Partitioning a linked list around a given value and If we don’t care about making the elements of the list “stable”

Problem Statement

In this problem, we will be given a linked list and an integer X. We need to partition the linked list around this integer X such that all elements that are less than X should occur before all elements having a value greater than or equal to X.

Problem Statement understanding:

To understand this problem statement, let us learn programming languages online and take an example.

If the given linked list is:

and X = 5

  • Here, X = 5 so, nodes with data less than X are: 1,2,3.
  • Nodes with data greater than or equal to X are: 5,8,12.
  • We need to keep 1,2,3 before 5,8,12.
  • Remember that the order of elements does not matter to us as long as the criteria are satisfied, i.e., elements having a value less than X should be before the elements with a value greater than or equal to X.
  • So, the final output will be 1→2→3→5→8→12→NULL

Let us take another example:
If the linked list is 9→1→10→27→42→2→NULL and X = 10

  • As explained in the above example, similarly, the output linked list after partitioning the linked list around X = 10 will be: 1→9→2→10→27→42→NULL

Note: The order of the elements does not matter, i.e., in the final linked list, the elements smaller than X should be before the elements greater than or equal to X. The order of the occurrence of the elements in the final linked list need not be the same as the order of occurrence in the initial given linked list. We can change the order of occurrence of elements as long as the main condition is satisfied.

Also, multiple correct outputs are possible for this problem statement.

Now let's have a look at some helpful observations.

Helpful Observations

  • We need to separate the nodes with values less than X from those with values greater than or equal to X.
  • The order of occurrence of nodes does not matter to us.
  • Multiple correct solutions exist for this problem.


  • Here, we will keep track of two pointers i.e., head and tail pointers of the list
  • When we encounter an element that is less than X, we will insert it before the head and update the head pointer.
  • When we encounter an element greater than or equal to X, we will insert it after the tail node and will update the tail node.


  • Initialize two pointers named current and tail with the starting node of the original linked list.
  • Loop in the linked list using this pointer current, starting from first to the last node, and store the next pointer of the current node in another variable before inserting the current node before head or after tail.
  • If the current node has a value less than X, insert it before head and update the head.
  • If the current node has a value greater than or equal to X, insert it after the tail and update the tail pointer.
  • Update the current node with the next pointer stored in step 2.
  • After the loop ends, make the next pointer of the tail node point to NULL to avoid the cycle in the newly created list.

Dry Run

Code Implementation

using namespace std;
class Node
    int data;
    Node* next;
    Node(int x){
        data = x;
   next = NULL;
Node *partition(Node *head, int x)
    /* initialize current and tail nodes of new list 
as discussed in step 1*/
    Node *tail = head;
    Node *curr = head;
    while (curr != NULL)
        Node *next = curr->next;
        if (curr->data < x) // left partition 
            /* Insert node before head if current node data is
               less than given value of X */
            curr->next = head;
            head = curr; // update the head node 
        else // right partition 
            /* Insert node after tail node */
            tail->next = curr;
            tail = curr; // update the tail node
        curr = next;
    tail->next = NULL; // make next of tail node as NULL to  
                       // avoid cycles in newly created list
    // return changed head
    return head;
void printList(struct Node *head)
    Node *temp = head;
    while (temp != NULL)
        printf("%d  ", temp->data);
        temp = temp->next;
int main(void)
    Node* head = NULL;
    head = new Node(3);
    head->next = new Node(12);
    head->next->next = new Node(1);
    head->next->next->next = new Node(5);
    head->next->next->next->next = new Node(8);
    head->next->next->next->next->next = new Node(2);
    Node *tmp = partition(head,5);
    return 0;


2 1 3 12 5 8

Time Complexity: O(n), Where n is the number of nodes in the list.

So, in this blog, we have tried to explain how you can partition a linked list around a given value without caring about maintaining the stability in elements of the list in the most optimal way. If you want to solve more questions on Linked List, which are curated by our expert mentors at PrepBytes, you can follow this link Linked List.

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