How to Make a Subtraction Formula in Excel: Simple Step-by-Step Guide

How to Make a Subtraction Formula in Excel

Ever need to figure out the difference between two numbers in Excel? It’s actually pretty simple. You just use a basic subtraction formula. This guide will walk you through the steps to make it happen, and it’s so easy even a beginner can do it. All you need is a basic understanding of Excel and a few minutes to spare.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Make a Subtraction Formula in Excel

In this section, we will break down the process of creating a subtraction formula in Excel. By the end, you will know precisely how to subtract one cell value from another.

Step 1: Open Excel and Select Your Cells

Open Excel and click on the cell where you want the result of the subtraction to appear.

It’s essential to start in the cell where you want the answer. This helps you keep your data organized and ensures you can easily reference the result later.

Step 2: Type the Equals Sign (=)

In the selected cell, type the equals sign (=).

The equals sign signals to Excel that you’re about to enter a formula. It’s a universal indicator for calculations in Excel.

Step 3: Click on the First Cell

Click on the cell containing the number you want to subtract from.

This cell is often referred to as the "minuend." Clicking it inserts its cell reference into your formula, making the process quick and reducing the chance of errors.

Step 4: Type the Minus Sign (-)

After clicking the first cell, type the minus sign (-).

The minus sign tells Excel that you are performing a subtraction operation. It’s a simple but crucial part of the formula.

Step 5: Click on the Second Cell

Click on the cell containing the number you want to subtract.

This cell is known as the "subtrahend." By clicking it, you again ensure that Excel correctly references the cell, avoiding manual input errors.

Step 6: Press Enter

Press the Enter key on your keyboard.

This final step completes the formula and displays the result in the selected cell. Excel will automatically calculate and show the difference between the two cells.

After you complete these steps, Excel will display the result in the cell where you entered the formula. Now you have a quick and easy way to subtract numbers in Excel.

Tips for Making a Subtraction Formula in Excel

  • Always start with the equals sign: This lets Excel know you’re entering a formula.
  • Double-check your cell references: Make sure you click on the correct cells to avoid errors.
  • Use the formula bar: If you’re more comfortable, you can type your formula directly into the formula bar at the top of the screen.
  • Practice with different cells: Try using different cells to get more comfortable with the process.
  • Use absolute references if needed: If you’re copying the formula to other cells but want to keep one cell reference constant, use the dollar sign ($).

Frequently Asked Questions about Making a Subtraction Formula in Excel

Can I subtract more than two numbers in one formula?

Yes, you can subtract multiple numbers. Just keep adding minus signs and cell references.

What happens if I use a negative number in my subtraction formula?

Excel will handle it correctly, subtracting a negative number is the same as adding its positive counterpart.

Can I use subtraction in combination with other operations?

Absolutely, you can mix subtraction with addition, multiplication, and division in the same formula.

What if I get a #VALUE! error?

This usually means one of the cells you referenced does not contain a number. Check your cells to make sure they all have numeric values.

Is there a way to subtract entire columns?

Yes, you can use array formulas or simply drag the fill handle to apply the subtraction formula to multiple cells.


  1. Open Excel and select your cells.
  2. Type the equals sign (=).
  3. Click on the first cell.
  4. Type the minus sign (-).
  5. Click on the second cell.
  6. Press Enter.


Getting the hang of Excel formulas can seem a bit daunting at first, but making a subtraction formula is genuinely one of the easiest tasks you can master. By following these straightforward steps, you can quickly subtract numbers and make your data work for you. Remember, Excel is a powerful tool, and learning these basics opens the door to even more advanced capabilities.

Now, don’t stop here! Explore other Excel functions and see how they can simplify your work. If you found this guide helpful, keep practicing and soon you’ll be an Excel whiz. For further reading, check out more tutorials on Excel operations and enhancements. Happy calculating!

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