Subtract two or more numbers in Excel

  1. Here is an easy guide to subtract two or more numbers in Excel
  2. Understanding Excel Formulas
  3. Use cell references in formulas
  4. Example of deduction formula
  5. Point and click cell links
  6. Edit formula data
  7. Order of operations (using parentheses)
  8. Create more complex formulas

Here is an easy guide to subtract two or more numbers in Excel

If you don’t know how to subtract numbers in Excel XLS worksheet, a simple formula will do the work for you. If you plan to create longer formulas that contain other operations (such as multiplication or division), it’s important to understand how Excel handles the calculation order (also known as the order of operations). This way you will get the expected results.

The instructions in this article apply to Excel 2019, Excel 2016, Excel 2013, Excel 2010, Excel for Mac, and Excel Online.

Understanding Excel Formulas

Create a formula to subtract two or more numbers in Excel.

Important points to remember about Excel formulas:

  • Formulas in Excel always start with an equal sign (

  • The formula is always entered in the cell where you want the answer.

  • The subtraction sign in Excel is a dash (

  • The formula is filled in by pressing the Enter key.

Use cell references in formulas

While numbers can be entered directly into a formula (as shown in line 2 of the example below), it is usually better to enter data into table cells and then use addresses or references to those cells in the formula (see line 3 for an example ).

When you use cell references instead of actual data in a formula, you can later change the data in the formula by replacing the data in the cells. That way you don’t have to rewrite the whole formula. Formula results are automatically updated when cell data changes.

Another option is to combine cell references and actual data (see line 4 of the example below).

Example of deduction formula

As shown in the example, the formula in cell D3 subtracts the data in cell B3 from the data in cell A3.

Ready formula in cell D3:

 = А3-В3 

The result when you press Enter is 5, which is the result of 10 – 5.

Point and click cell links

You can enter a formula in cell D3 and display the correct answer. But when you use the pointer and click to add cell references to formulas, you minimize the chance of errors resulting from entering the wrong cell reference.

Point and click allows selection of cells containing data with the mouse pointer while entering a formula. When you select a cell, that cell reference is added to the formula.

  1. Enter equal sign ) to cell D3 to start the formula.

  2. Select cell A3 use the mouse pointer to add a reference to that cell to the formula. The cell reference appears after the equal sign.

  3. Enter minus sign ) after the cell reference.

  4. Select cell B3 to add a reference to that cell to the formula. The cell reference appears after the minus sign.

  5. Press key Enter to complete the formula.

  6. Answer 5 appears in cell D3.

  7. Even if the answer to a formula is displayed in cell D3, selecting that cell displays the formula in the formula bar above the worksheet.

  8. Now you know how to use cell references in an Excel formula.

Edit formula data

To check the value of using cell references in a formula, change the number in cell B3 and click Enter † The answer in cell D3 is automatically updated to reflect the change in the data in cell B3.

A common mistake is to select outside the formula cell to exit formula editing mode. Inserts the selected cell into the formula. When you’re done editing the formula, click Enter to exit formula editing mode.

Order of operations (using parentheses)

Excel has a sequence of operations to follow when evaluating which math operations to perform first in a formula.

Excel follows standard mathematical principles for the order of operations:

  • Everything in parentheses is evaluated first.

  • Multiplication and division are then performed.

  • Addition and subtraction are calculated last.

If you prefer to subtract two cells in Excel before multiplying or dividing, add parentheses around the subtraction.

In this example, placing A3-B3 in parentheses before /A5 subtracts 5 from 10 before dividing by 20.

The result of this formula is 0.25. If no parentheses had been used in this formula, the result would have been 9.75.

Create more complex formulas

To extend the formulas with additional operations (such as division or addition), as shown in the seventh row, continue by adding the appropriate math operator, followed by a reference to the cell containing the new data.

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