Using the Sine Function to Find the Hypotenuse
(KS3, Year 8)

hometrigonometryfinding the hypotenuse using the sine function
The sine function relates a given angle to the opposite side and hypotenuse of a right triangle. The length of the hypotenuse is given by the formula below:

hypotenuse equals sine function In this formula, θ is an angle of a right triangle, the opposite is the length of the side opposite the angle and the hypotenuse is the length of longest side. The image below shows what we mean:

sine opposite hypotenuse image

How to Use the Sine Function to Find the Hypotenuse of a Right Triangle

Finding the hypotenuse of a right triangle is easy when we know the angle and the opposite.


What is the length of the hypotenuse of the right triangle shown below?



Start with the formula:
Hypotenuse = opposite / sin θ
Don't forget: / means ÷


Substitute the angle θ and the length of the opposite into the formula. In our example, θ = 30° and the opposite is 4 cm.

Hypotenuse = 4 / sin (30°)

Hypotenuse = 4 ÷ sin (30°)

Hypotenuse = 4 ÷ 0.5

Hypotenuse = 8 cm


The length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle with an angle of 30° and an opposite of 4 cm is 8 cm.

Remembering the Formula

Often, the hardest part of finding the unknown angle is remembering which formula to use. Whenever you have a right triangle where you know one side and one angle and have to find an unknown side... ......think trigonometry... ...............think sine, cosine or tangent... ........................think SOH CAH TOA.

SOH CAH TOA Looking at the example above, we are trying to find the Hypotenuse and we know the Opposite.

right triangle o known h unknown The two letters we are looking for are OH, which comes in the SOH in SOH CAH TOA. This reminds us of the equation:
Sin θ = Opposite / Hypotenuse
This is rearranged to get the formula at the top of the page (see Note).
Hypotenuse = Opposite / Sin θ

Lesson Slides

The slider below gives another example of finding the hypotenuse of a right triangle (since the angle and opposite are known).

Interactive Widget

Here is an interactive widget to help you learn about the sine function on a right triangle.

What Is the Sine Function?

The sine function is a trigonometric function. The sine of a given angle in a right triangle is the ratio of the length of the opposite side to the length of the hypotenuse. The sine function is defined by the formula:

sin function mini The image below shows what we mean by the given angle (labelled θ), the opposite and the hypotenuse:

right angled triangle explained

How to Rearrange the Sine Function Formula

A useful way to remember simple formulae is to use a small triangle, as shown below:

soh triangle Here, the S stands for Sin θ, the O for Opposite and the H for Hypotenuse (from the SOH in SOH CAH TOA). To find the formula for the Hypotenuse, cover up the H with your thumb:

soh triangle with thumb over h This leaves O over S - which means O divide by S, or, Opposite ÷ Sin θ. This tells you that:
Hypotenuse = Opposite / Sin θ
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This page was written by Stephen Clarke.

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