# Is $dx/dy = 1/(dy/dx)$ in calculus?

Is $dx/dy = 1/(dy/dx)$ in calculus? So confused about this matter....

Also, what would be the proof of it? eg theorem.

Edit: by chain rule, $\frac{dy}{dx}\frac{dx}{dy} = dy/dy =1$, so this confuses me...

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This is imprecise. What you are asking is: what is $(f^{-1})'$ in terms of $f'$? –  wj32 Feb 2 '13 at 4:39
There is nothing confusing in $\frac{dy}{dx}.\frac{dx}{dy}=1$. On the opposite, this is just a confirm that $\frac{dx}{dy}=1/\frac{dy}{dx}$. –  Yves Daoust Feb 6 at 11:06

The precise statement is as follows.

Let $I$ be an open interval, and suppose that $f: I \to \mathbb{R}$ is one-to-one and continuous on $I$. If $f$ is differentiable at $a \in I$ and $f'(a) \neq 0$, then $f^{-1}: f[I] \to I$ is differentiable at $b = f(a)$ and $$(f^{-1})'(b) = \frac{1}{f'(a)}.$$

Using Leibniz’s notation, the formula above can be expressed as $$\frac{dx}{dy} \Bigg|_{y = b} = \frac{1}{\left( \dfrac{dy}{dx} \Bigg|_{x = a} \right)}.$$

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An important point is evaluating the derivatives at the correct points as shown here. –  Ross Millikan Feb 2 '13 at 4:48

If the real variables $x$ and $y$ are dependent functionally on each other, say by the equations $y = f(x)$ and $x = g(y)$, then where things are differentiable, we do indeed have an equation

$$\frac{dy}{dx} = \frac{1}{\frac{dx}{dy}}$$

and the most straightforward proof is as you indicated by the chain rule:

$$\frac{dy}{dx} \frac{dx}{dy} = \frac{dy}{dy} = 1$$

and then solving the equation

$$\frac{dy}{dx} \frac{dx}{dy} = 1$$

for $\frac{dy}{dx}$.

The argument can be rephrased in terms of functions rather than dependent variables: from the identity

$$x = g(f(x))$$

we differentiate to obtain

$$1 = g'(f(x)) f'(x)$$

and thus the analogous identity

$$f'(x) = \frac{1}{g'(f(x))}$$

More generally, in the language of differential forms, the expression $\frac{dy}{dx}$ is defined to be the expression satisfying

$$dy = \frac{dy}{dx} dx$$

if that is possible. When both $\frac{dy}{dx}$ and $\frac{dx}{dy}$ are defined, then we have two equations

$$dy = \frac{dy}{dx} dx \qquad \qquad dx = \frac{dx}{dy} dy$$

and can substitute to obtain

$$dy = \frac{dy}{dx} \frac{dx}{dy} dy$$

and so we again have

$$\frac{dy}{dx} = \frac{1}{\frac{dx}{dy}}$$

wherever $dy$ is nonvanishing. An example of a situation where both are defined is if the variables $x$ and $y$ are functionally related by a differentiable equation $f(x,y) = 0$. Taking the differential gives

$$f_1(x,y) dx + f_2(x,y) dy = 0$$

where $f_1$ is the derivative of the two-variable function $f$ with respect to the first variable. When both $f_1$ and $f_2$ are nonzero, we can solve the equation in both ways to see that both $\frac{dx}{dy}$ and $\frac{dy}{dx}$ are defined.

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