Tangent to a circle

Tangent to a circle

Tangent to a circle is the line that touches circle at only one point. There can be only one tangent at a point to circle. Point of tangency is the point at which tangent meets the circle. Now, let’s prove tangent and radius of the circle are perpendicular to each other at point of contact.
Tangent to a Circle

Consider a circle in the above figure whose center is O. AB is the tangent to a circle through point C.
Take a point D on tangent AB other than at C and join OD. Point D should lie outside the circle because; if point D lies inside, then AB will be a secant to the circle and it will not be a tangent.

Therefore, OD will be greater than the radius of circle OC. This happens for every point on AB except the point of contact C.
It can be concluded that OC is the shortest distance between the center of circle O and tangent AB.
Since, shortest distance between a point and a line is the perpendicular distance between them,
OC is perpendicular to AB.

From the above discussion, it can be concluded that

  • Only one tangent can be drawn through any point of the circle.
  • We can call the line containing the radius through point of contact as ‘normal’ to the circle at the point.

Example: AB is a tangent to a circle with center O at point A  of radius 6 cm. It meets the line OB such that OB = 10 cm. What is the length of AB?

tangent to a circle

We know that AB is tangent to the circle at A.
Since tangent AB is perpendicular the radius OA,
ΔOAB is a right angled triangle and OB is the hypotenuse of ΔOAB.
By using Pythagoras theorem,

\(OB^2\) = \(OA^2~+~AB^2\)
\(AB^2\) = \(OB^2~-~OA^2\)
\(AB\) = \( \sqrt{OB^2~-~OA^2 } \)
= \(\sqrt{10^2~-~6^2}\) = \(\sqrt{64}\) = 8 cm

Number of tangents from a point on a circle

  • 1.   When the point lies inside the circle.
    tangent to a circle

Consider the point P inside the circle in above figure; all the lines through P is intersecting the circle at two points.
It can be concluded that no tangent can be drawn to a circle which passes through a point lying inside the circle.

  • 2.   When the point lies on the circle
    Tangent to a Circle

From the figure; it can be concluded that, there is only one tangent to a circle through a point which lies on the circle.

  • 3.   When the point lies outside the circletangent to a circle

From the above figure, we can say that
There are exactly two tangents to circle from a point which lies outside the circle.

To know more about properties of tangent to a circle, download Byju’s – The Learning App from Google Play Store.’


Practise This Question

If TP and TQ are two tangents to a circle with center O such that POQ = 110, then, PTQ is equal to: