3. Simplest Radical Form

Before we can simplify radicals, we need to know some rules about them. These rules just follow on from what we learned in the first 2 sections in this chapter, Integral Exponents and Fractional Exponents.

Expressing in simplest radical form just means simplifying a radical so that there are no more square roots, cube roots, 4th roots, etc left to find. It also means removing any radicals in the denominator of a fraction.

Laws of Radicals

Let's take the positive case first.

n-th root of a Positive Number to the Power n

We met this idea in the last section, Fractional Exponents. Basically, finding the n-th root of a (positive) number is the opposite of raising the number to the power n, so they effectively cancel each other out. These 4 expressions have the same value:


The 2nd item in the equality above means:

"take the n-th root first, then raise the result to the power n"

The 3rd item means:

"raise a to the power n then find the n-th root of the result"

Both steps lead back to the a that we started with.

For the simple case where `n = 2`, the following 4 expressions all have the same value:


For example, if `a = 9`:


The second item means: "Find the square root of `9` (answer: `3`) then square it (answer `9`)".

The 3rd item means: "Square `9` first (we get `81`) then find the square root of the result (answer `9`)".

In general we could write all this using fractional exponents as follows:


Yet another way of thinking about it is as follows:


n-th root of a Negative Number to the Power n

We now consider the above square root example if the number `a` is negative.

For example, if `a = -5`, then:


A negative number squared is positive, and the square root of a positive number is positive.

In general, we write for `a`, a negative number:


Notice I haven't included this part: `(sqrt(a))^2`. In this case, we would have the square root of a negative number, and that behaves quite differently, as you'll learn in the Complex Numbers chapter later.

Continues below

The Product of the n-th root of a and the n-th root of b is the n-th root of ab




We could write "the product of the n-th root of a and the n-th root of b is the n-th root of ab" using fractional exponents as well:


The m-th Root of the n-th Root of the Number a is the mn-th Root of a

`root(m)(root(n)a)=root(m\ n)a`

We could write this as:




This has the same meaning:


In words, we would say: "The 4th root of the 3rd root of `5` is equal to the 12th root of `5`".

The n-th Root of a Over the n-th Root of b is the n-th Root of a/b

`root(n)a/root(n)b=root(n)(a/b)`(`b ≠ 0`)



If we write the our general expression using fractional exponents, we have:

`a^(1//n)/b^(1//n)=(a/b)^(1//n)` (`b ≠ 0`)

Mixed Examples

Simplify the following:

(a) `root(5)(4^5)`

(b) `root(3)2root3(3)`

(c) `root(3)sqrt5`

(d) `sqrt7/sqrt3`

Simplest Radical Form Examples

In these examples, we are expressing the answers in simplest radical form, using the laws given above.

(a) `sqrt72`

(b) `sqrt(a^3b^2)`

(c) `root(3)40`

(d) `root(5)(64x^8y^(12))`



Q1 `sqrt(12ab^2)`

Q2 `root(4)(64r^3s^4t^5`

Q3 `sqrt(x/(2x+1)`

This one requires a special trick. To remove the radical in the denominator, we need to multiply top and bottom of the fraction by the denominator.