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How To Subtract in Google Sheets (Step By Step)

Are you tasked with the responsibility of subtracting numbers in Google sheets, and you’re overwhelmed by the thought of getting started? Well, you’re in luck today as we have put together a brilliant guide to help you every step of the way. 

Whether you’re a professional, a student, or just someone looking to improve their digital skills, today’s post will guide you on how to subtract in Google Sheets.

From the easiest subtraction formulas to more extensive and advanced calculations, we will show you how to subtract in Google Sheets without sweating it.

Let’s jump right in, shall we? 

Understanding Google Sheets Subtraction Options

For those with a background in math, you’ll agree that subtraction is among the four basic operations of math. While you can use subtraction independently, you can also use it in combination with other math functions to generate complex formulas. 

When it comes to subtracting on Google Sheets, it’s essential to know that Google Sheets doesn’t currently have a particular function for subtracting. If you need to subtract two numbers, you can simply take advantage of the minus (-) sign. 

While it’s possible to subtract numbers from one another using Google Sheets, you also have the option to subtract the numbers in cells. And you can do this by referring to them via the formula bar.

Not just that, Google Sheets also allows users to subtract a bunch of numbers sequentially. And you also have the option to subtract matrices from one another. 

The best part is that you can do all these things using the good old minus sign (-). 

Subtracting in Google Sheets: How to go about it

As we mentioned right from the get-go, Google Sheets doesn’t have a dedicated subtract function. To this end, you can subtract numbers on Google Sheets, pretty much like you’d approach it on paper. The only difference here is that instead of doing the actual calculation yourself, Google Sheets takes care of that. Let’s give you all the juicy details by subtracting two numbers. 

  • The first thing you’d want to do is select the cell you intend to show the subtraction result.
  • Next, navigate to the formula bar on top of your cell and type in the equal (=) sign. This action should initiate the formula. 
  • With the equal (=) sign entered in the formula bar, you can proceed to enter the number you want to subtract from and then proceed to type the minus sign (-). Once you do that, you can enter the number you wish to subtract. Assuming you’re looking to subtract 150 from 350, the formula should look something like this: 

=350-40

  • Finally, hit the enter button on your keyboard, and the result should appear in the cell. 

That wasn’t so difficult, was it? 

Subtracting cells in Google Sheets: How to go about it

Having provided you with a step-by-step guide on basic subtraction on Google Sheets, we want to show you how to subtract cells in Google Sheets. And before you feel overwhelmed, the process is as easy as the one we outlined above. 

Subtracting cells in Google Sheets differs from the basic subtraction tips we highlighted earlier. For this step, you don’t have to type the numbers into your subtraction formula by hand. Instead, you can just look at the cells that hold the numbers.

In the example we will show you shortly, we have created a Google Sheet for the number of job applicants for a job opening and the number of people who successfully interviewed. Our objective is to calculate the number of people who didn’t do the interview. Here is how you can go about subtracting cells in Google Sheets. 

  • Start by clicking on the cell where you want to show the calculation results. For our example, we want the calculation result in cell B3, so we select that. 
  • With that done, navigate to the formula bar and type in the below formula: 

=B1-B2. 

This simple action will subtract the value in B2 from the number in B1 and display the final result in cell B3. 

  • Finally, hit the enter button. You should see the number of applicants who didn’t make it for the interview in cell B3. 

Like the first step we showed you for basic subtraction in Google Sheets, you’ll agree that this was easy. Plus, it only takes a couple of seconds for the results to come in. 

How to subtract multiple cells in Google Sheets

Have you recently been tasked with subtracting the value from multiple cells in Google Sheets and are unsure how to proceed? We have you covered, as in this section, we have put together a decent guide to show you how to execute this task. 

And just so you know, it isn’t as complicated as you imagined. And even if this is your first time using Google Sheets, you’ll find the entire process straightforward. 

For this example, we will create a spreadsheet that captures the number of volunteers for community outreach and the number of volunteers who resign every month. What we plan to have at the end of the day is the number of current volunteers. To arrive at our answer, we will need to subtract the number of volunteers who resigned from the initial number of volunteers.

Let’s jump right in. 

  • Start by choosing the cell where you want the final result to be presented. For our example, we will choose cell B8. 
  • Now, navigate to the formula bar and input the following formula: 

=B1-B2-B3-B4-B5-B6-B7

When this formula is typed in, the value of B2 is subtracted from the value of B1, and then the value of B3 is subtracted from the result of the first subtraction. It will keep going until the value of B7 is taken away from the results of the last subtraction. 

  • Hit the enter button on your computer keyboard, and you should see the number of current volunteers in cell B8. 

That wasn’t too complicated, was it?

Subtracting in Google Sheets using the SUM function 

While we have gone over the basics of subtracting in Google Sheets, it’s time to take things further. In the next example, we want to show you how to subtract in Google Sheets using the SUM function. 

For those who have no idea, Google Sheets has a SUM function, which is super helpful for summing the value of cells together. In this example, we will use the SUM function to first sum the value of all cells and then subtract the total number. 

Using the SUM function is an easier way to subtract multiple cells in Google Sheets. Many people find this process much easier than the last step. And because we want to make your job easy, we want to show you how to do it. 

And to avoid any confusion, we will be using the previous example. 

  • Choose the cell you’d like to show the subtraction result. As we did in our last example, we will use cell B8 for the final result. 
  • Now, head straight to the formula bar and type in the following formula:

=B1-SUM(B2:B7)

Inputting this formula will add all the resigned volunteers together with the SUM function. To provide the correct value, it will then subtract the total number of resigned volunteers from the initial volunteers. At the end of the day, you’ll be presented with the number of current volunteers. 

  • Finally, hit the enter button on your keyboard for the final result for current volunteers to be imputed in cell B8. 

Subtracting matrices in Google Sheets: How to go about it

Did you know that it is possible to subtract matrices in Google Sheets? Oh yes, and the process isn’t as complicated as you imagined it.

Sure, it is a bit harder than the previous options we have highlighted, but by following the steps we will show you shortly, you should be able to execute this without any hassles. 

For those just learning about matrices for the first time, it will interest you to know that a matrix is an array of numbers imputed into a table. And yes, Google Sheets have made it seamlessly easy for users to apply basic matrices, making it easy for users to subtract the value of one matrix from another. 

But before we get into all the exciting stuff, it’s important you know that your matrices must have the same structure to perform seamless subtraction on Google Sheets.

So if, for instance, your first matrix has a 3×3 structure, the second and third matrices (which will house the final subtraction result) should also have a 3×3 structure. 

Considering that matrices are arrays, it means you’ll need to input an array formula to arrive at the final results. Just to clarify, an array is basically a structure housing multiple values. 

By entering an array formula in Google Sheets’ formula box, you’re instructing Google Sheets to treat the values you have in the cells as an array instead of a single value. While the name “array” may sound ambiguous and confusing, you’ll soon find out that it isn’t complicated at all. 

For our example, we will be using 3×3 structure matrices. Our objective with this example is to subtract matrix 2 from matrix 1 and showcase the result in matrix 3. 

Let’s cut to the chase and get to business, shall we?

  • Start by selecting the cell in the matrix you’d like to showcase the subtraction result. Since in our example, matrix 3 begins from cell E5; it means we will select E5 on our sheet. 
  • Now, navigate to the formula bar located just above the cells. You can arrive at the final answer in two ways. 
  • The first option is to enter the formula highlighted below in the formula bar and simultaneously press Ctrl + Shift+ Enter

=(A2:C4)-(A7:C9)

This formula will select the value in matrix 2 (A7:C9) and subtract it from the value in matrix 1 (A2:C4). By simultaneously pressing the Ctrl + Shift + Enter button on your keyboard as opposed to pressing the enter key, you’re basically instructing Google Sheets to treat both matrices as an array. If you did this correctly, Google Sheets will add the ArrayFormula function to your formula and proceed to generate the final result. 

  • On the flip side, you can simply enter the below formula in the formula bar and hit the Enter button: 

=ArrayFormula ((A2:C4)-(A7:C9))

  • This method puts the subtraction formula inside the ArrayFormula function. By inputting this formula in the formula bar, you’re instructing Google Sheets to turn the formula into an ArrayFormula, hence providing you with the final result in Cell E8. 

By opting for this method, you no longer have to hold down the Ctrl +Shift + Enter button, as we highlighted in the previous method. 

  • Finally, you should see the correct subtraction result in matrix 3. 

We agree that the methods highlighted above may be a little bit complicated. But by following the steps we highlighted above, you should be able to subtract matrices on Google Sheets without sweating it. The only difference is that it may take longer than other subtraction methods on Google Sheets. 

Subtracting time and date in Google sheets

While many people are aware that they can subtract numbers in Google Sheets, not very many people know that it’s possible to subtract time and date in Google Sheets. But because we want to give you a complete experience of subtracting using Google Sheets, we have added this guide to teach you how to subtract time and date in Google Sheets seamlessly. 

When subtracting time and date in Google Sheets, using the MINUS and SUM functions alone won’t give you the result you’re looking for. For the best possible outcome, it’s best to use the TIME function as well. Here is a simple formula that should get the job done: 

=cell reference-TIME(N hours,N minutes,N seconds)

Let me explain further with this example. Here is our formula if we need to subtract 3 hours, 30 minutes, and 24 seconds from 21:00 hours, as indicated in cell A1. 

=A1-TIME(3,30,24)

All you need to do is enter this formula in the formula bar provided by Google Sheets and hit the enter button. It’s honestly that simple. 

When subtracting dates on Google Sheets, you won’t need to use the time function as we did in the example above. All you need to do is subtract them like normal values or leverage the cell references options. Whichever option you choose should get the job done. 

Let’s say, for instance, we want to subtract the 8th of April from the 15th of February; we can simply use this simple formula: 

=B1-A1

  • Start by choosing the cell you want the subtracted value to be imputed. For our example, we will use Cell C1. 
  • Now, enter the formula = B1-A1 in the formula bar provided by Google sheet. 
  • Finally, hit the enter button to generate the final result. 

For our example, the result will be 52 days. Let us also quickly add that you can change the format to whatever works best for you. If you would love to change the format to months, days, or even percentages, you’re welcome to explore the following steps: 

subtract in Google Sheets

One thing you should remember is that regardless of the method for subtracting dates you opt for in Google Sheets, the first day isn’t always included. However, if you want the first day to be included, you can just add +1 to your equation. 

Final thoughts

Subtraction is among the four basics of math execution. Thanks to Google Sheets, users can seamlessly subtract numbers, cells, equations, matrices, and more. While subtraction in Google Sheets remains simple at its core, you can always leverage other Google Sheets functionalities to generate complex formulas to make your job much easier. 

Google Sheets is a blessing and has continued to make life easier, especially for people who deal with a lot of numbers. By fine-tuning your knowledge of Google Sheets, you can make the most of this app. 

We hope today’s guide has been helpful. 

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