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(Not recommended) Enumeration of combinations

combnk is not recommended. Use the MATLAB® function nchoosek instead. For more information, see Compatibility Considerations.



C = combnk(v,k) returns a matrix containing all possible combinations of the elements of vector v taken k at a time. Matrix C has k columns and n!/((n – k)! k!) rows, where n is the number of observations in v.


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Create a character array of every four-letter combination of the characters in the word 'tendril'.

C = combnk('tendril',4);

C is a 35-by-4 character array.

Display the last five combinations in the list.

last5 = C(31:35,:)
last5 = 5x4 char array

List all two-number combinations of the numbers one through four.

C = combnk(1:4,2)
C = 6×2

     3     4
     2     4
     2     3
     1     4
     1     3
     1     2

Because 1:4 is a vector of doubles, C is a matrix of doubles.

Input Arguments

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Set of all elements, specified as a vector.

Example: [1 2 3 4 5]

Example: 'abcd'

Data Types: single | double | logical | char

Number of elements to select, specified as a nonnegative integer scalar. k can be any numeric type, but must be real.

There are no restrictions on combining inputs of different types for combnk(v,k).

Example: 3

Data Types: single | double

Output Arguments

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All combinations of v, returned as a matrix of the same type as v. C has k columns and n!/((n – k)! k!) rows, where n is the number of observations in v.

Each row of C contains a combination of k items selected from v. The elements in each row of C are listed in the same order as they appear in v.

If k is larger than n, then C is an empty matrix.


combnk is practical only for situations where v has fewer than 15 observations.

Compatibility Considerations

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Not recommended starting in R2020b

See Also

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Introduced before R2006a