When you see a formula parse error in Google Sheets, it usually means there's a mistake in the formula's construction. Check that there are no missing operators, extra parentheses, or incorrect symbols typed into your function. Also check for missing or incompatible data being used as input in your formula.

There’s nothing worse than working on a formula in your spreadsheet only to receive an error instead of a result. Here, we’ll look at the formula parse errors you may see in Google Sheets and how to fix them.

What Is a Formula Parse Error?

A formula parse error in Google Sheets is an error that happens when Sheets is unable to process a formula because of conflicting data, missing data, or an incorrectly written formula. There are other potential causes for errors too, but those are the most common.

Some errors you see in Google Sheets give you details about what went wrong. For instance, the #N/A error lets you know that your lookup value can’t be found. On the other hand, the error labeled as #ERROR! in Google Sheets is a head-scratcher because it doesn’t give you a clue what’s wrong. To learn how you can handle that other errors, as well as what you can do to avoid formula parse errors in the first place, read on.

Error: #DIV/0!

This is one of the easier errors to recognize and correct in Google Sheets. If you see #DIV/0!, it means you are trying to divide by zero or by a blank cell.

RELATED: How to Highlight Blanks or Errors in Google Sheets

Here you can see we are dividing the value in cell F2 by that in cell G2, but G2’s value is $0.00.

DIV error in Google Sheets

When you see this error, hover your cursor over the cell containing it. You should see something like “Function DIVIDE parameter 2 cannot be zero” or similar.

Fix: Check the parameter instructed by the error and correct the zero value or blank cell.

Error: #ERROR!

When you see this error and hover your cursor over the cell, you’ll see the dreaded “Formula Parse Error” line with no further details. This error basically means that something is wrong with your formula.

ERROR message in Google Sheets

The issue can be anything from a missing operator to an extra parenthesis to the wrong symbol.

You can see below we received the #ERROR! for our formula. Upon closer examination, you’ll see we’re missing the operator to join the cell range we want to sum. There is a space instead of a colon.

ERROR for missing operator

In this next example, we are adding values in our formula. However, you can see a dollar sign in front of the first value which is a no-no. By default, Google Sheets uses dollar signs to denote absolute values.

ERROR when using a dollar sign

Fix: The best thing to do when you receive this error is walk through the formula one argument at a time to find the mistake.

Error: #N/A

The #N/A error is one you’ll see if you’re looking up a value that doesn’t exist in your cell range. You might be using the VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP, or MATCH function.

RELATED: How to Find Data in Google Sheets with VLOOKUP

Here, we are using VLOOKUP to find the value in cell B15 (Monday) in the cell range A1 through F13. Monday does not exist in the specified range, so we get the error instead of the result.

NA error in Google Sheets

This error does help a bit when you hover your cursor over the cell. You can see here it specifically states “Did not find value ‘Monday’ in VLOOKUP evaluation.”

NA error message

Fix: Check the lookup value you are searching for in the specified range. Sometimes it’s a simple typo in the value or the wrong cell range in the formula.

Error: #NAME?

If you misspell a function name, use one that isn’t supported in Sheets, have a typo in a defined name, or even miss quotation marks, you’ll see the #NAME? error.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Use Named Ranges in Google Sheets

In this first example, we simply spelled the AVERAGE function incorrectly.

NAME error for misspelled function

And in this example, we mistyped and entered CLOOKUP instead of VLOOKUP.

NAME error for misspelled function

Fix: The most common reason for the error is a misspelling or typo, so check the function names in your formula carefully.

Error: #NUM!

The #NUM! pops up when you have an invalid numeric value or one that’s larger than the scope of Google Sheets.

For instance, here we have a formula where the result is greater than what Sheets can display. And you can see this when you hover your cursor over the error.

NUM error in Google Sheets

Fix: Make sure the calculation you want to perform is valid and that Sheets can support the result.

Error: #REF!

You’ll see this next error when you remove a cell referenced in the formula or if you’re attempting to get a result that doesn’t exist. Let’s look at examples.

RELATED: How to Subtract Numbers in Google Sheets

Here, we are simply subtracting the value in cell G2 from that in cell F2. Everything is dandy when both cells contain values. But then we delete column G and see the #REF! error because the reference is now missing.

REF error for a missing reference

In this example, we’re using VLOOKUP to return a value in the 7th column, however, that column is outside of the range.

REF error for out of bounds

For each instance of the error, hover your cursor over it for assistance. You can see the first error states the reference is missing and the second lets us know the function evaluates to an out of bounds range.

Fix: Replace the deleted cell, column, or row or simply correct the references in the formula. For a lookup function, make sure that the arguments you’re using are valid.

Error: #VALUE!

This final error we’ll look at is #VALUE! and often displays when a cell you’re referencing is the wrong data type.

In this example, you can see we are subtracting the value in F2 from that in F1. But the value in cell F1 is text, not a number.

VALUE error in Google Sheets

You can hover your cursor over this error for more details and see we must have entered the wrong cell reference in our formula.

Fix: Make sure that you are using the correct data types for your formula. You can select a cell and use the More Formats drop-down list in the toolbar to check the data type.

RELATED: How to Change the Default Date Format in Google Sheets

Tools to Help Avoid Formula Parse Errors in Google Sheets

Google Sheets does offer a few features to help you with your formulas, mostly when you use functions.

Formula Suggestions

As you begin your formula with the equal sign and function name in a cell, you’ll see suggestions from Sheets. You can select a suggestion if it matches your goal and simply add the arguments. If you don’t see suggestions, turn them on by going to Tools > Autocomplete > Enable Formula Suggestions.

Formula suggestions in Google Sheets

Formula Help

As you type your formula, you can also select the question mark icon in blue that appears on the left. You can then review the drop-down box for the arguments the function expects along with examples.

Formula help in Google Sheets

Use the IFERROR Function

One other way to stop seeing errors is by using the IFERROR function. This handy tool can provide you with a different result rather than one of the above error messages or hide the error altogether. For complete details, check out our tutorial for IFERROR in Google Sheets.

RELATED: How to Hide Errors in Google Sheets

Errors are aggravating, especially when you aren’t sure what’s wrong or how to correct it. Hopefully this list of formula parse errors, explanations, and fixes for Google Sheets helps you.

Profile Photo for Sandy Writtenhouse Sandy Writtenhouse
With her B.S. in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She learned how technology can enrich both professional and personal lives by using the right tools. And, she has shared those suggestions and how-tos on many websites over time. With thousands of articles under her belt, Sandy strives to help others use technology to their advantage.
Read Full Bio »