This article describes the formula syntax and usage of the VLOOKUP function (function: A prewritten formula that takes a value or values, performs an operation, and returns a value or values. Use functions to simplify and shorten formulas on a worksheet, especially those that perform lengthy or complex calculations.) in Microsoft Excel.
You can use the VLOOKUP function to search the first column of a range (range: Two or more cells on a sheet. The cells in a range can be adjacent or nonadjacent.) of cells, and then return a value from any cell on the same row of the range. For example, suppose that you have a list of employees contained in the range A2:C10. The employees' ID numbers are stored in the first column of the range, as shown in the following illustration.
If you know the employee's ID number, you can use the VLOOKUP function to return either the department or the name of that employee. To obtain the name of employee number 38, you can use the formula =VLOOKUP(38, A2:C10, 3, FALSE). This formula searches for the value 38 in the first column of the range A2:C10, and then returns the value that is contained in the third column of the range and on the same row as the lookup value ("Axel Delgado").
The V in VLOOKUP stands for vertical. Use VLOOKUP instead of HLOOKUP when your comparison values are located in a column to the left of the data that you want to find.
VLOOKUP(lookup_value, table_array, col_index_num, [range_lookup])
The VLOOKUP function syntax has the following arguments (argument: A value that provides information to an action, an event, a method, a property, a function, or a procedure.):
- lookup_value Required. The value to search in the first column of the table or range. The lookup_value argument can be a value or a reference. If the value you supply for the lookup_value argument is smaller than the smallest value in the first column of the table_array argument, VLOOKUP returns the #N/A error value.
- table_array Required. The range of cells that contains the data. You can use a reference to a range (for example, A2:D8), or a range name. The values in the first column of table_array are the values searched by lookup_value. These values can be text, numbers, or logical values. Uppercase and lowercase text are equivalent.
- col_index_num Required. The column number in the table_array argument from which the matching value must be returned. A col_index_num argument of 1 returns the value in the first column in table_array; a col_index_num of 2 returns the value in the second column in table_array, and so on.
If the col_index_num argument is:
- Less than 1, VLOOKUP returns the #VALUE! error value.
- Greater than the number of columns in table_array, VLOOKUP returns the #REF! error value.
- range_lookup Optional. A logical value that specifies whether you want VLOOKUP to find an exact match or an approximate match:
- If range_lookup is either TRUE or is omitted, an exact or approximate match is returned. If an exact match is not found, the next largest value that is less than lookup_value is returned.
Important If range_lookup is either TRUE or is omitted, the values in the first column of table_array must be placed in ascending sort order; otherwise, VLOOKUP might not return the correct value.
For more information, see Sort data in a range or table.
If range_lookup is FALSE, the values in the first column of table_array do not need to be sorted.
- If the range_lookup argument is FALSE, VLOOKUP will find only an exact match. If there are two or more values in the first column of table_array that match the lookup_value, the first value found is used. If an exact match is not found, the error value #N/A is returned.
- When searching text values in the first column of table_array, ensure that the data in the first column of table_array does not contain leading spaces, trailing spaces, inconsistent use of straight ( ' or " ) and curly ( ‘ or “) quotation marks, or nonprinting characters. In these cases, VLOOKUP might return an incorrect or unexpected value.
For more information, see CLEAN function and TRIM function.
- When searching number or date values, ensure that the data in the first column of table_array is not stored as text values. In this case, VLOOKUP might return an incorrect or unexpected value.
- If range_lookup is FALSE and lookup_value is text, you can use the wildcard characters — the question mark (?) and asterisk (*) — in lookup_value. A question mark matches any single character; an asterisk matches any sequence of characters. If you want to find an actual question mark or asterisk, type a tilde (~) preceding the character.
The workbook below shows examples of this function. Inspect them, change existing formulas, or enter your own formulas to learn how the function works.
To work more in-depth with the example data in Excel, download the embedded workbook to your computer, and then open it in Excel.
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