How to Subtract in Excel? (11 Different Cases)

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In this Excel tutorial, you will learn how to
– Subtract numbers with cell references
– Subtract numbers with Excel functions
– Subtract percentages, dates, times, matrices, lists, texts, etc.

We have used Excel 365 for the examples and applications. However, they are also applicable to other versions too.

The primary way to subtract anything in Excel is to use the arithmetic subtraction operator (-) and use it in a formula. Again, subtraction can be done not only between numbers but also between percentages, dates, times, matrices, etc.

We often use subtraction to determine the changes between values. Those values can be numbers, dates, times, matrices, lists, texts, or any other things. Subtraction plays a vital role in budget calculation and planning, finding out the probability, and so on.

Subtract in Excel

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How to Subtract in Excel? (11 Different Cases)

There are mainly two methods of subtraction: using formulas or the paste special feature, however, they can be applied to many more cases. We can subtract dates, times, numeric values, and matrices using arithmetic subtraction formulas. Subtracting text requires the usage of some additional functions.

1. How to Subtract Two or More Numbers Manually in Excel?

To subtract a number or multiple numbers from a number manually, we need to insert it in an arithmetic formula with an equal sign before it.

  • Write the necessary amounts like the following formula in cell G5 with the Minus () sign to have the subtracted value.
  • Calculate all the Net Salary values in column G with subtraction.

Subtracting Two or More Numbers Manually in Excel

2. How to Subtract Numbers Using Cell References?

The same numbers from the previous example can be from different cell references. We can put those cell references instead of numbers in the same formula to get the same result.

  • Apply the following formula with cell references in cell G5 and AutoFill the rest of the cells in column G to have the net salary amounts.

Subtracting Numbers Using Cell References

3. How to Subtract with SUM Function?

Simply inserting the SUM function in a subtraction formula will subtract the sum value or subtract from it.

  • Insert the following formula in cell G5 to do the subtraction.

Combining SUM Function with Subtraction

4. How to Subtract Same Number from Multiple Columns of Numbers?

Use the dollar ($) sign to apply the same value in subtraction to all the other numbers in different columns. It makes the reference absolute.

  • To subtract cost from the salary in our dataset, use this formula:

Subtracting Same Number from Multiple Column of Numbers

5. How to Subtract Percentages in Excel?

Subtracting percentages in Excel follows a similar pattern to any subtraction. You can subtract a percentage manually or using cell references.

  • Use the following formula to subtract necessary percentage numbers with the percentage in cell C4.

Subtracting Percentage in Excel

  • Now, apply the following formula to find the net salary with the net salary percentage.

Calculating Net salary

6. How to Subtract Dates in Excel?

Date subtraction also follows the same pattern as percentages and numbers.

  • Apply the following formula to have the subtraction of dates in days.

Subtracting Dates in Excel

7. How to Subtract Times in Excel?

Excel automatically picks up, subtracts, and returns time values. So, we can also use them normally in subtracting formulas.

  • Write the following formula and press Enter to have the subtraction of times in hours.

Subtracting Times in Excel

8. How to Do Matrix Subtraction in Excel?

To subtract a matrix from another, you have to manually insert formulas for each position.

  • You can apply the following formula and use Fill Handle to AutoFill the cells in the right and downward to do matrix subtraction.
  • You need to do this for each cell entry in the matrix or use the fill handle to fill them up automatically.

Subtracting Matrix in Excel

9. How to Subtract Text from One Cell to Another?

One can apply the following formula with the TRIM and SUBSTITUTE functions to subtract texts in different cells.


Subtracting Text in Excel

10. How to Subtract One List from Another in Excel?

To subtract a list from another, we can use a combination of IF and COUNTIF functions.

  • In order to subtract the players of Manchester United from the other players, you can apply the following formula.
=IF(COUNTIF($C:$C, $B5)=0,"", "Red Devil")

Subtracting List in Excel

The COUNTIF function counts the number of occurrences in a range if it matches the criteria. Meanwhile, the IF function returns different values based on whether its criteria is TRUE or FALSE.

Note: Using this formula gives the unique/non-unique values from two lists, which indicates the subtracted result of two lists.

11. How to Subtract with Paste Special?

The Paste Special menu contains a subtracting option of copied values. If we paste them over certain values, we can subtract them from existing ones.

  • In order to subtract with Paste Special, copy the values that we want to subtract.

Copy the Values to Subtract

  • Then, select the cells with which we want to make the subtraction of the copied cells.
  • Now, right-click on the mouse and pick the Paste Special option.

Select Paste Special

  • From the Paste Special wizard, select Values from Paste and Subtract from Operation. Click on OK after that.

Command to Subtract

  • Finally, we will have the subtracted value on the selected cells.

Final Output of Subtraction with Paste Special

Which Things Should You Remember?

  • Always put the Equal to (=) sign before the subtraction formula.
  • Insertion of subtraction operator (“-”) is a must.
  • You can combine the subtraction operator with other arithmetic operators too.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can you subtract multiple cells in Excel?

The subtraction of multiple cells is possible in Excel. Just write the cell references after the subtraction operator in the formula.

2. How do you subtract text in Excel?

In order to subtract text in Excel, the SUBSTITUTION function is used. It will look for the target string in the first cell and replace the matched values with the blank cell.

3. What is the shortcut method in subtraction?

We can use the SUM function to subtract multiple values from a single value. The function will add up the values that are needed to subtract and finally, the subtraction is done with the target value.


This concludes our discussion on how to subtract in Excel. I hope you have learned the procedures to subtract numbers between cells and ranges manually as well as in some different ways.

Hopefully, the subtractions between percentages, dates, times, texts, matrices, and lists are also clear to you. Based on your necessity and preferences, anyone can apply any form of subtraction in Excel.

I hope this article will be helpful for you. For any further questions, please comment below. You can also visit our site for more Excel-related articles.

Subtract in Excel: Knowledge Hub

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Naimul Hasan Arif
Naimul Hasan Arif

Naimul Hasan Arif, a BUET graduate in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, has been contributing to the ExcelDemy project for nearly two years. Currently serving as an Excel and VBA Content Developer, Arif has written more than 120 articles and has also provided user support through comments His expertise lies in Microsoft Office Suite, VBA and he thrives on learning new aspects of data analysis. Arif's dedication to the ExcelDemy project is reflected in his consistent contributions and... Read Full Bio

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