How to Subtract in Google Sheets: A Step-by-Step Guide

Subtracting in Google Sheets is a handy skill to have, whether you’re managing a budget, analyzing data, or just trying to keep track of expenses. It’s a simple process that involves using basic formulas to subtract one value from another. By following a few easy steps, you’ll be able to perform subtraction and get the answers you need.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Subtract in Google Sheets

Before diving into the steps, it’s important to understand that subtracting in Google Sheets is done using formulas. Formulas are what make spreadsheet tools so powerful. They allow you to perform calculations on your data quickly and easily. Let’s go through the process step by step.

Step 1: Select a Cell for Your Result

Click on the cell where you want the subtraction result to appear.

This is where the magic will happen. By selecting the cell, you’re telling Google Sheets where to display the outcome of your subtraction formula.

Step 2: Type the Subtraction Formula

Type the equals sign (=), followed by the numbers or cell references you want to subtract, separated by a minus sign (-).

For example, if you’re subtracting number 5 from 10, you would type “=10-5” into the cell. If you’re subtracting the values of two different cells, let’s say B1 and B2, you would type “=B1-B2.”

Step 3: Press Enter

After typing your formula, press Enter on your keyboard.

By pressing Enter, you’re telling Google Sheets to execute the formula you’ve just typed. The cell will now display the result of the subtraction.

After completing these steps, you’ll see the result of your subtraction in the cell you selected. If you’ve used cell references, any changes in those cells will automatically update the result. This makes it easy to keep your data accurate and up-to-date.

Tips for Subtracting in Google Sheets

  • Use cell references in your formulas to make your spreadsheet dynamic and responsive to changes.
  • Double-check your formulas for accuracy before pressing Enter.
  • Remember that you can undo any action in Google Sheets by pressing Ctrl+Z (Cmd+Z on Mac).
  • Use parentheses to control the order of operations in more complex formulas.
  • Explore the use of other mathematical functions in Google Sheets to enhance your data analysis skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I subtract multiple numbers at once?

Yes, you can subtract multiple numbers by continuing to add minus signs and numbers in your formula, like “=10-5-3.”

What if I get an error message?

Double-check your formula for any typos or misplaced signs. Error messages often occur due to simple mistakes.

Can I use subtraction in a function?

Absolutely! Many functions in Google Sheets, like SUM or AVERAGE, can be combined with subtraction for more complex calculations.

How do I subtract percentages?

To subtract a percentage, first calculate the percentage of the number, and then use that result in your subtraction formula.

Can I copy a subtraction formula to other cells?

Yes, by dragging the fill handle (a small square at the bottom-right corner of the cell) across other cells, the formula will be copied and adjusted for each cell.


  1. Select the cell for your result.
  2. Type your subtraction formula.
  3. Press Enter.


Whether you’re a spreadsheet novice or a seasoned pro, understanding how to subtract in Google Sheets is a fundamental skill that can save you time and streamline your work. The ability to quickly perform calculations like subtraction offers endless possibilities for data analysis, budgeting, and beyond. With the tips provided, you’ll be able to avoid common pitfalls and enhance your spreadsheet fluency. And remember, practice makes perfect! So, the next time you’re working with numbers, give these steps a try, and watch as Google Sheets does the heavy lifting for you.

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