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l = n-1 refers to the max value of l. This means that the value of l can be lower than n-1, but not higher. For example, the 3p orbital is n=3 and l=1. The l value can either be 0, 1, or 2. Since n=3, l max is l=3-1=2, so for n=3,the possible orbitals are 3s, 3p, 3d.
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