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Whether you’re looking to subtract a single value from a number, or you want to perform multiple complex subtractions, Microsoft Excel makes it easy to do that. We’ll show you how.

How Subtraction Works in Microsoft Excel

Unlike other arithmetic operations, there’s no function for subtraction in Microsoft Excel. You have to rely on the standard minus (-) sign to perform subtractions.

However, you can use the minus sign to perform even complex subtractions. You can even subtract times in Excel, if you want.

RELATED: How to Add or Subtract Times in Microsoft Excel

Subtract Numbers Using the Minus (-) Sign

For the example, we’ll perform a simple subtraction in which we’ll deduct a number from another number. You can perform this calculation using the values directly in the formula or using cell reference. We’ll take a look at both below.

To perform the subtraction by directly using values in the formula, we’ll open a spreadsheet and click the cell in which we want to display the answer.

Click the cell in which the answer is to be displayed in Excel.

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In the clicked cell, we’ll type the following formula. This formula subtracts 25 from 75. Feel free to change these numbers to your own.

=75-25

Type the subtraction formula in the cell in Excel.

Press Enter and Excel will instantly display the answer in the cell.

The answer for a simple subtraction in Excel.

For most calculations in Excel, however, you’ll end up using cell references rather than actual numbers. Instead of directly typing numbers in the formula, you can ask the formula to look at a particular cell for a number.

We’ll use the following spreadsheet for this calculation. We’ll subtract the C column’s values from the B column, then display the answer in the D column.

A spreadsheet in Excel.

To start, we’ll click the D2 cell in the spreadsheet where we want to display the answer.

Click the D2 cell in Excel.

In the D2 cell, we’ll type the following formula and press Enter. As you can see, the formula deducts C2’s value from B2.

=B2-C2

Enter the subtraction formula in the D2 cell in Excel.

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And instantly, you will see the subtraction answer in the D2 cell.

Subtraction answer in the D2 cell in Excel.

If you update the values of B2 or C2, the value of D2 will automatically update as well, saving you the work of running the calculation again.

To automatically perform this calculation for the remaining values in the spreadsheet, click the bottom-right corner of the D2 cell and drag it downwards. This fills the selected cells with your formula.

Excel will perform the calculation for each row and display the answer in the respective D column cell.

Subtraction answer for all values in Excel.

And you’re all set.

You may want to check out how to add or subtract dates in Excel. It’s equally easy to do that.

RELATED: How to Add or Subtract Dates in Microsoft Excel

Subtract Multiple Numbers

To subtract multiple values from a single number, you have a couple of options.

Use the Minus Sign

You can use the standard minus (-) sign for multiple subtractions, too.

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Let’s use the following spreadsheet to perform multiple subtractions. In this spreadsheet, we’ll subtract the values of the C and D columns from the B2 column. Then we’ll display the answer in the E column.

A marks spreadsheet in Excel.

To do that, we’ll click the E2 cell where we want to display the answer.

Click the E2 cell in Excel.

In the E2 cell, we’ll enter the following formula. As you can notice, the formula contains multiple subtractions.

=B2-C2-D2

Enter the multiple subtraction formula in the E2 cell in Excel.

Press Enter and you will get the answer in the E2 cell.

Multiple subtraction answer in the E2 cell in Excel.

To perform this calculation for the remaining values, click the bottom-right corner of the E2 cell and drag it downwards.

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You will see the subtraction answer for each row in the E column.

Multiple subtraction answers for all values in Excel.

Use the SUM Function

Another way to subtract multiple values from a single number is to add all the values you want to subtract and then subtract the sum of those values from your number. We’ll use the SUM function to perform the addition.

For this example, we’ll again use the same spreadsheet that looks like this:

A marks spreadsheet in Excel.

In the spreadsheet, we’ll click the E2 cell where we want to get the answer. In this cell, we’ll type the following formula and press Enter. As you can see, the formula first adds the values of C2 and D2, and then subtracts the sum of these values from B2.

=B2-SUM(C2,D2)

Type the multiple subtraction formula in the E2 cell in Excel.

To use this formula in other cells, click the bottom-right corner of the E2 cell and drag downwards. You’ll then see the answer for each calculation in the E column.

Drag the E2 cell downwards in Excel.

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And that’s how you subtract both simple and complex numbers in Microsoft Excel. Very easy!

You can perform the standard math operations even quicker by using Excel’s paste special feature. Check it out if you often need to do these calculations.

RELATED: How to Add or Multiply Values with Paste Special in Microsoft Excel

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Mahesh Makvana is a freelance tech writer who specializes in writing how-to guides. He has been writing tech tutorials for over a decade now. He’s written for some of the prominent tech sites including MakeUseOf, MakeTechEasier, and Online Tech Tips.
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