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Permutations with Repetitions

Understanding Permutations with Repetition: Key Formulas and Examples:

In mathematics, permutations are a fundamental concept used to calculate the number of ways objects can be arranged. When these objects include repetitions, understanding how to calculate permutations becomes slightly more complex but even more fascinating. This blog will explore permutations with repetition, providing clear formulas and practical examples to help demystify this topic.

What are Permutations with Repetition?

Permutations with repetition occur when the set from which you are selecting items has some elements that are identical. In these cases, unlike permutations where all items are distinct, the order of arrangement still matters, but the formula adjusts to account for the repeated items.

Permutation with Repetition Formula:

The general formula for permutations with repetition is:

\frac{n!}{n_1! \times n_2! \times \ldots \times n_k!}


  • n is the total number of items to arrange.
  • n1 , n2 ,…, nk are the frequencies of the repeated items.

Numerical Examples:

  1. Letters in a Word:

    Consider the word "BALLOON." Here, the letters 'L' and 'O' repeat. The total number of distinct permutations is calculated by: \frac{7!}{2! \times 2!} = \frac{5040}{4} = 1260 So, there are 1,260 different ways to arrange the letters in "BALLOON."

  2. Arranging Colored Balls:

    Suppose you have 8 balls where 3 are red, 3 are blue, and 2 are green. The number of distinct ways to arrange these balls is: \frac{8!}{3! \times 3! \times 2!} = \frac{40320}{36} = 1120 

    This calculation shows 1,120 possible arrangements. 

  3. Repeated Letters:

           Consider arranging the letters in "MISSISSIPPI." Since some letters repeat, the formula adjusts for these repetitions. The number of distinct                          permutations is calculated by:

         \frac{12!}{4!4!2!2!} = \frac{479001600}{24 \times 24 \times 2 \times 2} = 34650

        This formula accounts for the four I's, four S's, two P's, and two M's.

       4. Username Creation:

           Suppose a website requires a 6-character username, where only the letters A, B, and C can be used, and each can be used more than once. The                total number of permutations with repetition for this case is 363^636 (since each position can be any of the three letters):

          3^6 = 729

         This calculation shows that there are 729 possible unique usernames that can be created with the letters A, B, and C.

       5. Arranging Books on a Shelf:

           Consider a scenario where you have 5 books to arrange on a shelf, but two of the books are identical copies of a novel, and another two are                       identical dictionaries. The number of distinct arrangements is:

            \frac{5!}{2! \times 2!} = \frac{120}{4} = 30

          Here, there are 30 different ways to arrange these five books on a shelf.

Practical Applications:

Understanding permutations with repetition has several practical applications, such as:

  • Cryptography: Designing codes that require combinations of repeated characters.
  • Marketing Research: Analyzing different arrangements of product displays where some products are identical.
  • Genetics: Calculating possible gene combinations when certain genes are dominant.


Permutations with repetition allow us to explore a world where not every object is unique, yet every arrangement is significant. Whether you are a student learning probability, a professional in fields requiring combinatorial analysis, or just a math enthusiast, mastering this concept can open new perspectives in understanding order and arrangement in everyday scenarios.

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