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

Subtracting in Google Sheets is as simple as using the minus sign (-) between two numbers, or cell references containing numbers. After the subtraction, the result will be displayed in the cell where you entered the formula.

After you’ve completed the subtraction, the cell where you entered the formula will display the result. Any changes to the numbers in the cells referenced by the formula will automatically update the result.


Subtracting numbers is a fundamental skill that we all use in our daily lives, whether it’s calculating change, budgeting, or analyzing data. Google Sheets, the free online spreadsheet program offered by Google, provides a platform to perform all sorts of calculations, including subtraction. Understanding how to subtract in Google Sheets is crucial for anyone who manages data, budgets, or performs any sort of numerical analysis.

The ability to perform subtraction in Google Sheets is not only important for mathematicians or accountants but for anyone who needs to keep track of numbers. Whether you’re a student managing your expenses, a small business owner keeping tabs on your finances, or a data analyst examining trends, knowing how to subtract in Google Sheets can streamline your calculations and help you make more informed decisions. So, let’s dive in and learn how to subtract numbers like a pro in Google Sheets.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Subtract in Google Sheets

The following steps will guide you through the process of subtracting numbers or cell contents in Google Sheets.

Step 1: Select the cell where you want the result to appear.

Click on the cell in which you want the subtraction result to be displayed. This is where you will input your subtraction formula.

Selecting the right cell for your result is important because it will be the reference point for your subtraction formula. Make sure it’s not a cell that already contains important data, as entering a formula will overwrite the existing content.

Step 2: Type the subtraction formula.

Enter the formula for subtraction which is an equals sign (=) followed by the numbers or cell references you want to subtract, separated by a minus sign (-).

For example, if you want to subtract the number 5 from 10, you would type =10-5 into the cell. If you are subtracting cell contents, for instance, subtracting the number in cell B2 from the number in cell A2, you would type =A2-B2.

Step 3: Press enter to display the result.

After typing the subtraction formula, press the Enter key on your keyboard to calculate and display the result in the selected cell.

Once you press Enter, Google Sheets will perform the calculation using the values you’ve provided, and the result of the subtraction will be shown in the cell where you typed the formula. This result will update automatically if any of the values in the referenced cells change.


SpeedSubtraction in Google Sheets is fast and efficient, providing instant results.
AccuracyGoogle Sheets minimizes human error, ensuring accurate calculations every time.
Dynamic UpdatesAny changes in referenced cells are automatically updated in the subtraction result.

Speed is a significant advantage when using Google Sheets for subtraction. Instead of manually calculating each figure, the program does it for you in a fraction of the time.

Accuracy is another benefit of using Google Sheets for subtraction. When you perform calculations manually, there’s always a risk of making a mistake. However, Google Sheets follows the formula you’ve set up, so as long as your formula is correct, the result will be too.

Dynamic updates mean that if any of the data in the cells referenced by your subtraction formula changes, the result will automatically be recalculated. This ensures that your data remains up to date without any extra effort on your part.


Learning CurveSome users may find it challenging to learn the formulas for subtraction in Google Sheets.
Dependence on InternetGoogle Sheets requires an internet connection, which can be a limitation for some users.
Overwriting DataThere is a risk of overwriting important data if the subtraction formula is placed in a cell that already contains data.

The learning curve can be a con for some users who are new to Google Sheets or not familiar with basic formulas. It may take some time to get comfortable with inputting and manipulating subtraction formulas.

Dependence on an internet connection is another limitation. Google Sheets is a cloud-based application, so without internet access, you won’t be able to perform any calculations.

Overwriting data can occur if you’re not careful about where you input your subtraction formula. If you accidentally select a cell that already has data, entering a formula will replace the existing content.

Additional Information

When working with Google Sheets, it’s not just about the simple subtraction of two numbers; you can do much more. For instance, you can subtract the sum of a range of numbers from another number or perform subtraction across multiple cells. Also, remember that subtraction in Google Sheets is not limited to just numbers – you can subtract dates as well, which can be useful for calculating time frames or deadlines.

Additionally, mastering the use of subtraction in conjunction with other functions, such as SUM or AVERAGE, can unlock even more potential in data analysis and management within Google Sheets. It’s also worth noting that Google Sheets saves your work automatically, so you don’t have to worry about losing your data. And let’s not forget about the sharing and collaboration features that Google Sheets offers, making it a powerful tool for team projects and shared financial management.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced user, understanding how to subtract in Google Sheets can enhance your productivity and help you manage your data more effectively.


  1. Select the cell for the result.
  2. Type the subtraction formula.
  3. Press enter to display the result.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I subtract multiple cells at once?

To subtract multiple cells at once, you can use a formula like =A1-B1-C1-D1, subtracting each cell you want from the starting value.

What if I need to subtract a whole column from another?

If you need to subtract a whole column from another, use the subtraction formula with a range, such as =SUM(A2:A10)-SUM(B2:B10).

Can I subtract percentages in Google Sheets?

Yes, you can subtract percentages in Google Sheets. Treat them as you would any other number but remember to format the cell as a percentage if necessary.

Is it possible to undo a subtraction in Google Sheets?

Yes, you can undo a subtraction or any other action in Google Sheets by pressing Ctrl + Z (Cmd + Z on Mac) or by clicking the Undo button in the toolbar.

Can I use subtraction in a custom function?

Yes, you can create custom functions using Google Sheets’ script editor and include subtraction as part of the function.


Subtracting in Google Sheets is a skill that can significantly enhance your data management capabilities. As we’ve explored, it’s not just about subtracting two numbers; the possibilities are vast, and when combined with other functions, subtraction can be part of a powerful set of tools for analysis and decision-making.

Remember to practice caution to avoid overwriting important data and take advantage of Google Sheets’ dynamic updates for real-time results. Whether you’re running a business, managing personal finances, or just love crunching numbers, mastering subtraction in Google Sheets is a step forward in becoming a spreadsheet wizard.

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