• General
• News
• Popular Stocks
• Personal Finance
• Reviews & Ratings
• Wealth Management
• Popular Courses
• Courses by Topic

# Addition Rule for Probabilities Definition

## What Is the Addition Rule for Probabilities?

The addition rule for probabilities describes two formulas, one for the probability for either of two mutually exclusive events happening and the other for the probability of two non-mutually exclusive events happening.

The first formula is just the sum of the probabilities of the two events. The second formula is the sum of the probabilities of the two events minus the probability that both will occur.

### Key Takeaways

• The addition rule for probabilities consists of two rules or formulas, with one that accommodates two mutually-exclusive events and another that accommodates two non-mutually exclusive events.
• Non-mutually-exclusive means that some overlap exists between the two events in question and the formula compensates for this by subtracting the probability of the overlap, P(Y and Z), from the sum of the probabilities of Y and Z.
• In theory the first form of the rule is a special case of the second form.

## The Formulas for the Addition Rules for Probabilities Is

Mathematically, the probability of two mutually exclusive events is denoted by:

﻿ $P(Y \text{ or } Z) = P(Y)+P(Z)$﻿

Mathematically, the probability of two non-mutually exclusive events is denoted by:

﻿ $P(Y \text{ or } Z) = P(Y) + P(Z) - P(Y \text{ and } Z)$﻿

## What Does the Addition Rule for Probabilities Tell You?

To illustrate the first rule in the addition rule for probabilities, consider a die with six sides and the chances of rolling either a 3 or a 6. Since the chances of rolling a 3 are 1 in 6 and the chances of rolling a 6 are also 1 in 6, the chance of rolling either a 3 or a 6 is:

1/6 + 1/6 = 2/6 = 1/3

To illustrate the second rule, consider a class in which there are 9 boys and 11 girls. At the end of the term, 5 girls and 4 boys receive a grade of B. If a student is selected by chance, what are the odds that the student will be either a girl or a B student? Since the chances of selecting a girl are 11 in 20, the chances of selecting a B student are 9 in 20 and the chances of selecting a girl who is a B student are 5/20, the chances of picking a girl or a B student are:

11/20 + 9/20 - 5/20 =15/20 = 3/4

In reality, the two rules simplify to just one rule, the second one. That's because in the first case, the probability of two mutually exclusive events both happening is 0. In the example with the die, it's impossible to roll both a 3 and a 6 on one roll of a single die. So the two events are mutually exclusive.

## Mutual Exclusivity

Mutually exclusive is a statistical term describing two or more events that cannot coincide. It is commonly used to describe a situation where the occurrence of one outcome supersedes the other.  For a basic example, consider the rolling of dice. You cannot roll both a five and a three simultaneously on a single die. Furthermore, getting a three on an initial roll has no impact on whether or not a subsequent roll yields a five. All rolls of a die are independent events.

Take the Next Step to Invest
×
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.
Service
Name
Description