How To Subtract Numbers

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  • Applies to: Excel for Microsoft 365, Excel 2019, Excel 2016, Excel 2013, Excel 2010, Excel 2007.

Important: The calculated results of formulas (e.g. how to subtract numbers) and some Excel worksheet functions may differ slightly between a Windows PC using x86 or x86-64 architecture and a Windows RT PC using ARM architecture. Learn more about the differences.

Let’s propose you want to confirm how many inventory items are unprofitable (subtract profitable items from total inventory). Alternatively, perhaps you must know how many employees are reaching retirement age (subtract the number of employees under 55 from total employees).

What do you want to do?

There are multiple ways to subtract numbers, including:

How to subtract numbers in a cell

Firstly, to do basic subtraction, use the  (minus sign) arithmetic operator.

For example, typing the formula =10-5 into a cell will present 5 as the result.

An example of entering cell references in an Excel formula and subtracting numbers.
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How to subtract numbers in a range

Adding a negative number is the same as subtracting one number from another. You can also use the SUM function to add negative numbers in a range.

Note: No SUBTRACT function exists in Excel. Use the SUM function and convert any desired numbers you want to subtract to their negative values. For example, SUM(100,-32,15,-6) returns 77.


Follow these steps to subtract numbers in various ways:

  1. Firstly, choose all of the rows in the table below. Then, press CTRL-C on your keyboard.
=A2-A3Subtracts 9,000 from 15,000 (which equals 6,000).
-SUM(A2:A4)Adds every number in the list, even negative numbers (net result is 16,000).
  1. Secondly, in the worksheet, pick cell A1. Then, press CTRL+V.
  2. Finally, to change between viewing the results and viewing the formulas, press CTRL+` (grave accent) on your keyboard. Alternatively, press the Show Formulas button (on the Formulas tab).

Using the SUM function

The SUM function totals all the numbers that you set as arguments. Most importantly, each argument can be a range, a cell reference, an array, a constant, a formula, or the result from a different function. For instance, SUM(A1:A5) adds all the numbers in the range of cells A1 to A5. Another example is SUM(A1, A3, A5) which adds the numbers that are occupied in cells A1, A3, and A5 (A1, A3, and A5 are arguments).

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