Squeeze theorem

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In calculus, the squeeze theorem, also known as the pinching theorem, the sandwich theorem, the sandwich rule, and sometimes the squeeze lemma, is a theorem regarding the limit of a function.

The squeeze theorem is used in calculus and mathematical analysis. It is typically used to confirm the limit of a function via comparison with two other functions whose limits are known or easily computed. It was first used geometrically by the mathematicians Archimedes and Eudoxus in an effort to compute π, and was formulated in modern terms by Gauss.

In many languages (e.g. French, German, Italian and Russian), the squeeze theorem is also known as the two policemen (and a drunk) theorem, or some variation thereof. The story is that if two policemen are escorting a drunk prisoner between them, and both officers go to a cell, then (regardless of the path taken, and the fact that the prisoner may be wobbling about between the policemen) the prisoner must also end up in the cell.


The squeeze theorem[1] is formally stated as follows.

Let I be an interval having the point a as a limit point. Let f, g, and h be functions defined on I, except possibly at a itself. Suppose that for every x in I not equal to a, we have:

and also suppose that:


  • The functions and are said to be lower and upper bounds (respectively) of .
  • Here, is not required to lie in the interior of . Indeed, if is an endpoint of , then the above limits are left- or right-hand limits.
  • A similar statement holds for infinite intervals: for example, if , then the conclusion holds, taking the limits as .


From the above hypotheses we have, taking the limit inferior and superior:

so all the inequalities are indeed equalities, and the thesis immediately follows.

A direct proof, using the -definition of limit, would be to prove that for all real there exists a real such that for all with , we have . Symbolically,



means that


means that

then we have

We can choose . Then, if , combining (1) and (2), we have


which completes the proof.


First example[edit]

x2 sin(1/x) being squeezed in the limit as x goes to 0

The limit

cannot be determined through the limit law


does not exist.

However, by the definition of the sine function,

It follows that

Since , by the squeeze theorem, must also be 0.

Second example[edit]

Comparing areas:

Probably the best-known examples of finding a limit by squeezing are the proofs of the equalities

The first limit follows by means of the squeeze theorem from the fact that


for x close enough to 0. The correctness of which for positive x can be seen by simple geometric reasoning (see drawing) that can be extended to negative x as well. The second limit follows from the squeeze theorem and the fact that

for x close enough to 0. This can be derived by replacing in the earlier fact by and squaring the resulting inequality.

These two limits are used in proofs of the fact that the derivative of the sine function is the cosine function. That fact is relied on in other proofs of derivatives of trigonometric functions.

Third example[edit]

It is possible to show that

by squeezing, as follows.


In the illustration at right, the area of the smaller of the two shaded sectors of the circle is

since the radius is sec θ and the arc on the unit circle has length Δθ. Similarly the area of the larger of the two shaded sectors is

What is squeezed between them is the triangle whose base is the vertical segment whose endpoints are the two dots. The length of the base of the triangle is tan(θ + Δθ) − tan(θ), and the height is 1. The area of the triangle is therefore

From the inequalities

we deduce that

provided Δθ > 0, and the inequalities are reversed if Δθ < 0. Since the first and third expressions approach sec2θ as Δθ → 0, and the middle expression approaches (d/) tan θ, the desired result follows.

Fourth example[edit]

The squeeze theorem can still be used in multivariable calculus but the lower (and upper functions) must be below (and above) the target function not just along a path but around the entire neighborhood of the point of interest and it only works if the function really does have a limit there. It can, therefore, be used to prove that a function has a limit at a point, but it can never be used to prove that a function does not have a limit at a point.[3]

cannot be found by taking any number of limits along paths that pass through the point, but since

therefore, by the squeeze theorem,


  1. ^ Sohrab, Houshang H. (2003). Basic Real Analysis (2nd ed.). New York: Birkhäuser. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-4939-1840-9. 
  2. ^ Selim G. Krejn, V.N. Uschakowa: Vorstufe zur höheren Mathematik. Springer, 2013, ISBN 9783322986283, pp. 80-81 (German). See also Sal Khan: Proof: limit of (sin x)/x at x=0 (video, Khan Academy)
  3. ^ Stewart, James (2008). "Chapter 15.2 Limits and Continuity". Multivariable Calculus (6th ed.). pp. 909–910. ISBN 0495011630. 

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