In this section we examine some of the mathematical properties of big oh. In particular, suppose we know that and .

- What can we say about the asymptotic behavior of the
*sum*of and ? (Theorems and ). - What can we say about the asymptotic behavior of the
*product*of and ? (Theorems and ). - How are and related when ? (Theorem ).

The first theorem addresses the asymptotic behavior of the sum of two functions whose asymptotic behaviors are known:

TheoremIf and , then

extbfProof By Definition , there exist two integers, and and two constants and such that for and for .

Let and . Consider the sum for :

Thus, .

According to Theorem ,
if we know that functions and are
and , respectively,
the *sum* is .
The meaning of is this context is
the *function* *h*(*n*) where
for integers all .

For example, consider the functions and . Then

Theorem helps us simplify the asymptotic analysis of the sum of functions by allowing us to drop the required by Theorem in certain circumstances:

TheoremIf in which and are both non-negative for all integers such that for some limit , then .

extbfProof According to the definition of limits , the notation

means that, given any arbitrary positive value , it is possible to find a value such that for all

Thus, if we chose a particular value, say , then there exists a corresponding such that

Consider the sum :

where . Thus, .

Consider a pair of functions and ,
which are known to be and , respectively.
According to Theorem ,
the sum is .
However, Theorem says that,
if exists,
then the sum *f*(*n*) is simply which,
by the transitive property (see Theorem below), is .

In other words, if the ratio
asymptotically approaches a constant as *n* gets large,
we can say that is ,
which is often a lot simpler than .

Theorem is particularly useful result. Consider and .

From this we can conclude that .
Thus, Theorem suggests that
the sum of a series of powers of *n* is ,
where *m* is the largest power of *n* in the summation.
We will confirm this result in Section below.

The next theorem addresses the asymptotic behavior of the product of two functions whose asymptotic behaviors are known:

TheoremIf and , then

extbfProof By Definition , there exist two integers, and and two constants and such that for and for . Furthermore, by Definition , and are both non-negative for all integers .

Let and . Consider the product for :

Thus, .

Theorem describes a simple, but extremely useful property of big oh. Consider the functions and . By Theorem , the asymptotic behavior of the product is . I.e., we are able to determine the asymptotic behavior of the product without having to go through the gory details of calculating that .

The next theorem is closely related to the preceding one in that it also shows how big oh behaves with respect to multiplication.

TheoremIf and is a function whose value is non-negative for integers , then

extbfProof By Definition , there exist integers and constant such that for . Since is never negative,

Thus, .

Theorem applies when we multiply a function, , whose asymptotic behavior is known to be , by another function . The asymptotic behavior of the result is simply .

One way to interpret Theorem is that it allows us to do the following mathematical manipulation:

I.e., Fallacy notwithstanding, we can multiply both sides of the ``equation'' by and the ``equality'' still holds. Furthermore, when we multiply by , we simply bring the inside the .

The last theorem in this section
introduces the *transitive property* of big oh:

Theorem (Transitive Property)Iff(n)=O(g(n)) andg(n)=O(h(n)) thenf(n)=O(h(n)).

extbfProof By Definition , there exist two integers, and and two constants and such that for and for .

Let and . Then

Thus, *f*(*n*)=*O*(*h*(*n*)).

The transitive property of big oh
is useful in conjunction with Theorem .
Consider which is clearly .
If we add to the function ,
then by Theorem ,
the sum is
because .
I.e., .
The combination of the fact that
*and* the transitive property of big oh,
allows us to conclude that the sum is .

Copyright © 1997 by Bruno R. Preiss, P.Eng. All rights reserved.