In mathematics, particularly calculus, a vertical tangent is tangent line that is vertical. Because a vertical line has infinite slope, a function whose graph has a vertical tangent is not differentiable at the point of tangency.
A function ƒ has a vertical tangent at x = a if the difference quotient used to define the derivative has infinite limit:
The first case corresponds to an upward-sloping vertical tangent, and the second case to a downward-sloping vertical tangent. Informally speaking, the graph of ƒ has a vertical tangent at x = a if the derivative of ƒ at a is either positive or negative infinity.
For a continuous function, it is often possible to detect a vertical tangent by taking the limit of the derivative. If
then ƒ must have an upward-sloping vertical tangent at x = a. Similarly, if
then ƒ must have a downward-sloping vertical tangent at x = a. In these situations, the vertical tangent to ƒ appears as a vertical asymptote on the graph of the derivative.
then the graph of ƒ will have a vertical cusp that slopes up on the left side and down on the right side.
As with vertical tangents, vertical cusps can sometimes be detected for a continuous function by examining the limit of the derivative. For example, if
then the graph of ƒ will have a vertical cusp that slopes down on the left side and up on the right side. This corresponds to a vertical asymptote on the graph of the derivative that goes to on the left and on the right.
has a vertical tangent at x = 0, since it is continuous and
Similarly, the function
has a vertical cusp at x = 0, since it is continuous,
Vertical Tangents and Cusps. Retrieved May 12, 2006.