How to Do a Subtraction Formula in Google Sheets: A Step-by-Step Guide

Subtracting numbers in Google Sheets is a handy skill that can save you a lot of time when working with data. It’s pretty straightforward, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to do it in your sleep! Essentially, you just need to type in a simple formula, and voila, the math is done for you. Ready to learn how to do a subtraction formula in Google Sheets? Let’s dive in!

Step by Step Tutorial: Subtraction Formula in Google Sheets

Before we start subtracting all willy-nilly, it’s important to know what the end goal is. By following these steps, you’ll be able to subtract one number from another, or multiple numbers from a total, using a formula in Google Sheets.

Step 1: Open Your Google Sheets Document

Open the Google Sheets document where you want to perform the subtraction.

Having your document open is the first step because, well, you can’t do much in Google Sheets without it! Make sure you’re logged into your Google account and navigate to the Sheets section to find your document.

Step 2: Click on the Cell Where You Want the Result

Click on the cell where you want the subtraction result to appear.

This cell will become the home for your subtraction result. Keep in mind that once you put the formula in, the cell will only display the result of the formula, not the formula itself.

Step 3: Type the Subtraction Formula

Type the subtraction formula into the selected cell. The formula starts with an equals sign (=), followed by the numbers or cell references you want to subtract.

For example, if you wanted to subtract 5 from 10, you would type "=10-5" into the cell. If you’re subtracting the contents of one cell from another, you would use their cell references (like "=A1-B1").

Step 4: Press Enter

After typing the formula, press Enter to complete the subtraction.

When you hit Enter, Google Sheets will do the math for you. If you’ve entered everything correctly, the cell will now show the result of the subtraction.

After completing these steps, the cell you selected in Step 2 will now display the result of your subtraction. If you used cell references in your formula, the result will update automatically if the numbers in those cells change. It’s a dynamic way to keep track of your data!

Tips: Mastering Subtraction Formulas in Google Sheets

  • Make sure you always start your formula with an equals sign (=). Without it, Google Sheets won’t recognize what you’re trying to do.
  • Use cell references in your formulas to make your spreadsheet dynamic and responsive to changes in data.
  • If you’re subtracting multiple numbers, chain them together in the formula using the minus sign (-), like "=100-20-15".
  • Double-check your cell references to ensure you’re subtracting the correct numbers.
  • Remember that you can undo any mistakes with the handy Ctrl + Z (Command + Z on Mac) keyboard shortcut.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I subtract multiple numbers at once?

Yes, you can subtract multiple numbers by chaining them together in the subtraction formula, separated by the minus sign (-).

Can I subtract a number from every cell in a column?

Yes, you can use the fill handle to drag the subtraction formula down a column to apply it to each cell.

What if I get an error message?

If you get an error message, double-check your formula for typos. Make sure you’re using the correct cell references and that you’re not trying to subtract non-numeric values.

Can I use subtraction in a larger formula?

Absolutely! Subtraction can be part of a larger formula that includes other operations like addition, multiplication, and division.

How do I subtract percentages in Google Sheets?

To subtract a percentage, you’ll want to multiply the percentage (as a decimal) by the total and then subtract that result from the original number. For example, "=100-(20%*100)" to subtract 20% from 100.


  1. Open your Google Sheets document.
  2. Click on the cell where you want the result.
  3. Type the subtraction formula.
  4. Press Enter.


Subtraction is one of the basic operations that you can perform in Google Sheets, and it’s incredibly useful for a wide range of tasks. Whether you’re balancing your budget, analyzing data, or just doing some quick math, knowing how to do a subtraction formula in Google Sheets can streamline your workflow and make your life a little bit easier.

Like with any tool, the key is practice. The more you use subtraction formulas in your sheets, the more natural it will become. And pretty soon, you’ll be able to handle more complex formulas and calculations with confidence.

So, the next time you find yourself reaching for a calculator or doing mental math, remember this guide and give subtraction in Google Sheets a try. With the tips and FAQs we’ve covered, you’re well on your way to becoming a Google Sheets master. Keep experimenting, keep learning, and most importantly, have fun with it!