How to Subtract Dates in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Subtracting dates in Excel might sound tricky, but it’s actually pretty simple. All you need to do is enter the two dates you want to subtract and then use a simple formula to find the difference. The result will tell you the number of days between the two dates. Easy peasy, right? Let’s dive in and learn how to do it step by step.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Subtract Dates in Excel

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s understand what these steps will do. By following these steps, you’ll learn how to calculate the difference between two dates in Excel, which is useful for tracking project timelines, age calculations, or even figuring out how many days are left until your next vacation!

Step 1: Enter the Dates

Type the two dates you want to subtract into two separate cells in Excel.

When entering dates, make sure Excel recognizes them as dates. You can do this by formatting the cells as ‘Date’ under the Number tab. This will ensure that Excel treats the entries as dates rather than plain text or numbers.

Step 2: Use the Subtraction Formula

In a new cell, type an equals sign, click the cell with the later date, type a minus sign, and then click the cell with the earlier date.

This step is where the magic happens. Excel will automatically calculate the difference between the dates when you use the subtraction formula. Just remember, the formula is ‘=LaterDate – EarlierDate’.

Step 3: Press Enter

After typing the formula, press enter to get the result.

Once you press enter, Excel will display the number of days between the two dates in the cell where you entered the formula. If you want to calculate the difference in months or years, you’ll need to tweak the formula a bit, but we’ll get to that later.

After completing these steps, you’ll have the number of days between the two dates. This is helpful for all sorts of things, like figuring out how many days until a deadline or how long a particular task took to complete. Remember, Excel counts all days, including weekends and holidays, so if you’re calculating business days, you may need to make some adjustments.

Tips: Subtracting Dates in Excel

  • Always ensure the cells containing the dates are formatted as ‘Date’ for accurate calculations.
  • If you want to exclude weekends and holidays, use the NETWORKDAYS function instead of simple subtraction.
  • To calculate the difference in months or years, use the DATEDIF function with the appropriate unit (‘m’ for months, ‘y’ for years).
  • If you’re dealing with historical dates, be aware that Excel’s date system starts on January 1, 1900.
  • Double-check your results, especially when working with leap years or different calendar systems.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Excel subtract dates across different years?

Yes, Excel can subtract dates no matter the year. Just enter the dates as you normally would and use the subtraction formula.

What if Excel doesn’t recognize my dates?

Make sure you’ve formatted the cells as ‘Date’. If Excel still doesn’t recognize them, check that you’re using a date format that Excel understands, like mm/dd/yyyy or dd-mm-yyyy.

Can I subtract a date from today’s date?

Absolutely! Use the formula ‘=TODAY()-YourDateCell’ to find out how many days have passed since a particular date.

How do I calculate business days only?

Use the NETWORKDAYS function and specify the start and end dates. This function also allows you to input a range of cells that contain holidays to exclude them from the count.

How do I find the difference in months or years?

Use the DATEDIF function. For example, ‘=DATEDIF(StartDate, EndDate, “m”)’ will give you the difference in months.


  1. Enter the Dates
  2. Use the Subtraction Formula
  3. Press Enter


So there you have it, a straightforward way to subtract dates in Excel. Whether you’re a project manager tracking deadlines, a human resources professional calculating employee tenures, or just someone planning for a special event, knowing how to manipulate dates in Excel can be a real lifesaver. It’s a simple yet powerful tool that, once mastered, can provide valuable insights and help you stay organized. Like any Excel function, it takes a bit of practice to get the hang of it, but once you do, you’ll be subtracting dates like a pro. And remember, Excel is a robust program with countless functions, so don’t stop at date subtraction. Explore and experiment with other functions to streamline your data management and analysis. Happy Excel-ing!

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