Next Permutation

Next Permutation is a concept used primarily in computer science and mathematics, specifically in the context of algorithms and combinatorics. To understand it from first principles, let's break down the concept into its fundamental components.

Understanding Permutations

  1. Permutation Basics: A permutation of a set is a specific arrangement of its elements in a particular order. For instance, given a set {1, 2, 3}, there are 6 permutations: {1, 2, 3}, {1, 3, 2}, {2, 1, 3}, {2, 3, 1}, {3, 1, 2}, and {3, 2, 1}.

  2. Ordering of Permutations: Permutations can be ordered based on the lexicographical or dictionary order. For example, {1, 2, 3} is before {1, 3, 2} in this order.

What is Next Permutation?

Next Permutation refers to the immediate next permutation of a set of elements in lexicographical order. For a given permutation, the next permutation is the smallest permutation that is greater than the given one.

Algorithm for Next Permutation

To compute the next permutation:

  1. Identify Pivot: Start from the end of the sequence, and find the first pair of two successive elements (a[i], a[i-1]) such that a[i] > a[i-1]. The element a[i-1] is the pivot.

  2. Find Successor to Pivot: Again, starting from the end, find the first element greater than the pivot. This element will be swapped with the pivot.

  3. Swap and Reverse: Swap the pivot with its successor, and reverse the sequence after the original pivot's position to get the next permutation.


Let's take an example to understand this better. Consider the permutation {1, 3, 5, 4, 2}.

  1. Identify Pivot: Moving from right to left, the first pair where the right element is greater than the left is (5, 3). So, 3 is the pivot.

  2. Find Successor: The smallest number greater than 3 (the pivot) to the right of it is 4.

  3. Swap and Reverse: Swap 3 and 4 to get {1, 4, 5, 3, 2}. Now, reverse the part after the original pivot's position (after 4), which leads to {1, 4, 2, 3, 5}. This is the next permutation.

Practical Applications

  • Generating All Permutations: This method is used in algorithms to generate all permutations of a set by repeatedly calling the next permutation function.
  • Solving Combinatorial Problems: It's useful in problems where you need to consider all possible arrangements or sequences.


Next Permutation is a fundamental concept in algorithmic problem solving, allowing for the generation of permutations in an ordered and efficient manner. Understanding this concept requires a grasp of basic combinatorics and algorithmic thinking.