Conjugate of a complex Number

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For an arbitrary complex number \(z = a + bi\), its conjugate is defined as \(\bar z = a - bi\). For example,

\[\begin{align}&z = 2 + 3i \qquad \Rightarrow \qquad \bar z = 2 - 3i\\&z =  - 1 - 5i \!\!\!\!\!\qquad  \Rightarrow\qquad \bar z =  - 1 + 5i\\&z = i - \frac{1}{2} \qquad \Rightarrow\qquad  \bar z =  - i - \frac{1}{2}\end{align}\]

Note the last example carefully. When we take the conjugate of a complex number, it is the imaginary part which reverses in sign, and not the real part.

Geometrically, \(\bar z\) will be the mirror image of z in the horizontal axis, as the following figure shows:

Conjugate of a complex number

We make the following observations:

  • The real part of \(\bar z\) is the same as the real part of z. That is, \({\mathop{\rm Re}\nolimits} \left( {\bar z} \right) = {\mathop{\rm Re}\nolimits} \left( z \right)\).

  • The imaginary part of \(\bar z\) is the negative of the imaginary part of z. That is, \({\mathop{\rm Im}\nolimits} \left( {\bar z} \right) =  - {\mathop{\rm Im}\nolimits} \left( z \right)\).

  • If z is purely real, then \(\bar z = z\). For example, if \(z = 3\), then \(\bar z\) is also 3.

  • If z is purely imaginary, then \(\bar z =  - z\). For example, if \(z = 2i\), then \(\bar z =  - 2i\).

  • If z is above the horizontal axis, then \(\bar z\) is below the horizontal axis, and vice-versa.

Now, let’s see what happens if we add / subtract a complex number and its conjugate. Let \(z = a + bi\). We have:

\[\begin{align}&z + \bar z = \left( {a + bi} \right) + \left( {a - bi} \right) = 2a = 2{\mathop{\rm Re}\nolimits} \left( z \right)\\&z - \bar z = \left( {a + bi} \right) - \left( {a - bi} \right) = 2bi = 2i{\mathop{\rm Im}\nolimits} \left( z \right)\end{align}\]

By virtue of these relations, we can write the real and imaginary parts of a complex number as follows:

\[\begin{align}&{\mathop{\rm Re}\nolimits} \left( z \right) = \frac{{z + \bar z}}{2}\\&{\mathop{\rm Im}\nolimits} \left( z \right) = \frac{{z - \bar z}}{{2i}}\end{align}\]

Next, consider what will happen if we multiply z and \(\bar z\):

\[\begin{align}z\bar z& = \left( {a + bi} \right)\left( {a - bi} \right)\, = {\left( a \right)^2} - {\left( {bi} \right)^2}\\& = {a^2} - {b^2}{i^2} = {a^2} - {b^2}\left( { - 1} \right)\\& = {a^2} + {b^2} = {\left| z \right|^2}\end{align}\]

Thus, the product of a complex number and its conjugate gives the square of its magnitude. This relation is used very frequently, and should be internalized properly.

Example 1: Consider the following two complex numbers:

\[\begin{align}&{z_1} = 2 - 3i\\&{z_2} =  - 4 - 7i\end{align}\]

Find the conjugate of the complex number \(z = 4{z_1} - 2i{z_2}\).

Solution: We have:

\[\begin{align}&4{z_1} = 4\left( {2 - 3i} \right) = 8 - 12i\\&2i{z_2} = 2i\left( { - 4 - 7i} \right) =  - 8i - 14{i^2} = 14 - 8i\\& \Rightarrow \,\,\,z = 4{z_1} - 2i{z_2} = \left( {8 - 12i} \right) - \left( {14 - 8i} \right)\\ &=  - 6 - 4i\end{align}\]

Thus,

\[\bar z =  - 6 + 4i\]

Download practice questions along with solutions for FREE:
Complex Numbers
grade 10 | Questions Set 1
Complex Numbers
grade 10 | Answers Set 1
Complex Numbers
grade 10 | Answers Set 2
Complex Numbers
grade 10 | Questions Set 2
Download practice questions along with solutions for FREE:
Complex Numbers
grade 10 | Questions Set 1
Complex Numbers
grade 10 | Answers Set 1
Complex Numbers
grade 10 | Answers Set 2
Complex Numbers
grade 10 | Questions Set 2
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