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Counting Inversions using Set in C++ STL

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Inversion Count for an array indicates – how far (or close) the array is from being sorted. If array is already sorted then inversion count is 0. If array is sorted in reverse order that inversion count is the maximum.

    Two elements a[i] and a[j] form an inversion if 
     a[i] > a[j] and i < j. For simplicity, we may 
     assume that all elements are unique.

     Input:  arr[] = {8, 4, 2, 1}
     Output: 6
     Given array has six inversions (8,4), (4,2),
     (8,2), (8,1), (4,1), (2,1).     

We have already discussed below approaches.
1) Naive and Merge Sort based approaches.
2) AVL Tree based approach.

In this post an easy implementation of approach 2 using Set in C++ STL is discussed.

1) Create an empty Set in C++ STL (Note that a Set in C++ STL is 
   implemented using Self-Balancing Binary Search Tree). And insert
   first element of array into the set.

2) Initialize inversion count as 0.

3) Iterate from 1 to n-1 and do following for every element in arr[i]
     a) Insert arr[i] into the set.
     b) Find the first element greater than arr[i] in set
        using upper_bound() defined Set STL.
     c) Find distance of above found element from last element in set
        and add this distance to inversion count.

4) Return inversion count.

// A STL Set based approach for inversion count 
using namespace std;
// Returns inversion count in arr[0..n-1]
int getInvCount(int arr[],int n)
    // Create an empty set and insert first element in it
    multiset<int> set1;
    int invcount = 0; // Initialize result
    multiset<int>::iterator itset1; // Iterator for the set
    // Traverse all elements starting from second
    for (int i=1; i<n; i++)
        // Insert arr[i] in set (Note that set maintains
        // sorted order)
        // Set the iterator to first greater element than arr[i]
        // in set (Note that set stores arr[0],.., arr[i-1]
        itset1 = set1.upper_bound(arr[i]);
        // Get distance of first greater element from end
        // and this distance is count of greater elements
        // on left side of arr[i]
        invcount += distance(itset1, set1.end());
    return invcount;
// Driver program to test above
int main()
    int arr[] = {8, 4, 2, 1};
    int n = sizeof(arr)/sizeof(int);
    cout << "Number of inversions count are : "
         << getInvCount(arr,n);
    return 0;


Number of inversions count are : 6

Note that the worst case time complexity of above implementation is O(n2) as distance function in STL takes O(n) time worst case, but this implementation is much simpler than other implementations and would take much less time than Naive method on average.

Please write comments if you find anything incorrect, or you want to share more information about the topic discussed above

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Last Updated : 28 Jun, 2021
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