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Permutation Vs Combination – How Different Are They?

Permutation and combination are fundamental concepts in combinatorics, a branch of mathematics that deals with counting and arranging objects. While these two concepts have distinct meanings and applications, they also share some important similarities.

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In this article, we will explore the similarities between permutation and combination and highlight their significance in various fields. Also, we will discuss the differences between these two.

Similarities Between Permutation And Combination


Both permutation and combination involve the selection and arrangement of elements from a given set. However, they differ in the constraints applied to the selection process. Permutation refers to the arrangement of elements in a specific order, while combination focuses on the selection of elements without considering their order.

Counting Principle

Both permutation and combination employ the counting principle to determine the total number of possible outcomes. The counting principle states that if there are m ways to do one thing and n ways to do another, then there are m × n ways to do both. This principle is applicable to both permutation and combination problems, providing a systematic approach to calculating the desired outcomes.

Set Theory

Permutation and combination can be understood within the framework of set theory. In both cases, the selection of elements is based on subsets of a larger set. Permutation involves selecting a subset and arranging its elements, while combination focuses on selecting a subset without arranging its elements.

Factorial Notation

Both permutation and combination employ factorial notation, which is represented by an exclamation mark (!). The factorial of a positive integer n, denoted as n!, is the product of all positive integers less than or equal to n. The use of factorial notation is essential in determining the number of permutations and combinations.

Overlapping Applications

Permutation and combination have overlapping applications in various fields. For example, in statistics, permutation and combination are used to calculate probabilities and determine the number of possible outcomes in experiments and surveys. In computer science, permutation and combination algorithms are employed for tasks such as generating all possible combinations of a given set of elements or determining the permutations of a string.

Combinatorial Identities

Both permutation and combination are subject to certain combinatorial identities. These identities provide relationships between the total number of permutations or combinations and other related quantities. For instance, the number of combinations can be determined using the formula C(n, r) = P(n, r) / r!, where C(n, r) represents the number of combinations of n items taken r at a time, and P(n, r) represents the number of permutations.

Problem-Solving Techniques

Permutation and combination often require similar problem-solving techniques. These techniques involve breaking down complex problems into simpler subproblems, applying the counting principle, and utilizing combinatorial identities to find the desired solutions. Understanding the similarities between these concepts allows individuals to transfer their problem-solving skills from permutation to combination problems and vice versa.

Differences Between Permutation And Combination

Permutation and combination are fundamental concepts in mathematics and statistics that deal with counting and arranging objects. While they are closely related, they have distinct characteristics and applications. In this article, we will explore the differences between permutation and combination and understand when to use each concept.

I. Understanding Permutations And Combinations

Permutations involve the arrangement of objects in a specific order. The order in which the objects are arranged matters, and even a slight change in the order will result in a different permutation. The formula for calculating permutations is given by nPr = n! / (n – r)!, where n is the total number of objects and r is the number of objects to be arranged.

Combinations, on the other hand, involve selecting objects from a group without considering the order in which they are arranged. The order does not matter when dealing with combinations, as long as the objects are selected. The formula for calculating combinations is given by nCr = n! / (r!(n – r)!), where n is the total number of objects and r is the number of objects to be selected.

II. Applications of Permutations and Combinations

Arrangements: Permutations are useful when determining the number of ways objects can be arranged. For example, consider a group of five people who need to be seated in a row of chairs. The number of possible permutations would be 5P5 = 5! which equals 120.

Selections with Order: Permutations are also applicable when selecting objects from a larger set with respect to their order. For instance, if we have six books on a shelf, and we want to select three books in a particular order, the number of possible permutations would be 6P3 = 6! / (6 – 3)! = 120.

While Combinations are used when selecting objects from a larger set without regard to their order. For example, let’s say we have seven different colors, and we want to select three colors to paint a room. The number of possible combinations would be 7C3 = 7! / (3! × (7 – 3)!) = 35.

Grouping: Combinations are also useful when grouping objects. Consider a situation where we have ten people, and we want to form a committee of four members. The number of possible combinations for selecting the committee would be 10C4 = 10! / (4! × (10 – 4)!) = 210.

Key Differences Between Permutations And Combinations


The most significant difference between permutations and combinations is that permutations consider the order of objects, while combinations do not. Permutations focus on arranging objects, whereas combinations focus on selecting objects.


The formulas for calculating permutations and combinations are distinct. Permutations use the formula nPr = n! / (n – r)!, while combinations use the formula nCr = n! / (r!(n – r)!).


Permutations often yield larger counts than combinations. This is because the order of objects significantly affects the total number of possible arrangements.

Choosing Permutations or Combinations

To determine whether to use permutations or combinations in a given situation, consider the following:

  • Are objects being arranged in a specific order? If yes, use permutations. If order doesn’t matter, use combinations.
  • Are objects being selected from a larger set without considering order? If yes, use combinations.
  • Is the total count of arrangements or selections crucial? If yes, consider whether order matters. If it does, use permutations; otherwise, use combinations.


In conclusion, permutation and combination share several similarities, including their definition, utilization of the counting principle, connection to set theory, factorial notation, overlapping applications, combinatorial identities, and problem-solving techniques. While each concept has its unique characteristics and applications, recognizing their similarities helps build a solid foundation for tackling combinatorial problems in various fields.

Mastery of permutation and combination enables individuals to navigate complex counting scenarios, calculate probabilities, and solve a wide range of combinatorial puzzles with confidence. You may find this topic quite challenging but don’t worry. Our experts are always available to help you if you get stuck on this topic. You can pay to do my essay uk from any of our expert writers. Every topic challenging for you is easy for them.

Permutation and combination are also distinct mathematical concepts that deal with arranging and selecting objects. Permutations focus on the order of objects, while combinations disregard the order. Understanding the key differences between permutations and combinations is essential for correctly applying these concepts in various situations. By analyzing the requirements of a problem, one can determine whether to use permutations or combinations and arrive at accurate solutions.

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