Subtract numbers

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Let's say you want to find out how many inventory items are not profitable (total inventory – profitable items) or how many employees are approaching retirement age (total employees – employees under 55). There are several ways to subtract numbers.

What do you want to do?

Subtract numbers in a cell

Subtract numbers in a range

Subtract numbers in a cell

To do this task, use the - (minus sign) arithmetic operator.

For example, if you type the following formula in a cell:


The cell displays the following result:


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Subtract numbers in a range

To do this task, use the SUM function. Adding a negative number is the same as subtracting.


The example may be easier to understand if you copy it to a blank worksheet.

ShowHow to copy an example

  1. Create a blank workbook or worksheet.
  2. Select the example in the Help topic.

 Note   Do not select the row or column headers.

Selecting an example from Help

Selecting an example from Help
  1. Press CTRL+C.
  2. In the worksheet, select cell A1, and press CTRL+V.
  3. To switch between viewing the results and viewing the formulas that return the results, press CTRL+` (grave accent), or on the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group, click the Show Formulas button.
Formula Description (Result)
=A2-A3 Subtracts 9,000 from 15,000 (6,000)
=SUM(A2:A4) Adds all numbers in the list, including negative numbers (16,000)

Function details


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Applies to:
Excel 2003