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Microsoft Excel - Subtract numbers

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

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:


Subtract numbers in a range

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

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


  1. Create a blank workbook or worksheet.

  2. Select the content in cells A1-B7 in the following example.

    Note: Do not select the row or column headers. 













    Description (Result)



    Subtracts 9000 from 15000 (6000)



    Adds all numbers in the list, including negative numbers (16000)

  3. Press CTRL+C.

  4. In the worksheet, select cell A1, and then press CTRL+V.

  5. 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.

How you use the SUM function

The SUM function adds all the numbers that you specify as arguments. Each argument can be a range, a cell reference, an array, a constant, a formula, or the result from another function. For example, SUM(A1:A5) adds all the numbers that are contained in cells A1 through A5 (a range). For another example, SUM(A1, A3, A5) adds the numbers that are contained in cells A1, A3, and A5 (A1, A3, and A5 are arguments)

For more information, please visit the Excel help center.

If you have any questions, come by the Help Desk at Hardman & Jacobs Undergraduate Learning Center Room 105, call 646-1840, or email us at

Keywords:microsoft excel subtract numbers in worksheet formula subtraction minus   Doc ID:75304
Owner:John B.Group:New Mexico State University
Created:2017-08-04 11:32 MDTUpdated:2018-02-07 13:07 MDT
Sites:New Mexico State University
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