How To

How To Subtract In Excel


How To Subtract In Excel

Share this article
How To Subtract In Excel

How To Subtract In Excel

Mastering Subtraction Operations in Excel: A Comprehensive Guide


Excel, the ubiquitous spreadsheet software, offers a plethora of functions for performing various mathematical operations, including subtraction. Understanding how to subtract in Excel is crucial for leveraging the program’s capabilities to their fullest potential. This comprehensive guide will delve into the various methods of subtracting in Excel, providing detailed instructions and practical examples to empower you with subtraction proficiency.

Method 1: Using the Subtraction Operator (-)

The most straightforward way to subtract in Excel is by using the subtraction operator, represented by the hyphen (-). To perform a simple subtraction, enter the minuend (the number being subtracted from) in one cell and the subtrahend (the number being subtracted) in another cell. Then, in an empty cell, use the formula "=minuend – subtrahend".


Cell Formula Value
A1 10 10
B1 5 5
C1 =A1 – B1 5

In this example, cell A1 contains the minuend (10), cell B1 contains the subtrahend (5), and cell C1 displays the result (5) calculated using the formula "=A1 – B1".

Method 2: Using the Minus Sign (-)

Another way to subtract in Excel is by using the minus sign (-) before a number. This method is particularly useful when you want to subtract a constant value from multiple cells. To do this, simply type the minus sign, followed by the value you want to subtract, and press Enter.


Cell Formula Value
A1 10 10
A2 15 15
A3 20 20
A4 -5 -5

In this example, cell A4 contains the formula "=-5", which subtracts 5 from the value in the previous cell (cell A3). As a result, the value in cell A4 is -5.

Method 3: Using the SUBTRACT Function

The SUBTRACT function is a built-in Excel function specifically designed for subtraction. It takes two arguments: the minuend and the subtrahend. To use the SUBTRACT function:

  1. Type "=SUBTRACT("
  2. Enter the minuend as the first argument.
  3. Enter the subtrahend as the second argument.
  4. Close the parentheses and press Enter.


Cell Formula Value
A1 10 10
B1 5 5
C1 =SUBTRACT(A1, B1) 5

In this example, cell C1 displays the result (5) of subtracting the value in cell B1 (5) from the value in cell A1 (10) using the formula "=SUBTRACT(A1, B1)".

Method 4: Using Cell References

Instead of entering absolute values, you can also use cell references to perform subtraction. This allows you to update the values in the future without having to modify the formula. For example, if you have the minuend in cell A1 and the subtrahend in cell B1, you can use the formula "=A1 – B1". If you change the values in cells A1 and B1, the result in the formula will automatically adjust.


Cell Formula Value
A1 =10 10
B1 =5 5
C1 =A1 – B1 5

Additional Tips for Subtracting in Excel

  • Use Parentheses for Clarity: When subtracting multiple values, use parentheses to group the calculations and ensure the correct order of operations. For example: "=A1 – (B1 + C1)".
  • Subtract Dates: Excel also allows you to subtract dates. The result will represent the difference in days, months, or years between the two dates.
  • Handle Negative Values: When the subtrahend is greater than the minuend, the result will be a negative value. Excel displays negative values with a minus sign (-) preceding them.
  • Use Conditional Formatting: Conditional formatting can be applied to cells to highlight or color-code values that meet specific criteria, such as negative values resulting from subtraction.


Q: Why do I get an error when subtracting in Excel?

A: Check for the following:

  • Mismatched cell references
  • Incorrect operators
  • Missing parentheses
  • Incorrect data type (e.g., trying to subtract text from a number)

Q: Can I subtract multiple values at once in Excel?

A: Yes, by using parentheses to group the calculations. For example, "=A1 – (B1 + C1 + D1)".

Q: How do I subtract a percentage from a value in Excel?

A: Use the following formula: "=value – (value percentage)". For example, to subtract 10% from 100, use the formula "=100 – (100 0.1)".

Q: Can I subtract time values in Excel?

A: Yes, Excel allows you to subtract time values to calculate the duration between two times. For example, if cell A1 contains "10:00 AM" and cell B1 contains "9:00 AM", the formula "=A1 – B1" will return "1:00".