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

Subtracting dates in Excel may sound like a tricky task, but it’s actually quite straightforward once you get the hang of it. In a nutshell, you can subtract one date from another to find out the number of days between them. This is super handy when you’re trying to calculate deadlines, durations or just figuring out how many days until your next vacation! Ready to learn how? Let’s dive in.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Subtract Dates in Excel

Before we start subtracting dates like pros, let’s get a clear picture of what we’re aiming to achieve. We want to find out the number of days between two dates. For instance, how many days have passed between your birthday and today? That’s what we’re looking to calculate.

Step 1: Enter the Dates

Start by entering the two dates you want to subtract in two separate cells.

Remember, Excel reads dates in a specific format. Make sure you enter the dates in a way Excel understands, like mm/dd/yyyy or dd/mm/yyyy. If Excel doesn’t recognize the format, it won’t calculate the difference correctly.

Step 2: Subtract the Dates

Now, click on a new cell where you want the result to appear. Type in a formula to subtract the earlier date from the later one.

Your formula should look something like this: =B1-A1, where B1 is the cell with the later date and A1 is the cell with the earlier date. The equal sign tells Excel that you’re about to input a formula.

Step 3: Press Enter

After typing in the formula, hit Enter.

Voila! The cell where you typed the formula will now display the number of days between the two dates. Excel automatically does the math and tells you the duration in days.

Once you’ve completed these steps, you’ll have the number of days between any two dates you choose. This can be really useful for planning events, tracking project deadlines, or just satisfying your curiosity about how long it’s been since a particular date.

Tips: Subtracting Dates in Excel

  • Make sure the dates are in a format Excel recognizes.
  • Use the =DATEDIF(start_date,end_date,"D") function for more complex date calculations.
  • Remember that Excel counts the start date as day 0. If you want to include the start date in your calculation, add 1 to the result.
  • Excel’s serial number for dates starts on January 1, 1900. Dates before this won’t be recognized correctly.
  • If you need to calculate hours or minutes, use the HOUR and MINUTE functions in your subtraction formula.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Excel subtract dates to show years, months, and days?

Yes, you can use the DATEDIF function to calculate the difference in years, months, and days between two dates.

What if Excel doesn’t recognize my date format?

Make sure your dates are in a format Excel understands, like mm/dd/yyyy. You can also format the cells as ‘Date’ to help Excel recognize your input.

Can I calculate the difference in business days instead of calendar days?

Yes, use the NETWORKDAYS function to exclude weekends and optionally holidays from your calculation.

Why is Excel showing a weird number when I subtract dates?

Excel stores dates as serial numbers. If your cell isn’t formatted as a date, it might show the serial number instead. Just reformat the cell to a date format.

Can I subtract dates across different sheets in Excel?

Absolutely! Just reference the cells from the different sheets in your subtraction formula.


  1. Enter the dates in two separate cells.
  2. Subtract the earlier date from the later date using a formula.
  3. Press Enter to see the result.


Congrats! You’ve just learned how to subtract dates in Excel like a pro! This skill is like having a time machine at your fingertips – you can jump back and forth in time to figure out exact durations, deadlines, and more. Whether you’re planning your next project, tracking your fitness goals, or simply counting days till a special event, subtracting dates in Excel is an essential trick to have up your sleeve.

Remember, practice makes perfect. So, why not find an excuse to start playing around with dates in Excel? Maybe you want to calculate how many days you’ve been alive, or perhaps you’re curious about the number of weekdays until your next long weekend. Whatever your reason, the more you use it, the better you’ll get!

And if you ever get stuck, just come back to this guide. It’s like having a little Excel guru right by your side. Happy calculating, and may your dates always subtract smoothly!

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