity. 
    • The approach to verifying an identity depends on the nature of the identity. It is often useful to begin on the more complex side of the equation. 
    • We can create an identity and then verify it. 
    • Verifying an identity may involve algebra with the fundamental identities. 
    • Algebraic techniques can be used to simplify trigonometric expressions. We use algebraic techniques throughout this text, as they consist of the fundamental rules of mathematics. 

    Contributors and Attributions

    6.3: Verifying Trigonometric Identities is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.