Can someone be so nice to provide some help for this particular situation? I try to plot a graph of a derivative which contains modulus. Without it the graph is drawn correctly:

correct graph

But when I wrap the expression in the Abs Mathematica outputs an empty graph:

empty graph

I looked for several answers related to empty graphs, but nothing seems to fit to my case. Thanks in advance.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Workaround: With[{a = Piecewise[{{#, # >= 0}, {-#, # < 0}}, 0] &}, Plot[Evaluate[D[a[5 - 2 x], x]], {x, -1*^3, 1*^3}, Axes -> None, PlotRange -> {-1*^3, 1*^3}]] $\endgroup$ May 8, 2013 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ @J. M, thank you, it works $\endgroup$
    – d.k
    May 8, 2013 at 15:27

3 Answers 3


Might it be the way Mathematica deals with the derivative of Abs[]? For example,

D[Abs[5 - 2 x], x]


-2*Derivative[1][Abs][5 - 2*x]


Plot[Evaluate[D[Sqrt[(5 - 2 x)^2], x]], {x, -10, 10}]
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I was about to say that, so I added the relevant example to your answer. +1 $\endgroup$
    – rcollyer
    May 8, 2013 at 15:36

I'm also wondering why Mathematica doesn't treat the derivative of Abs as normal way. But here is a solution.

Plot[Evaluate@ComplexExpand[D[Abs[5 - 2 x], x]], {x, -10, 10}]
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "I'm also wondering..." - that Mathematica considers variables to take complex values by default is a hint... $\endgroup$ May 9, 2013 at 3:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Perhaps not everyone knows that as a function of a complex variable, Abs[z] is not differentiable at any z. $\endgroup$
    – Michael E2
    May 9, 2013 at 3:49
  • $\begingroup$ @J.M. Yes. Sometimes if plotting a complex function carelessly , Mathematica will return a empty graphic. I think in this occasion, it will be helpful if Mathematica give some warnings. $\endgroup$
    – luyuwuli
    May 9, 2013 at 4:11
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelE2 Mathematica often tells me to rethink about the complex variables:) $\endgroup$
    – luyuwuli
    May 9, 2013 at 4:14

As of V11.1, another available approach is to use RealAbs instead of Abs:

Plot[Evaluate[D[RealAbs[5 - 2 x], x]], {x, -10, 10}]

Note that Abs, as a function of a complex variable, is not differentiable, which I mentioned in a comment earlier.

  • $\begingroup$ This solved my issue, thanks $\endgroup$ Sep 7, 2023 at 23:43

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