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

Subtracting in Excel is as easy as pie, and it’s a fundamental skill you’ll want to have in your arsenal. Whether you’re a student, a business professional, or just someone who loves crunching numbers, knowing how to subtract in Excel can save you time and make your data analysis tasks a breeze. In just a few simple steps, you can subtract one number from another, or even subtract multiple numbers from a total.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Subtract in Excel

Before we dive into the steps, it’s important to know that subtracting in Excel involves using formulas. A formula is like a magic spell that tells Excel exactly what you want to do with your numbers. In this case, we’re going to subtract.

Step 1: Select the Cell Where You Want the Answer to Appear

Click on the cell where you want to display the result of your subtraction.

Selecting the right cell is crucial because Excel will display the result of your subtraction in the cell you choose. Make sure it’s empty and not already filled with other data to avoid any confusion.

Step 2: Type the Equal Sign (=)

Type “=” into the selected cell to begin your formula.

The equal sign is like telling Excel, “Hey, I’m about to give you a command, so pay attention!” It’s the starting point for any formula you use in Excel.

Step 3: Enter the Numbers You Want to Subtract

Type the number you’re starting with, followed by a minus sign (-), and then the number you want to subtract.

For example, if you want to subtract 5 from 10, you would type “10-5” into the cell. Remember, the number you want to subtract from always goes first!

Step 4: Press Enter

Press the Enter key on your keyboard to complete the formula and see the result.

Once you press Enter, Excel will do the math for you, and voilà! The answer to your subtraction problem will appear in the cell you selected.

After you complete the subtraction, you’ll see the result in your chosen cell. If you need to subtract more numbers, simply repeat the steps, or use the SUM function for more complex calculations.

Tips: Excel Subtraction

  • If you’re subtracting multiple numbers, you can keep adding minus signs and numbers in your formula, like this: “=10-5-3”.
  • You can subtract the values of two different cells by referencing their cell addresses in the formula. For instance, “=A1-B1” will subtract the value in cell B1 from the value in cell A1.
  • To subtract a list of numbers from a specific number, use the SUM function to add up the list and then subtract that total from your specific number.
  • Remember to always start your formula with the equal sign, or Excel won’t recognize it as a formula.
  • If you make a mistake, don’t worry! Just click on the cell and re-enter the formula correctly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I want to subtract a whole column of numbers?

To subtract a whole column, you can use the SUM function to add up the column and then subtract that total from the number you want.

Can I subtract percentages in Excel?

Yes, you can! Just make sure to convert your percentages to decimal form before subtracting.

What do I do if I get an error message?

Double-check your formula for any typos or mistakes. Make sure you’re using the minus sign correctly and that your cell references are accurate.

Can I use subtraction in combination with other Excel functions?

Absolutely! Subtraction can be part of a larger formula that includes other Excel functions like SUM, AVERAGE, or MULTIPLE.

How do I subtract dates in Excel?

To subtract dates, simply enter the later date first followed by a minus sign and the earlier date. Excel will calculate the number of days between the two dates.


  1. Select the cell for the result.
  2. Type “=” to start the formula.
  3. Enter the numbers to subtract.
  4. Press Enter to get the result.


Subtracting in Excel is a piece of cake once you get the hang of it. With just a few clicks and keystrokes, you can easily manage your data and perform quick calculations. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different formulas and functions. The more comfortable you become with Excel, the more you’ll be able to do with it. So go ahead, give it a try, and watch as those numbers fall into place just the way you want them to. Happy subtracting!