Excel Subtraction Formula

Updated on December 27, 2023
Article byPradeep S
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

The Subtraction Formula of Excel

The subtraction formula in excel facilitates the subtraction of numbers, cells, percentages, dates, matrices, times, and so on. It begins with the comparison operator “equal to” (=) followed by the first number, the minus sign, and the second number. For example, to subtract 2 and 5 from 15, apply the formula “=15-2-5.” It returns 8.

In subtraction, the first number is the minuend (from which a number has to be subtracted) and the second number is the subtrahend (the number to be subtracted). The resulting number is the difference.

The arithmetic operator “minus” (-) is placed between the minuend and the subtrahend.

How to Use the Subtraction Formula in Excel?

The subtraction formula of Excel is easy to use. Let us go through the following examples to understand its working.

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You can download this Subtraction Formula Excel Template here – Subtraction Formula Excel Template

Example #1

The following table shows some values in columns A and B. We want to subtract the values in column B from those of column A.

Subtraction Formula Example 1

The steps to subtract the values of column B from those of column A are listed as follows:

  1. Enter the comparison operator “equal to” (=), followed by the cell B4, the “minus” sign (-), and the cell A4. Press the “Enter” key. The output is 67.

    Note: The references B4 and A4 can either be typed or selected by clicking on the respective cells.

    Subtraction Formula Example 1-1

  2. Apply the subtraction excel formula to the remaining values. Alternatively, drag the formula of C4 till C13, as shown in the following image.

    Subtraction Formula Example 1-2

  3. The final output appears, as shown in the following image. For simplicity, we have retained the formulas in column C and given the differences in column D.

    Note: If the values in column A or column B change, the result is automatically updated in column D.

    Subtraction Formula Example 1-3

Example #2

The following table shows the names and the revenuesRevenuesRevenue is the amount of money that a business can earn in its normal course of business by selling its goods and services. In the case of the federal government, it refers to the total amount of income generated from taxes, which remains unfiltered from any deductions.read more generated (in Rs.) by ten employees of an organization. It has been decided to award Rs. 10,000 worth vouchers to those employees who have achieved the sales target of Rs. 5000.

Find the employees eligible for the reward.

Example 2

Step 1: Enter the following formula.


To calculate the revenue generated over and above the target (Rs. 5000), we subtract the latter (column C) from the former (column B). Since the target amount is the same for all the employees, we use the absolute referenceAbsolute ReferenceAbsolute reference in excel is a type of cell reference in which the cells being referred to do not change, as they did in relative reference. By pressing f4, we can create a formula for absolute referencing.read more $C$19.

Note: In absolute cell reference, the dollar sign ($) is placed before the column letter and the row number like in $C$19. This keeps the column and the row constant.

Example 2-1

Step 2: Press the “Enter” key. The final output appears in column D, as shown in the following image.

For simplicity, we have retained the formulas in column E and given the differences in column D. The employees who have negative difference values (column D) are not eligible for the reward.

Hence, Henry and Fedrick are not eligible while the rest of them receive the gift voucher.

Example 2-2

The Rules Governing the Subtraction Excel Formula

  • It always begins with the comparison operator “equal to” (=).
  • It requires the insertion of the arithmetic operator “minus” (-) between two values.
  • It is used in both, simple and advanced mathematical problems where a comparison between two values is required.
  • It can be used in combination with other arithmetic operators like “plus” (+), “percent” (%), “forward slash” (/), “asterisk” (*), and so on.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the subtraction formula of Excel and how to use it?

MS Excel does not have a SUBTRACT function. However, it facilitates subtraction by the insertion of the “minus” sign (-) between two values. The basic subtraction formula is stated as follows:

“=number 1-number 2”

The usage of the subtraction excel formula is listed in the following steps:
• Enter the comparison operator “equal to” (=).
• Enter the first number, followed by the “minus” sign (-), and the second number. Alternatively, select the cells containing values.
• Press the “Enter” key and the result appears in the cell where the formula was entered.

2. How to use the subtraction formula for multiple cells in Excel?

There are various ways of subtracting multiple cells from a single cell. For example, let us subtract the cells A12, A13, A14, and A15 from the cell A1.

Select any one of the following three methods:

• Apply the formula “=A1-A12-A13-A14-A15”.
• Apply the formula “=A1-SUM(A12:A15)”.
• Place the “minus” sign (-) before the numbers in cells A12, A13, A14, and A15. Apply the formula “=SUM(A1,A12:A15)”.

3. How to use the subtraction formula for calculating time in Excel?

To calculate time, apply the following formula:

“=End time-Start time”

For example, cells A6 and B6 contain 2:30:00 and 7:00:00 respectively. The number of hours in between the two times are calculated by the formula “=B6-A6”. The difference is 4:30:00.

Note: For correct results, apply the time format to the cell containing the formula.

Recommended Articles

This is a guide to the subtraction formula in Excel. Here we discuss how to subtract two numbers in excel with step by step examples. You can download the Excel templates from the website. For more on Excel, take a look at these functions –