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def substrings(a, b, n):
    """Return substrings of length n in both a and b"""

    # takes in strings input a and b
    # splits each string into substrings
    lista = [a[i:j] for i in range(0, (len(a) - n))
        for j in range(n, len(a))]

    listb = [b[i:j] for i in range(0, (len(b) - n))
        for j in range(n, len(b))]

    # compute a list of all substrings that appear in both a and b
    matches = []
    for element in lista:
        if element in listb:
            matches.append(element)
            matches = list(dict.fromkeys(matches))
    return matches
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You are meant to find a list of all the substrings of len n. For that, there is no need for separate i and j, you could use the slice [i:i+n] with the correct range (think how many substrings of length n are there in a string of length len(a)).

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