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Angle Between Two Vectors
The angle between two vectors is the angle between their tails. It can be found either by using the dot product (scalar product) or the cross product (vector product). Note that the angle between two vectors always lies between 0° and 180°.
The angle between two vectors is an important concept in mathematics and physics. It helps us understand the relationship between two vectors in terms of their direction and magnitude. Let us learn more about the angle between two vectors both in 2D and 3D along with formula, derivation, and examples.
1.  What is Angle Between Two Vectors? 
2.  Angle Between Two Vectors Formulas 
3.  Finding Angle Between Two Vectors 
4.  FAQs on Angle Between Two Vectors 
What is Angle Between Two Vectors?
The angle between two vectors is the angle formed at the intersection of their tails. If the vectors are NOT joined tailtail then we have to join them from tail to tail by shifting one of the vectors using parallel shifting. The angle can be acute, right, or obtuse, depending on the direction of the vectors. Here are some examples to see how to find the angle between the vectors.
Here, we can see that when the head of a vector is joined to the tail of another vector, the angle formed is NOT the angle between vectors. Instead, one of them should be shifted either in the same direction or parallel to itself such that the tails of vectors are joined with each other in order to measure the angle.
Angle Between Two Vectors Formulas
There are two formulas to find the angle between two vectors: one in terms of dot product and the other in terms of the cross product. But the most commonly used formula to find the angle between the vectors involves the dot product (let us see what is the problem with the cross product in the next section). Let a and b be two vectors and θ be the angle between them. Then here are the formulas to find the angle between them using both dot product and cross product:
 Angle between two vectors using dot product is, θ = cos^{1} [ (a · b) / (a b) ]
 Angle between two vectors using cross product is, θ = sin^{1} [ a × b / (a b) ]
where a · b is the dot product and a × b is the cross product of a and b. Note that the crossproduct formula involves the magnitude in the numerator as well whereas the dotproduct formula doesn't.
Angle Between Two Vectors Using Dot Product
By the definition of dot product, a · b = a b cos θ. Let us solve this for cos θ. Dividing both sides by a b.
cos θ = (a · b) / (a b)
θ = cos^{1} [ (a · b) / (a b) ]
This is is the formula for the angle between two vectors in terms of the dot product (scalar product). Here, cos^{1} is read as "cos inverse" and it is called "inverse cosine function".
Angle Between Two Vectors Using Cross Product
By the definition of cross product, a × b = a b sin θ \(\hat{n}\). To solve this for θ, let us take magnitude on both sides. Then we get
a × b = a b sin θ \(\hat{n}\).
We know that \(\hat{n}\) is a unit vector and hence its magnitude is 1. So
a × b = a b sin θ
Dividing both sides by a b.
sin θ = a × b / (a b)
θ = sin^{1} [ a × b / (a b) ]
This is is the formula for the vector angle in terms of the cross product (vector product). This formula causes some ambiguity (which we discuss in the next section) and is not a popular formula to use to find angle between vectors. Here, sin^{1} is read as "sin inverse" and it is called "inverse sine function".
Finding Angle Between Two Vectors
Let us see some examples of finding the angle between two vectors using dot product in both 2D and 3D. Let us also see the ambiguity caused by the crossproduct formula to find the angle between two vectors.
Angle Between Two Vectors in 2D
Let us consider two vectors in 2D say a = <1, 2> and b = <2, 1>. Let θ be the angle between them. Let us find the angle between vectors using both dot product and cross product and let us see what is the ambiguity that a cross product can cause.
Angle Between Vectors in 2D Using Dot Product
Let us compute the dot product and magnitudes of both vectors.
 a · b = <1, 2> ·<2, 1> = 1(2) + (2)(1) = 2  2 = 4.
 a = √(1)² + (2)² = √1 + 4 = √5
 b = √(2)² + (1)² = √4 + 1 = √5
By using the angle between two vectors formula using dot product, θ = cos^{1} [ (a · b) / (a b) ].
Then θ = cos^{1} (4 / √5 · √5) = cos^{1} (4/5)
We can either use a calculator to evaluate this directly or we can use the formula cos^{1}(x) = 180°  cos^{1}x and then use the calculator (whenever the dot product is negative using the formula cos^{1}(x) = 180°  cos^{1}x is very helpful as we know that the angle between two vectors always lies between 0° and 180°). Then we get:
cos^{1} (4/5) ≈ 143.13°
Angle Between Vectors in 2D Using Cross Product
Let us compute the cross product of a and b.
a × b = \(\left\begin{array}{ccc}
i & j & k \\
1 & 2 & 0 \\
2 & 1 & 0
\end{array}\right\) = <0, 0, 3>
Now we find its magnitude.
a × b = √(0)² + (0)² + (3)² = 3
By using the angle between two vectors formula using cross product, θ = sin^{1} [ a × b / (a b) ].
Then θ = sin^{1} (3 / √5 · √5) = sin^{1} (3/5)
If we use the calculator to calculate this, θ ≈ 36.87 (or) 180  36.87 (as sine is positive in the second quadrant as well). So
θ ≈ 36.87 (or) 143.13°.
Thus, we got two angles and there is no evidence to choose one of them to be the angle between vectors a and b. Thus, the crossproduct formula may not be helpful all the time to find the angle between two vectors.
Angle Between Two Vectors in 3D
Let us consider an example to find the angle between two vectors in 3D. Let a = i + 2j + 3k and b = 3i  2j + k. We will compute the dot product and the magnitudes first:
 a · b = <1, 2, 3> ·<3, 2, 1> = 1(3) + (2)(2) + 3(1) = 3  4 + 3 = 2.
 a = √(1)² + (2)² + 3² = √1 + 4 +9 = √14
 b = √(3)² + (2)² + 1² = √9 + 4 + 1 = √14
We have θ = cos^{1} [ (a · b) / (a b) ].
Then θ = cos^{1} (2 / √14 · √14) = cos^{1} (2 / 14) = cos^{1} (1/7) ≈ 81.79°.
Important Points on Angle Between Two Vectors:
 The angle (θ) between two vectors a and b is found with the formula θ = cos^{1} [ (a · b) / (a b) ].
 The angle between two equal vectors is 0 degrees as θ = cos^{1} [ (a · a) / (a a) ] = cos^{1} (a^{2}/a^{2}) = cos^{1}1 = 0°.
 The angle between two parallel vectors is 0 degrees as θ = cos^{1} [ (a · ka) / (a ka) ] = cos^{1} (ka^{2}/ka^{2}) =cos^{1} 1 = 0°.
 The angle(θ) between two vectors a and b using the cross product is θ = sin^{1} [ a × b / (a b) ].
 For any two vectors a and b, if a · b is positive, then the angle lies between 0° and 90°;
 if a · b is negative, then the angle lies between 90° and 180°.
 The angle between each of the two vectors among the unit vectors i, j, and k is 90°.
☛Related Topics:
Angle Between Two Vectors Examples

Example 1: If θ is the vector angle between vectors a and b such that a · b = a × b, then what is θ?
Solution:
It is given that a · b = a × b.
By the definition of dot product and cross product,
 a b cos θ  =  a b sin θ \(\hat{n}\)
Since \(\hat{n}\) is a unit vector, its magnitude is 1.
a b cos θ = a b sin θ
cos θ = sin θ
This happens only when θ = 45° (∵ cos 45° = sin 45°).
Answer: The angle between the two vectors when the dot product and cross product are equal is, θ = 45°.

Example 2: Calculate the angle between two vectors a and b if a = 1, b = 2, and their dot product is a · b = 1.
Solution:
Let us assume that the angle between the vectors a and b is θ.
Then we have:
θ = cos^{1} [ (a · b) / (a b) ]
= cos^{1} (1/(1 × 2))
= cos^{1} (1/2)
= 60° (∵ cos 60°= 1/2)
Answer: The required angle is 60°.

Example 3: If a and b are two vectors such that a = 3, b = √2/3, and their cross product is a unit vector, then what is the angle between them?
Solution:
Since the cross product of a and b is a unit vector (given), a × b = 1.
By using the angle between two vectors using cross product formula:
θ = sin^{1} [ a × b / (a b) ]
= sin^{1} (1/ (3 × √2/3))
= sin^{1} (1/√2)
= 45°
Answer: The required angle is 45°.
FAQs on Angle Between Two Vectors
What is Meant by Angle Between Two Vectors?
The angle between two vectors is the angle at the intersection of their tails when they are attached tail to tail. If the vectors are not attached tail to tail, then we should do the parallel shifting of one or both vectors to find the angle between them.
What is Angle Between Two Vectors Formula?
The angle between two vectors a and b is calculated by the formula θ = cos^{1} [ (a · b) / (a b) ], where
 a · b is the dot product of the vectors.
 a and b are the magnitudes of the vectors.
How to Find Angle Between Two Vectors?
To find the angle between two vectors a and b, we can use the dot product formula: a · b = a b cos θ. If we solve this for θ, we get θ = cos^{1} [ (a · b) / (a b) ].
What is the Angle Between Two Equal Vectors?
The angle between vectors formula for two vectors a and b is θ = cos^{1} [ (a · b) / (a b) ]. If the two vectors are equal, then substitute b = a in this formula, then we get θ = cos^{1} [ (a · a) / (a a) ] = cos^{1} (a^{2}/a^{2}) = cos^{1}1 = 0°. So the angle between two equal vectors is 0.
If the Angle Between Two Vectors is 90 then What is their Dot Product?
The dot product of a and b is a · b = a b cos θ. If the angle θ is 90 degrees, then cos 90° = 0. Then a · b = a b (0) = 0. So the dot product of two perpendicular vectors is 0.
Where Can I Find Angle Between Two Vectors Calculator?
To find the angle between two vectors using a calculator, click here. This calculator allows us to enter two vectors in 2D or 3D and it then shows the angle between them.
How to Find the Angle Between Two Vectors in 3D?
To find the angle between two vectors a and b that are in 3D:
 Compute their dot product a · b.
 Compute their magnitudes a and b.
 Use the formula θ = cos^{1} [ (a · b) / (a b) ].
What is Angle Between Two Vectors when the Dot Product is 0?
The angle between two vectors is given by θ = cos^{1} [ (a · b) / (a b) ]. When the dot product is 0, from the above formula, θ = cos^{1} 0 = 90°. So when the dot product of two vectors is 0, then they are perpendicular.
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