How to Subtract in Excel?

Affiliate disclosure: In full transparency – some of the links on our website are affiliate links, if you use them to make a purchase we will earn a commission at no additional cost for you (none whatsoever!).

Subtracting a value is one of the most basic things you learn in elementary school. And learning Excel is undoubtedly like the new ‘elementary school’ for office workers.

It’s safe to say that Microsoft’s Excel is one of the most used software across the world for collecting and saving various types of data.

So if you know the basics of using Excel, then you can easily get the required job done in half the time and quarter the efforts. That’s why today we have brought you a guide about subtracting a value in EXCEL.

Uses of Subtracting in Excel.

Before learning how to subtract in excel, let’s have a look at tasks we can perform once we have learned it.

First of all, of course, Subtracting in Excel will help you to do calculations faster. You won’t need a calculator opened side by side and switch between tabs, instead, you can just enter the values in an Excel Cell and get the job done.

But that’s not all; the subtraction option is also used for getting more complex inputs like if you have a list of employees, then you can easily get data like how many employees are reaching the retirement age by subtracting the number of total employees with the number of employees under 55.

This can save you lots of time and work and can help you in getting important data in real-time. That’s why people believe that even the simplest Excel formulas are the lifeline for your business.

How to Subtract in Excel?

By default, there is no function to subtract values in Excel. We use the SUM function to subtract any value. There is a total of two ways to do so. One is by directly entering the values in numbers or by referencing to cells containing numbers.

Both are more suitable for different situations, and we have made a detailed guide on both below-

Method 1: How to Subtract on Excel by Direct Entering the Values?

Sometimes all you need to do is a simple subtraction and it’s really a pain in the neck if you open a calculator for every subtraction. But if you know how to do it in the excel sheet itself then the job becomes easier. The follow the below steps to do so:

Step #1: Type the equal (=) sign in the cell you want the subtraction result to appear. Always remember that any formula in Excel begins with an equal sign.

Step #2: Type the first number of the equation. For example, let’s say we typed 11.

Step #3: Put the dash (-) sign after the first number. It’s the sign for minus in Excel.

Step #4: Type the 2nd number. For example, if the 2nd number is 4 then after entering it the formula will look like this = 11 – 4

Step #5: Now hit the enter button and the computer will automatically show the result of the equation. In the above example, it will show the number 7 as 11-4 will be 7.

Method 2: Using Subtraction Formula in Excel

The above method is good for quick calculations. In this, we will make use of an excel formula for subtraction. But what if you need to record lots of data and subtract them all?

In this condition using excel, excel subtraction formula is the best method. For example, if you enter the data of Apples and oranges you sold each day in the month.

And then you subtract the number of apples from oranges to know the difference between the two. But after a month, you get to know that you were entering the number of apples wrongly, and now you’ll have to re-enter the numbers.

Now if you have used the above method and calculated the difference by directly entering the values, then you’ll have to recalculate each one of them too.

But if you have used the excel subtraction formula, then you can just change the values in the range cells and the calculated data will be updated automatically. Here is how to use the subtract formula in excel-

Step #1: First, write the values you want to use in the formula, for example, we are going to subtract 128 from 345. So first enter 345 in the third line of B Range and 128 in the 2nd line of B range.

Step #2: Now enter the equal sign (=) in the cell you want the results to appear in(B4 in this example). Always remember that the formulas in Excel are started with an equal sign.

Step #3: Now enter the first cell reference after the equal sign. In this example enter the value B3.

Step #4: After that, add the dash sign (-) which is the sign of minus in Excel.

Step #5: Now enter the second value after the dash sign. In the current example, we will enter the value B2. After it, the equation will look something like this-
= B3 – B2

Step #6: Now press the enter button and the result of the equation will show in the cell. in the current example it will be 345 (B3) – 128 (B2) = 217.

Now if you ever need to change any value of the equation, you can just change the value in the related range cell, and the equation will be updated accordingly.

Method 3: Subtraction in Excel using Formula with Direct Values

So till now, you have learned how to subtract in Excel by entering direct values and subtraction in Excel using a formula. But there is another way you can use the Subtract function in Excel.

It’s not really a different method than the last two, rather than its a combination of both. It’s used when one of the values has to remain the same.

For example, if you have 100 candidates, and you know that every one of them is at least 160 cm long. But now you have to know the difference between each one of their heights and the standard height (160 cm in this example.).

Now if you put the number in a cell and then use its cell reference in the formula then, it will be easy, but a whole range cell where just one cell is in use will not only look ugly but also it will confuse others if the same data is used by multiple people.

So in this condition, we will use the following technique to subtract in excel-

Step #1: Enter all the data in a range cell in different cells. For example, if you need to enter the info about the heights of all candidates then we’ll enter them one by one. Let’s say that heights of 5 different people are 175, 165, 167, 180 and 178. Now we enter these numbers in the 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 lines of B range.

Step #2: Now go to the range where you want the results to appear and put an equal sign (=) in the start.

Step #3: Now enter the cell references in different cells where you want the result to appear. In this example, we enter the cell references B1, B2, B3, B4, and B5.

Step #4: Now enter the dash sign (-) after every cell reference. It’s the minus sign of Excel.

Step #5: Now enter the value you want to subtract. For this example, we have chosen the value 160 so after entering it the example formula will look like this = B1 – 160

Now when you hit enter the results of the formula will show. In this example the result will be 175 (B1) – 160 = 15.

Wrap up

So these were the three ways you can use to subtract in excel. Which Excel tutorial would you like us to write next? Do tell us in the comments section.
Do we hope that we were efficient enough to help you in your quest of how to subtract on excel?
Thank you for crossing by and stay tuned.

arun singh

Arun Singh is a experienced server management geek and he has more than 8 years of experienced handling hosting server and he do sometimes share his knowledge in digital marketing. He currently with private company in Mumbai, India and he handles server management at

Leave a Comment