Y intercept: Definition, Formula, and Examples

Y intercept titleIn defining what is y intercept, we need to take note of the graph of a function. The y-intercept of any given function is the point where the graph touches the y-axis. Thus, the y-intercept of a graph is the point $(0,b)$ where $b$ is the value in the y-axis where the graph crosses.

It is important to solve for the y-intercept of a function because it helps in graphing lines since we already know at what point will the graph cut the y-axis. Moreover, y-intercepts are helpful in other applications of problems involving linear equations.

There are two types of intercepts in a function — we have the x-intercept and y-intercept. Intercepts, in general, are the points where the graph of the function crosses the x-axis or the y-axis. But in this article, we will focus on solving for the y-intercept of a given graph, a given equation, and given any two points in the graph.

How To Find Y-intercept on a Graph

The y-intercept is located at the point in the graph that intersects the y-axis. Here are some examples of locating a y-intercept on a graph.

Example 1

  • Notice that the graph in Figure 1, the graph of $y=4x-6$, is a linear function that touches the y-axis at the point $(0,-6)$. Thus, the y-intercept of the linear graph $y=4x-6$ is located at the point $(0,-6)$.
graph 1
graph 1
  • The graph of the equation $y=8-x^2$ is a parabola. It intersects the y-axis exactly at the point $(0,8)$. Hence, the y-intercept of the parabola $y=8-x^2$ is at the point $(0,8)$.
graph 2
graph 2
In general, the y-intercept of a quadratic function is the vertex of the parabola.
  • The graph of exponential function $y=1-e^x$ in Figure 3 crosses the y-axis only at the origin and no other point. Therefore, the y-intercept of the given graph is at $(0,0)$.
graph 3
graph 3

Since we already know how to find y-intercept on a graph, the question now is, “Is it possible for a graph to have no y-intercept?”

Are There Graphs With No Y-intercept?

Yes, it is possible for a graph to have no y-intercept — this means that the graph does not touch the y-axis.

Note that a function satisfies a vertical line test. That is, if we are to draw infinite vertical lines in the graph, each line should touch the graph at most once. Since the y-axis is a vertical line, then the graph touches the y-axis either once or not at all. Moreover, we could note from this that it is not possible for a graph of a function to have more than one y-intercept.

Let’s look at the example of graphs that do not have y-intercepts below.

Example 2

The graphs of $y=\dfrac{x+2}{x}$ and $x=3$ do not cut the y-axis at any point in each graph. Thus, both of these graphs do not have a y-intercept.
graph 4
Figure 4. Graph of $y=\dfrac{x+2}{x}$
graph 5
graph 5
  • In Figure 4, the behavior of the graph of $y=\dfrac{x+2}{x}$ grows closer and closer to the y-axis but never touches it. This is called an asymptote. It does look like it intersects or will intersect the y-axis after some point but if we look closely at the graph, we can see that it does not touch the y-axis no matter how close it will get.
  • The graph of $x=3$ is a vertical line that passes through the point $(3,0)$. The graph of $x=3$ is parallel to the y-axis, thus it is not possible for this graph to cross the y-axis at any point.

In conclusion, a graph does not always necessarily have a y-intercept. Graphs that are asymptotic to the y-axis and graphs that consist of a vertical line not passing through the origin do not have y-intercepts.

Now that we have geometrically identified a y-intercept in any given graph, let’s proceed to learning how to find them even when the graph is not plotted for us.

Solving for the Y-intercept of a Given Function

Even when we have no idea what the graph of a certain function looks like, we can still determine the y-intercept of that function. Remember that one of the roles of the y-intercept is that it helps describe the graph by determining at what point the graph will intersect the y-axis.

Observing the obtained y-intercept from previous examples, we get that the y-intercept of a function is the point with the form $(0,b)$. Thus, we can get the value of $b$ when we substitute $x$ for zero, then find the value of $y$. Note that the graph crosses the y-axis whenever $x=0$. Therefore, for any given function $y=f(x)$, the y-intercept of the function is at the point $(0,f(0))$.

However, in cases where the function is not defined at $x=0$, the function has no y-intercept.

Example 3

We verify the y-intercepts we get from the previous example.

  • Let $y=4x-6$. When $x=0$, we have:

Thus, the y-intercept is the point $(0,-6)$.

  • Consider the function $f(x)=8-x^2$. At $x=0$, the value of $f(0)$ is:

This means that the function has y-intercept of $(0,8)$.

  • The function $y=1-e^x$ has y-intercept at the origin, $(0,0)$, because when $x=0$, the value of the y-coordinate is:

Hence, even without the graph, we will still get the same y-intercept by substituting zero for the value of $x$.

Example 4

Consider the rational function $f(x)=\dfrac{\sqrt{x+9}}{2}$. The value of $f$ at $x=0$ is $$f(0)=\dfrac{\sqrt{0+9}}{2}=\dfrac{\sqrt{9}}{2}=\dfrac{3}{2}.$$ Thus, the function has a y-intercept at the point $(0,\dfrac{3}{2})$.

Example 5

Let $f(x)=\dfrac{4}{\sqrt{x-4}}$. The function has no y-intercept because the function is not defined at $x=0$. Take note that it is not possible for $x$ to be zero because we will have $\sqrt{-4}$ in the denominator, and the square root of a negative number does not exist in the real line.

Y-intercept of Polynomial Function

In general, if we have a polynomial function of some degree $n$,
$$f(x)=a_n x^n+a_(n-1) x^(n-1)+\cdots+a_2 x^2+a_1 x+a_0,$$
where $a_i$, for $i=0,1,2,\dots,n$ are real coefficients of the polynomial, then the y-intercept of the polynomial function $f$ is the point $(0,a_0)$.

Example 6

Given the function $f(x)=x^3-7x^2+9$. The function is a polynomial function, thus the y-intercept of the given polynomial function is $(0,9)$.

How To Find Y-intercept From Two Points

In finding the y-intercept of a graph given two points in the line, we have to solve for the equation of the line in the slope-intercept form.

Note that in a linear equation of the form:

the slope of the line is $m$ and the y-intercept is at $(0,b)$.

So, if we have two points $A(x_1,y_1)$ and $B(x_2,y_2)$, the slope of the line passing through these points is given by:
$m=(y_2-y_1)/(x_2-x_1 ).$

After solving for the slope $m$, we only have to find the value of $b$. So we take one of the points, say $A(x_1,y_1)$, and substitute it for the values of $x$ and $y$.

Solving for $b$, we have:

Then, we have the y-intercept at the point $(0,b)$.

Example 7

Given the points $(-2,5)$ and $(6,9)$. First, we solve for the slope. $$m=\dfrac{9-5}{6-(-2)}=\dfrac{4}{8}=\dfrac{1}{2}.$$ Thus, the slope is $m=\dfrac{1}{2}$. Now, we take one of the points, say $(-2,5)$, to solve for $b$. \begin{align*} b&=5-m(-2)\\ &=5-\left(\dfrac{1}{2}\right)(-2) =5-(-1)\\ =5+1=6 \end{align*} We get that $b=6$; thus, the y-intercept of the line that passes through the points $(-2,5)$ and $(6,9)$ is $(0,6)$. Note also that even if we choose the other point $(6,9)$, we will still get the same value for $b$ since both of the points lie in the same line.


The use of y-intercepts is deemed significant in the higher applications of linear equations and other linear models. Hence, it is important that we know how to determine the y-intercept of a function be it in a graph, in an equation format, or a linear function represented by just two points.

  • The y-intercept of the graph is the point where the graph of the function and the y-axis meets, and a graph that is asymptotic or parallel to the y-axis does not have a y-intercept.
  • The y-intercept of any given function $f(x)$ is the point $(0,f(0))$.
  • The y-intercept of any polynomial function $f(x)=a_n x^n+\cdots+a_1 x+a_0$ is $(0,a_0)$.
  • A function has no y-intercept if the function is undefined at $x=0$.
  • Given two points passing through a line, the y-intercept of the line is the point $(0,b)$, where $b=y_1-mx_1$ and $m=\dfrac{y_2-y_1}{x_2-x_1}$ is the slope of the line.

In this guide, we discussed and solved for y-intercept in different mathematical scenarios, we also learned the importance of the y-intercept. Understanding how it works can help you use it better for your own benefit, such as plotting data and solving for other unknown variables; just remember that once you have the y-intercept, you can find your other variable by using a formula and plugging in what you know.

Images/mathematical drawings are created with GeoGebra.
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