Does the square root spit out a negative result? [duplicate]

I have being told all my life that $\sqrt{9}$ equals to $\pm3$. That all changed when I saw a video talks about it. It said that the square root does not spit out a negative number. I wanted to see if it's true, and if it is true, then why? Logically, $(-3)(-3)$ equals to $+9$ too. Thanks in advance.

• $x^2=9$ has two solutions, but $\sqrt{9}$ only has one. They are not the same thing. Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 19:18
• The square root function is much too polite to spit.
– MJD
Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 19:23
• @Biggs: when you say "$\sqrt{9}$ only has one [solution]" you are making a type error. $\sqrt{9}$ is an expression, and expressions aren't the kinds of objects that have solutions. (equations are inequalities are.) note, for example, that you would not say "9+1" has one solution. it is correct to say that $x^2=9$ has two solutions, but $\sqrt{9}$ is defined to be the nonnegative solution of the equation $x^2=9$. Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 19:49
• @symplectomorphic you are correct. Expressions don't have solutions. I worded that comment badly. Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 20:13

It is a choice. The most convenient approach seems to be to consider $f(x)=\sqrt x$ as a function, which implies a choice. The canonical choice is that of the positive square root.

A function must be defined so that each input is mapped to only one output. In this case the function $f(x) = \sqrt{x}$ must be chosen so that the result is only one number. While the square root of a number has two possible results, it seems more natural to go with the positive solution for the square root function. Thus, we ignore the negative solution.

No. This is a common misconception about square roots that I carried for most of my life. The problem occurs when people think about the meaning square roots; normally if we see something like $\sqrt{9}$ we think "what is the number that squared gives us 9?" and following this logic we say $3$ and $-3$. However this is not the rigorous definition of square root, instead what we are doing is solving the equation $x^2=9$ which is NOT equivalent to $\sqrt{9}$. The square root of a positive number is always a positive number.

• If anybody were to graph the function $y=\sqrt{x}$ on a $x$ an $y$ plot the result will be a line that is not defined for $x<0$.

• Since we can express the square root of a number as the number elevated to $\frac12$ it follows that the result cannot be positive because a number elevated to any real power is always positive (note that $-x^{\frac12}$ is different from $(-x)^{\frac12})$

The radical sign √ refers to the principal (positive) square root only. source: Square Root Calculator

• That is why there is a ± in front of the √ in the quadratic formula....so that both the positive and negative square root answers are used...and not just the positive square root answer.
– Mize
Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 1:45
• When I put $-1$ into the second box of that "square root calculator", it says "$\sqrt{1} = -1$, thus $-1 \times -1 = 1$." So much for that... Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 2:05
• good point. It is ok to have: Square Root of 1 = -1 but not √1=-1 ,
– Mize
Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 2:42
• Now that is just incorrect. "Square root of 1" refers to the same thing as "1". Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 18:44
• For me, Square root of 1 = +1 , Square root of 1 = -1, √1 only = +1 due to √ refers to the principal (positive) square root only.
– Mize
Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 20:58