How to Subtract in Excel (Minus Formula)

How to Subtract in Excel

Excel is one of the widely used spreadsheet programs for calculating and storing data. Excel is a popular program because it is the most readily available calculation and statistical analysis tool. The spreadsheet program is available on the Google Play Store and Apple Store.

You can use Ms. Excel to perform an assemblage of mathematical formulas and statistical analysis. Excel spreadsheets also have advanced formatting features that you can use to spruce up your data. You can read this article to learn how to subtract in Excel and perform other complex functions using the Subtraction function.

Comprehending formulas in MS Excel


  • It is vital to note the components below to understand how the Excel program executes commands.
  • You can view if any cell contains a formula by clicking on the selected cell and looking if there is an equation in the formula bar above your spreadsheet. Mathematical equations or statistical calculations begin with the equal sign (=) on the formula bar.
  • You can input your preferred mathematical formula or statistical calculation by clicking on the cell where you want the results displayed. Remember to start with the equal sign (=) followed by your input.
  • The subtraction function is the minus sign (-), and you can input the subtraction formula by typing the hyphen (-) symbol between your selected cells.
  • You can press the Enter key to complete the formula input process before moving to the next cell.

Advantages of using cell referencing when subtracting

Subtraction-Formula excel

Below are some of the advantages of using cell referencing when subtracting in MS Excel.

  • You can perform independent subtraction calculations by entering figures in a selected cell and using the subtraction formula to calculate and output the results. However, this method is not practical for performing a batch of subtraction exercises. Cell Referencing ensures that you can perform multiple subtractions on different cells efficiently.
  • Cell Referencing ensures that you minimize errors when executing the subtraction formula on multiple cells on your worksheet.
  • Cell Referencing ensures that you can easily edit the results in a formula cell by altering the selected and corresponding data in a reference cell. Editing data in a reference field is less tasking than changing the formula for an individual cell.

How to use the subtraction formula in an Excel Worksheet

You can follow the procedure below to perform a subtraction calculation in Excel.

Step 1: You can open your Excel workbook and populate it with personal data. Save the Excel Workbook to ensure your work progress is secure.

Step 2: Select the preferred cell for displaying the resulting difference. You can subtract data across a row or column arrangement.

Step 3: Double click on the selected output cell and wait for the cursor to indicate readiness for data input.

Step 4: Enter the equals symbol (=) and click on the Reference Cell with the data that requires deducing. Enter the minus (-) symbol by pressing the (-) Hyphen key. Select the cell referencing the figure to be subtracted and press the Enter key to complete the process.

Excel Symbol

Step 5: Replicate the subtraction process by clicking and holding on the bottom right of the selected cell and dragging across adjacent cells to replicate the subtraction formula. You can drag horizontally or vertically, depending on your data arrangement.

Subtraction exercise using cell referencing

Subtraction exercise using cell referencing

You can use the example below to practice subtraction using the cell referencing method in Excel.

Step 1: Open a new Excel workbook and rename cell A1 as Employees Name, cell B1 as Gross Salary, cell C1 as Deductibles, and cell D1 as Net Pay.

Step 2: Populate the cells in columns A, B, and C with random and logical data.

Step 3: Select cell D2 to subtract deductibles from the gross salary of the first employee.

Step 4: Calculate the Net Pay of the first employee by typing the equals (=) sign in cell D2 and click on cell B2, and then typing the minus (-). Complete the subtraction formula by clicking and referencing cell C2 and pressing the Enter key to compute the Net Pay for the first employee.

Step 5: Click and hold on the bottom right corner on cell D2. Drag down column D while still pressing the click button to replicate the formula in the cells below.

Using the subtraction function in complex formulas

Using the subtraction function in complex formulas

You can use the Subtraction Function to execute complex computation formulas in Excel. You can use the following mathematical principles to guide you when using the Subtraction Function in computing complex calculations.

  • Data in a Parenthesis capsule gets priority when executing complex formulas.
  • The Multiplication and Division Functions get priority after the Parenthesis Function in Excel.
  • The Addition and Subtraction Functions are last, respectively.


Q. Can I input a formula manually to subtract data in Excel?

Yes. You can type your formula in a selected cell or the formula bar of a selected cell. You can input your subtraction formula manually in either of the cells and press Enter to subtract data in Excel.

Q. Can I combine the subtraction function with other functions in Excel?

Yes. You can use the subtraction function with other functions in Excel to execute complex logical and mathematical formulas.

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