6.5: The Trigonometric Form of Complex Numbers
Learning Objectives
 Understand the relationship between the rectangular form of complex numbers and their corresponding polar form.
 Convert complex numbers from standard form to polar form and vice versa.
A number in the form , where and are real numbers, and is the imaginary unit, or , is called a complex number. Despite their names, complex numbers and imaginary numbers have very real and significant applications in both mathematics and in the real world. Complex numbers are useful in pure mathematics, providing a more consistent and flexible number system that helps solve algebra and calculus problems. We will see some of these applications in the examples throughout this lesson.
The Trigonometric or Polar Form of a Complex Number
The following diagram will introduce you to the relationship between complex numbers and polar coordinates.
In the figure above, the point that represents the number was plotted and a vector was drawn from the origin to this point. As a result, an angle in standard position, , has been formed. In addition to this, the point that represents is units from the origin. Therefore, any point in the complex plane can be found if the angle and the value are known. The following equations relate and .
If we apply the first two equations to the point the result would be:
The right side of this equation is called the polar or trigonometric form of a complex number. A shortened version of this polar form is written as . The length is called the absolute value or the modulus, and the angle is called the argument of the complex number. Therefore, the following equations define the polar form of a complex number:
It is now time to implement these equations perform the operation of converting complex numbers in standard form to complex numbers in polar form. You will use the above equations to do this.
Example 1: Represent the complex number graphically and express it in its polar form.
Solution: As discussed in the Prerequisite Chapter, here is the graph of .
Converting to polar from rectangular, and .
So, the polar form is .
Another widely used notation for the polar form of a complex number is . Now there are three ways to write the polar form of a complex number.
Example 2: Express the following polar form of each complex number using the shorthand representations.
a)
b)
Solution:
a)
b)
Example 3: Represent the complex number graphically and give two notations of its polar form.
Solution: From the rectangular form of and
This is the reference angle so now we must determine the measure of the angle in the third quadrant.
One polar notation of the point is . Another polar notation of the point is
So far we have expressed all values of theta in degrees. Polar form of a complex number can also have theta expressed in radian measure. This would be beneficial when plotting the polar form of complex numbers in the polar plane.
The answer to the above example with theta expressed in radian measure would be:
Now that we have explored the polar form of complex numbers and the steps for performing these conversions, we will look at an example in circuit analysis that requires a complex number given in polar form to be expressed in standard form.
Example 4: The impedance , in ohms, in an alternating circuit is given by . Express the value for in standard form. (In electricity, negative angles are often used.)
Solution: The value for is given in polar form. From this notation, we know that and Using these values, we can write:
Therefore the standard form is ohms.
Points to Consider
 Is it possible to perform basic operations on complex numbers in polar form?
 If operations can be performed, do the processes change for polar form or remain the same as for standard form?
Review Questions
 Express the following polar forms of complex numbers in the two other possible ways.
 Express the complex number graphically and write it in its polar form.
 Express the following complex numbers in their polar form.
 Graph the complex number and express it in standard form.
 Find the standard form of each of the complex numbers below.
Review Answers


Since is in the fourth quadrant then Expressed in polar form is or
 Note: The range of a graphing calculator’s
 function is limited to Quadrants I and IV, and for points located in the other quadrants, such as
 in part b (in Quadrant II), you must add
 to get the correct angle
 for numbers given in polar form.

The standard form of the polar complex number is .