The wikipedia entry on Permutations has this section on Permutations With Repetition:

Ordered arrangements of the elements of a set S of length n where repetition is allowed are called n-tuples, but have sometimes been referred to as permutations with repetition although they are not permutations in general. They are also called words over the alphabet S in some contexts. If the set S has k elements, the number of n-tuples over S is:

$${\displaystyle k^{n}}$$ There is no restriction on how often an element can appear in an n-tuple

That seems simple enough. But to make sure I understood, I wanted to go through a small example by hand. Consider S = {a,b} (so k=2) and n=3. So the number of ordered permutations should be 2^3 = 8. But it seems to me I can come up with >8:

  • a,a,a
  • a,a,b
  • a,a,c
  • a,b,a
  • a,b,b
  • a,b,c
  • a,c,a
  • a,c,b
  • a,c,c

...That's already 9 and I haven't started on anything starting with b or c yet. I'm sure I'm missing something obvious in my misinterpretation of this but not sure what it is. Any helpful explanation would be much appreciated!


1 Answer 1


You start with $S=\{a, b\}$ but then use $c$.

If $S=\{a, b, c\}$, then you should expect $3^3=27$ "permutations with repetition".

(I personally would not call something with repetitions a "permutation", rather a "sample with replacement" or similar.)

  • $\begingroup$ wow what a dumb mistake on my part. Thanks for the quick answer and suggestion on better nomenclature. $\endgroup$
    – Max Power
    Mar 11, 2020 at 15:43

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