How to Make Different Types of Cell Reference in Excel

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In this tutorial, I am going to show you different types of cell reference that exist in Microsoft Excel. While working with Excel formulas or functions, we often need to use the value of one cell for another cell. We can use the value of one cell in another in multiple ways. In this blog post, you are going to learn about how to use one cell value for another one and also how Excel gives us different ways to achieve this.

What Is Cell Reference in Excel?

Cell Reference refers to the usage of one cell value or property to a different cell while performing various operations in Excel.

For example, we want to see the differences between two values located at cell C5 and D5 respectively. To do so, we need to keep the result in another cell. Let’s call it E5. So, all we need to do is, type =C5-D5 within cell E5. So, we are using the values of cells C5 and D5 within cell E5. We call this phenomenon of using one cell value for another Cell Reference.

Read More: How to Display Text from Another Cell in Excel

How to Make Different Types of Cell Reference in Excel: 3 Examples

There are 3 types of cell references in Excel. Those are:

  • Relative Cell References
  • Absolute Cell References
  • Mixed Cell References

1. Using Relative Cell Reference

These types are the default type of cell reference in Excel. Both the column and row numbers can be varied in this particular type of cell reference. We will calculate the monthly savings in this section to demonstrate the usage of a relative cell reference. Here’s how to use this particular type in Excel:


Savings = Net Salary - Expenditure
  • Select E5 to locate the result value.
  • Type:
  • Press ENTER.

Now you will get the monthly savings for George.

While calculating the monthly savings for George, we’ve retrieved the values of cells C5 and D5. If you drag down the Fill Handle to the end of the table, you will get the savings for the rest of them.

The cell addresses continue to vary sequentially as we go down. This means that cell addresses can be varied either by the column number or the row number. Thus, this type of cell reference is called Relative Cell Reference.

types of cell reference in excel

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2. Applying Absolute Cell Reference

Absolute Cell Reference is a particular type of cell reference where the cell address of a particular cell is locked up and its value doesn’t change regardless of the cell location. Dollar Sign ($) is used before the column and row number of a cell address to lock it up.

In this section, we will try to calculate the Net Salary which can be done as follows:

Net Salary = Gross Salary - (Gross Salary*Income Tax) + Bonus

Here, the Bonus remains the same for all employees. So, we will lock up this cell. To do so, we’ve used Dollar Sign ($) before the column number as well as the row number. Which is $E$5.

Read More: Absolute Reference in Excel

3. Implementing Mixed Cell Reference

Mixed Cell Reference is a combination of both relative as well as absolute cell references. In this case, either column or row; one of them will be absolute and the other will be relative.

For this instance, the formula to calculate the Net Salary is:

Net Salary = Gross Salary - (Gross Salary*Income Tax) + Bonus

Which in terms of a cell address is:


Here the address of the Income Tax column is written as $D5. Where the Dollar Sign ($) is put only before the column value i.e. $D which locks up the column value means it is absolute now. But there’s no such sign before 5 which means it’s still relative. Thus, the combination of both the absolute and relative cell references makes this cell reference a Mixed Cell Reference.

Read More: Mixed Cell Reference in Excel

Wrapping Things Up

  • Relative Cell Reference: No Dollar Sign ($) e.g. D5
  • Absolute Cell Reference: Two Dollar Signs ($) e.g. $D$5
  • Mixed Cell Reference: One Dollar Sign ($) e.g. $D5 or D$5

Download Practice Workbook

In this practice workbook, we tried to calculate the monthly savings of 10 employees. Using this workbook, we’ve tried to demonstrate different types of cell references in Excel. We recommended you download this workbook and practice along with it.


I hope that you were able to understand properly the different types of cell reference in Excel that we discussed above. Cell Reference is a vital feature that we use extensively in Excel either with formulas or functions or charts or various other commands. So, the conception regarding different types of cell references in Excel is a must to understand. Special care should be taken care of while using any of these reference types to avoid errors.

Further Readings

Mrinmoy Roy
Mrinmoy Roy

Hi! I'm Mrinmoy Roy. I'm an Excel and VBA content developer. I write blogs relating to Microsoft Excel on I've completed my graduation in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Khulna University of Engineering & Technology. I've expertise in Excel functions, formulas, Pivot Table, Power Query, Visual Basic, etc. I write blogs to lessen people's hassles while working on Microsoft Excel.

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