How to Subtract Cells in Google Sheets: A Step-by-Step Guide

Subtracting cells in Google Sheets is a straightforward task. All you need to do is type in a simple formula: “=cell1-cell2” where cell1 is the location of the first cell and cell2 is the location of the second cell. After hitting enter, the result of the subtraction will appear in the cell where you typed the formula.

After completing the subtraction, the result will be displayed in the cell where you entered your formula. You can then use this result for further calculations or analysis within your spreadsheet.


Google Sheets is a powerful tool used by countless individuals and businesses for organizing, analyzing, and manipulating data. Among the many features available, the ability to perform basic arithmetic operations—such as subtraction—directly within the cells is incredibly useful. Whether you’re managing a budget, tracking expenses, or simply crunching numbers, knowing how to subtract cells in Google Sheets is an essential skill that can save you time and effort.

But why is this important? For starters, it’s all about efficiency. Instead of reaching for a calculator or doing the math in your head, Google Sheets does the heavy lifting for you. Plus, it ensures accuracy; there’s less room for error when the spreadsheet does the calculations. And who is this relevant to? Pretty much anyone who uses Google Sheets! From students to accountants, from small business owners to data analysts, being able to subtract cells is a fundamental part of using this versatile application. Let’s dive into how you can do it.

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Subtract Cells in Google Sheets

The following steps will guide you through the process of subtracting cells in Google Sheets, ensuring accuracy and efficiency in your calculations.

Step 1: Select the cell where you want the result to appear.

Click on the cell in Google Sheets where you wish to see the result of your subtraction.

Step 2: Type the subtraction formula.

In the selected cell, type in the subtraction formula: “=cell1-cell2”.

Additional information about Step 2

Remember that “cell1” and “cell2” refer to the specific cells that you want to subtract. For example, if you want to subtract the value in cell B2 from the value in cell A1, your formula will look like this: “=A1-B2”. Also, ensure that you begin the formula with an equals sign (=) so that Google Sheets recognizes it as a formula.

Step 3: Press Enter.

After typing the formula, press the Enter key on your keyboard.

Additional information about Step 3

Once you press Enter, the subtraction will be performed, and the result will instantly appear in the cell. If you need to adjust the cells you are subtracting, simply click on the cell containing the formula and make your changes in the formula bar.


AccuracySubtraction in Google Sheets ensures precise calculations, eliminating the potential for human error that comes with manual math.
EfficiencyIt saves time by quickly performing calculations that would otherwise be done by hand or with a separate calculator.
ReusabilityThe formula can be copied and pasted into other cells, making it easy to perform the same calculation multiple times.


Learning curveSome users may find it challenging to learn and remember the correct syntax for formulas.
Formula errorsIf the formula is entered incorrectly, it can lead to inaccurate results which could affect the entire dataset.
Dependence on cell referencesThe subtraction is dependent on cell references. If cells are moved or deleted, it can break the formula.

Additional Information

While the basics of subtracting cells in Google Sheets are fairly simple, there are additional tips and insights that can make the process even smoother. For instance, if you’re dealing with a large dataset, using the fill handle to drag the subtraction formula down a column can help automate the process for multiple rows.

Another handy feature is the ability to use absolute and relative references in your formulas. By default, cell references are relative, meaning they change when you copy the formula to another cell. However, if you want a cell reference to stay constant—say, if you’re always subtracting from the same cell—you can use absolute references by adding a dollar sign before the column letter and row number (e.g., “=$A$1-B2”).

Moreover, Google Sheets also allows you to subtract ranges of cells using functions like SUM. For example, if you want to subtract the sum of cells B2 through B10 from cell A1, you would use the formula “=A1-SUM(B2:B10)”. This subtracts the total value of the range from the single cell.

These and other advanced techniques can elevate your use of Google Sheets from basic to proficient, allowing you to subtract cells and perform other functions with ease and confidence.


  1. Select the destination cell for the result.
  2. Type the formula “=cell1-cell2” in the cell.
  3. Press Enter to get the result.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I subtract multiple cells at once?

Yes, you can subtract multiple cells from one cell by extending the formula. For example, “=A1-B2-C3” will subtract the values in B2 and C3 from A1.

What if I want to subtract a whole column from another?

To subtract a column from another, you can use the formula “=A1-A2” in the first row and then drag the fill handle down to copy the formula to the other cells in the column.

How do I correct a mistake in my subtraction formula?

Simply click on the cell with the formula, then edit the formula directly in the formula bar at the top of the Google Sheets window.

Can I subtract numbers directly without cell references?

Yes, you can type numbers directly into a subtraction formula, like “=100-50,” and Google Sheets will perform the calculation.

What happens if I subtract a larger number from a smaller one?

Google Sheets will calculate a negative result, which will be displayed with a minus sign (e.g., -50).


Subtracting cells in Google Sheets is a task that can range from the most basic of necessities to a crucial step in complex data analysis. Whether you’re a student handling homework, a professional dealing with finances, or anyone in between, the ability to quickly and accurately perform this operation can be a game-changer.

It’s about more than just numbers; it’s about the efficiency and accuracy that tools like Google Sheets bring to our lives. Remember, practice makes perfect. The more you work with formulas, the more adept you’ll become. So go ahead, dive into those spreadsheets, and start subtracting with confidence!