How to Subtract in Google Sheets

Experienced Google Sheets users with Excel experience can efficiently perform complex math operations with the free G-suite. This is because the way you do calculations in Excel and Google Sheets is very similar.

However, due to a few subtle differences, Google Sheets users using Google Sheets for the first time can get confused when trying to perform even the most basic functions like subtraction. If you fall into the second category, this article could be your winning ticket to the Google Sheets lottery. Today, you can walk away with a wealth of knowledge on how to subtract all types of numbers in Google Sheets.

How to Subtract in Google Sheets

Google Sheets is a great program for working with numbers. Here you can perform all kinds of calculations, including subtraction. In fact, thanks to Google Sheets, you can do hundreds of subtractions in one go. And to help you do your calculations right, Spreadsheets let you use formulas and functions in much the same way you would in Excel.

Let’s start by explaining how to subtract numbers in Sheets in the simplest way – using a formula.

How to subtract in Google Sheets using a formula

One of the many time-saving features of Google Sheets is the ability to subtract numbers. This G-suite app uses formulas which are simple mathematical expressions to make calculations easier. Remember formulas like “10-5=5” in 1st grade? You can use the same expression to perform numerical calculations in the program. To subtract, simply use the minus sign (-) in the formula as a mathematical operator.

One of the key differences from the regular formulas you’re used to (5-4=1) is that the equals sign comes first in Sheets. For detailed instructions on how to create a subtraction formula, follow these steps:

  1. Open a Google Sheet where you need to subtract numerical information.
  2. Select the cell where you want the amount to be displayed.

  3. Type an equal sign (=) in this cell.

  4. Insert cell references for the numeric information you want to subtract. For example, if you need to subtract numeric data from cells A5 and A6, you would write “” =A5-A6.

  5. Press the “Enter” or “Return” key on your keyboard to run the formula for subtracting numbers.

You can also subtract cells without having to manually insert cell references (as shown in step 4). Just apply the following steps:

  1. Start the formula by typing an equal sign in a cell.

  2. Click on the cell you want to link to. In this case it will be the cell with the value you want to subtract: A5.

  3. Add a minus sign.

  4. Click on the second cell you want to link to. In this case, it’s the cell with the value you’re subtracting from the first cell: A6.

Note . If you change the value of any cell reference, the total will be recalculated automatically.

How to Subtract Time in Google Sheets

To subtract time, you can use basic math or functions. However, in the latter case, you can subtract units in less than 24 hours, 60 minutes, or 60 seconds.

Hour subtraction

You can use the following function to subtract less than 24 hours:

[cell reference]-TIME(N hours,0,0).

Let’s see how it will work on real data. If you were to subtract 4 hours from cell B3, you would write the following formula:


To subtract more than 24 hours, use this formula:

[cell reference]-(N hours/24)

Let’s put this into practice. If you were to subtract 35 hours from cell C2, you would use this formula:


Subtraction minutes

We use the same procedure to subtract minutes.

To subtract less than 60 minutes:

[cell reference]-(0, N minutes, 0). For example: B1-(0,30,0).

To subtract more than 60 minutes:

[cell reference]-(N minutes/1440). For example: B1-(90/1440).

Second subtraction

To subtract less than 60 seconds:

[cell reference]-(0,0,N seconds). For example:A4-(0,0,45)

To subtract more than 60 seconds:

[cell reference]-(N seconds/86400). For example: A5-(124/86400).

How to Subtract Dates in Google Sheets

The easiest way to calculate the difference in the number of days between two dates is to simply subtract them. We will use the same formula as for any other numerical information (eg C2-B2).

However, when subtracting dates, Google Sheets doesn’t take into account the start date. For example, if you were to subtract the days from May 10th (for example, cell C2) to May 3rd (for example, cell B2), the total would include dates from May 4th to May 10th. If you want the calculation to include May 3rd, you will need to add “+1” to the end of the formula (e.g. C2-B2+1)

How to Subtract Columns in Google Sheets

Once you learn how to subtract cells using a formula, subtracting columns becomes a breeze. The easiest way to do this is to drag the fill handle from the cell where you applied the formula to the last row of that column.

Here are the detailed instructions:

  1. Enter an equal sign in the cell where you want the amount to be displayed.

  2. Click on the cell you want to link to. In this case, it will be the cell containing the value you want to subtract.

  3. Add a minus sign.

  4. Click on the second cell you want to link to. In this case, this is the cell containing the value you are subtracting from the first cell.

  5. Once you get the first formula, it’s relatively easy to subtract the remaining cells in that column. Just hover over the cell showing the result of the first subtraction.

  6. Double click the square once your cursor changes to a plus sign. The formula will be copied to all cells in that column. Or drag the fill handle down to the last line.

How to Subtract Interest in Google Sheets

If you are familiar with subtracting a percentage from a number in Excel, you can apply the same steps in Google Sheets. The formula looks like this: “=Total-Total*Percentage”.

Let’s say you have the value 100 in cell C4. To subtract 20% from 100, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the cell where you want the amount to be displayed (eg C5).

  2. Enter an equal sign in this cell (for example, C5) to start the formula.

  3. Press C4 to paste it as a cell reference.

  4. Add a minus sign.

  5. Press C4 again and type ” *” followed by “20%.

  6. Here’s what the full formula in C5 should look like: ” =C4-C4*20%.”

How to subtract a feature in Google Sheets

One feature exclusive to Google Sheets is the MINUS function. Its syntax is ” MINUS(value1, value2)” and you can use it to subtract cell values. At the moment, the MINUS function can only subtract two values, no more.

Here’s how to add the MINUS function to Google Sheets:

  1. Type ” 300” into cell A3.

  2. Type ” 200” into cell A4.

  3. Select cell A5 and enter the following syntax: ” =MINUS(A3, A4)” in the function bar.

  4. Cell A5 will return the value 100 after you hit Enter.

As simple as the MINUS function is, you might be better off subtracting numeric information using formulas due to its limited range (it only subtracts two cells at a time).

Additional FAQs

Here are a few more questions you might have about subtraction in Google Sheets.

How to create a formula in Google Sheets?

Like Excel, Google Sheets uses standard formula operators:

• Complement: + (plus sign).

• Subtraction: – (minus sign).

• Multiplication: * (asterisk).

• Separation: / (slash)

• Indicators: ^ (inset)

Every formula must start with an equal sign. Then include two cell references that are part of the math operation, with a formula operator in between.

How to use the sum function in Google Sheets?

Google Sheets has a built-in SUM function to help you add columns or rows. This is what your SUM function should look like: ” =sum(CellA1, CellA2….CellA50).”

Follow the instructions below for detailed instructions on how to use the SUM function:

• Click on a specific cell to apply the formula.

• Start the formula by typing ” =sum(” and select the cells where you want to sum the values.

• Type the closing bracket ” )” and press “Enter” to finish.

• The sum of all the cells you selected will appear in the cell where you previously ran the function.

How to add columns to Google Sheets?

To add columns, you can use the SUM function (see paragraph above). Just follow the instructions as described.

You can select all cells from a specific column manually (Step 2) or enter the range of cells you want to add. For example, if your goal is to calculate the sum of column A extending from A1 to A5, you would use the following formula: ” =sum(A1:A5)” instead of “” =sum(A1,A2,A3,A4, A5).

Mastering Subtraction in Google Sheets

If you were puzzled by the idea of ​​subtracting data in Google Sheets before reading this article, then hopefully this information has solved the mystery. Performing this operation involves only two mathematical operators (equals and minus signs) and cell references. Whether you want to subtract time, date, percentage, or prime numbers, these tips will help you.

Finally, if you’re new to Google Sheets, remember that the equal sign always comes first, no matter what formula you’re using.

What kind of data do you usually subtract in Google Sheets? Share your experience in the comments section below.

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