COMBINA: Excel Formulae Explained

Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool that offers a plethora of functions to simplify and automate data analysis tasks. One such function is the COMBINA function, a mathematical and trigonometric function that calculates the number of combinations (with repetitions) for a given number of items. This article will delve into the intricacies of the COMBINA function, its syntax, usage, and potential pitfalls.

Understanding the COMBINA Function

The COMBINA function is a built-in function in Excel that is categorized as a Math/Trig Function. It can be used as a worksheet function (WS) in Excel. As a worksheet function, the COMBINA function can be entered as part of a formula in a cell of a worksheet.

The primary use of the COMBINA function is to calculate the number of combinations for a given number of items. A combination is a selection of items where the order does not matter. In other words, COMBINA calculates the number of ways to choose a certain number of items from a larger pool, allowing for repetitions.

COMBINA Function Syntax

The syntax for the COMBINA function in Microsoft Excel is:

COMBINA( number, number_chosen )

Where the parameters are:

  • number - This is required and represents the number of items.
  • number_chosen - This is also required and represents the number of items to choose.

How to Use the COMBINA Function

Step-by-Step Guide

Using the COMBINA function is straightforward. Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Click on the cell where you want the result to be displayed.
  2. Type =COMBINA(.
  3. Enter or select the cell reference for the total number of items, followed by a comma.
  4. Enter or select the cell reference for the number of items to choose.
  5. Type ) to close the function and press Enter.

Example of COMBINA Function

Let's consider an example to understand the application of the COMBINA function better. Suppose you have 5 different types of fruits and you want to make a fruit salad using 3 of them. You can use the same fruit more than once. The question is, how many different combinations can you make?

In this case, you can use the COMBINA function to calculate the number of combinations. Here is how you can do it:

=COMBINA(5, 3)

The function returns 35, meaning there are 35 different combinations of fruit salads you can make with 5 fruits, using 3 at a time.

Potential Pitfalls and Errors

While the COMBINA function is incredibly useful, it's important to be aware of potential pitfalls and errors. Here are a few to keep in mind:

  • If either of the arguments is non-numeric, COMBINA returns the #VALUE! error.
  • If the number of items to choose is less than 0, COMBINA returns the #NUM! error.
  • If the number of items to choose is greater than the number of items, COMBINA still calculates the combinations, allowing for repetitions.


The COMBINA function in Excel is a powerful tool for calculating combinations, particularly when repetitions are allowed. Understanding its syntax and potential pitfalls can help you use this function effectively and avoid common errors. Whether you're creating complex statistical models or simply trying to figure out how many different fruit salads you can make, the COMBINA function has you covered.

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