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For lists of antiderivatives of primitive functions, see lists of integrals.
The slope field of F(x) = (x3/3)-(x2/2)-x+c, showing three of the infinitely many solutions that can be produced by varying the arbitrary constant C.

In calculus, an antiderivative, primitive function, primitive integral or indefinite integral[Note 1] of a function f is a differentiable function F whose derivative is equal to the original function f. This can be stated symbolically as F= f.[1][2] The process of solving for antiderivatives is called antidifferentiation (or indefinite integration) and its opposite operation is called differentiation, which is the process of finding a derivative.

Antiderivatives are related to definite integrals through the fundamental theorem of calculus: the definite integral of a function over an interval is equal to the difference between the values of an antiderivative evaluated at the endpoints of the interval.

The discrete equivalent of the notion of antiderivative is antidifference.


The function F(x) = x3/3 is an antiderivative of f(x) = x2. As the derivative of a constant is zero, x2 will have an infinite number of antiderivatives, such as x3/3, x3/3 + 1, x3/3 - 2, etc. Thus, all the antiderivatives of x2 can be obtained by changing the value of C in F(x) = x3/3 + C; where C is an arbitrary constant known as the constant of integration. Essentially, the graphs of antiderivatives of a given function are vertical translations of each other; each graph's vertical location depending upon the value of C.

In physics, the integration of acceleration yields velocity plus a constant. The constant is the initial velocity term that would be lost upon taking the derivative of velocity because the derivative of a constant term is zero. This same pattern applies to further integrations and derivatives of motion (position, velocity, acceleration, and so on).

Uses and properties[edit]

Antiderivatives are important because they can be used to compute definite integrals, using the fundamental theorem of calculus: if F is an antiderivative of the integrable function f and f is continuous over the interval [a, b], then:

Because of this, each of the infinitely many antiderivatives of a given function f is sometimes called the "general integral" or "indefinite integral" of f and is written using the integral symbol with no bounds:

If F is an antiderivative of f, and the function f is defined on some interval, then every other antiderivative G of f differs from F by a constant: there exists a number C such that G(x) = F(x) + C for all x. C is called the arbitrary constant of integration. If the domain of F is a disjoint union of two or more intervals, then a different constant of integration may be chosen for each of the intervals. For instance

is the most general antiderivative of on its natural domain

Every continuous function f has an antiderivative, and one antiderivative F is given by the definite integral of f with variable upper boundary:

Varying the lower boundary produces other antiderivatives (but not necessarily all possible antiderivatives). This is another formulation of the fundamental theorem of calculus.

There are many functions whose antiderivatives, even though they exist, cannot be expressed in terms of elementary functions (like polynomials, exponential functions, logarithms, trigonometric functions, inverse trigonometric functions and their combinations). Examples of these are

From left to right, the first four are the error function, the Fresnel function, the trigonometric integral, and the logarithmic integral function.

See also Differential Galois theory for a more detailed discussion.

Techniques of integration[edit]

Finding antiderivatives of elementary functions is often considerably harder than finding their derivatives. For some elementary functions, it is impossible to find an antiderivative in terms of other elementary functions. See the articles on elementary functions and nonelementary integral for further information.

There are various methods available:

Computer algebra systems can be used to automate some or all of the work involved in the symbolic techniques above, which is particularly useful when the algebraic manipulations involved are very complex or lengthy. Integrals which have already been derived can be looked up in a table of integrals.

Antiderivatives of non-continuous functions[edit]

Non-continuous functions can have antiderivatives. While there are still open questions in this area, it is known that:

  • Some highly pathological functions with large sets of discontinuities may nevertheless have antiderivatives.
  • In some cases, the antiderivatives of such pathological functions may be found by Riemann integration, while in other cases these functions are not Riemann integrable.

Assuming that the domains of the functions are open intervals:

  • A necessary, but not sufficient, condition for a function f to have an antiderivative is that f have the intermediate value property. That is, if [ab] is a subinterval of the domain of f and C is any real number between f(a) and f(b), then f(c) = C for some c between a and b. To see this, let F be an antiderivative of f and consider the continuous function

on the closed interval [ab]. Then g must have either a maximum or minimum c in the open interval (ab) and so

  • The set of discontinuities of f must be a meagre set. This set must also be an F-sigma set (since the set of discontinuities of any function must be of this type). Moreover, for any meagre F-sigma set, one can construct some function f having an antiderivative, which has the given set as its set of discontinuities.
  • If f has an antiderivative, is bounded on closed finite subintervals of the domain and has a set of discontinuities of Lebesgue measure 0, then an antiderivative may be found by integration in the sense of Lebesgue. In fact, using more powerful integrals like the Henstock–Kurzweil integral, every function for which an antiderivative exists is integrable, and its general integral coincides with its antiderivative.
  • If f has an antiderivative F on a closed interval [a,b], then for any choice of partition , if one chooses sample points as specified by the mean value theorem, then the corresponding Riemann sum telescopes to the value F(b) − F(a).
However if f is unbounded, or if f is bounded but the set of discontinuities of f has positive Lebesgue measure, a different choice of sample points may give a significantly different value for the Riemann sum, no matter how fine the partition. See Example 4 below.

Some examples[edit]

  1. The function

    with is not continuous at but has the antiderivative

    with . Since f is bounded on closed finite intervals and is only discontinuous at 0, the antiderivative F may be obtained by integration: .
  2. The function

    with is not continuous at but has the antiderivative

    with . Unlike Example 1, f(x) is unbounded in any interval containing 0, so the Riemann integral is undefined.
  3. If f(x) is the function in Example 1 and F is its antiderivative, and is a dense countable subset of the open interval , then the function

    has an antiderivative

    The set of discontinuities of g is precisely the set . Since g is bounded on closed finite intervals and the set of discontinuities has measure 0, the antiderivative G may be found by integration.
  4. Let be a dense countable subset of the open interval . Consider the everywhere continuous strictly increasing function

    It can be shown that

    Figure 1.
    Figure 2.

    for all values x where the series converges, and that the graph of F(x) has vertical tangent lines at all other values of x. In particular the graph has vertical tangent lines at all points in the set .

    Moreover for all x where the derivative is defined. It follows that the inverse function is differentiable everywhere and that

    for all x in the set which is dense in the interval . Thus g has an antiderivative G. On the other hand, it can not be true that

    since for any partition of , one can choose sample points for the Riemann sum from the set , giving a value of 0 for the sum. It follows that g has a set of discontinuities of positive Lebesgue measure. Figure 1 on the right shows an approximation to the graph of g(x) where and the series is truncated to 8 terms. Figure 2 shows the graph of an approximation to the antiderivative G(x), also truncated to 8 terms. On the other hand if the Riemann integral is replaced by the Lebesgue integral, then Fatou's lemma or the dominated convergence theorem shows that g does satisfy the fundamental theorem of calculus in that context.
  5. In Examples 3 and 4, the sets of discontinuities of the functions g are dense only in a finite open interval . However these examples can be easily modified so as to have sets of discontinuities which are dense on the entire real line . Let
    Then has a dense set of discontinuities on and has antiderivative
  6. Using a similar method as in Example 5, one can modify g in Example 4 so as to vanish at all rational numbers. If one uses a naive version of the Riemann integral defined as the limit of left-hand or right-hand Riemann sums over regular partitions, one will obtain that the integral of such a function g over an interval is 0 whenever a and b are both rational, instead of . Thus the fundamental theorem of calculus will fail spectacularly.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Antiderivatives are also called general integrals, and sometimes integrals. The latter term is generic, and refers not only to indefinite integrals (antiderivatives), but also to definite integrals. When the word integral is used without additional specification, the reader is supposed to deduce from the context whether it is referred to a definite or indefinite integral. Some authors define the indefinite integral of a function as the set of its infinitely many possible antiderivatives. Others define it as an arbitrarily selected element of that set. Wikipedia adopts the latter approach.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Stewart, James (2008). Calculus: Early Transcendentals (6th ed.). Brooks/Cole. ISBN 0-495-01166-5. 
  2. ^ Larson, Ron; Edwards, Bruce H. (2009). Calculus (9th ed.). Brooks/Cole. ISBN 0-547-16702-4. 


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