How to subtract in Google Sheets

When you have large amounts of data, you might sometimes need to compare data. While comparing data, you may need to perform several calculations. One such critical calculation can be subtraction. Google Sheets allows you to subtract your data in multiple ways easily. 

4 methods to subtract in Google Sheets

  • Using the subtraction formula
  • Using the MINUS function
  • Using the SUM and MINUS functions to subtract entire columns
  • Using the SUM function and subtraction formula to subtract entire columns

Method 1: Using the subtraction formula

This method uses the usual subtraction formula that we manually enter. 

Step 1: Identify your data.

You need to first identify your data and what values you want to compare. 

Say, you have a list for income and expenditure for a year and you want to calculate savings. 

To calculate Savings in the D column, you have to subtract Expenditure in the C column from Income in the B column. 

Step 2: Enter the formula.

You can use the usual subtraction formula here. The symbol is used. Here, the formula would be =B2-C2.

Step 3: Press Enter. 

After entering the formula in your desired cell, press Enter. Now, you can see the value of Savings in your D2 cell. 

To apply the formula to all the rows, drag the fill handle all the way down till the end of your data. 


Method 2: Using the MINUS function

Google Sheets provides the MINUS function for you to subtract values by passing in parameters. 

Step 1: Select a cell to enter the formula.

Select an appropriate cell to enter your formula. Here, it would be D2. 

Step 2: Enter your formula. 

You can start typing MINUS after the = sign to see the syntax of the formula. 

As you can see, we need to pass in two parameters and it will return the difference between the two values. The two parameters here are B2 and C2. 

Step 3: Press Enter. 

After typing the formula in the cell, press Enter. You will now see the formula work its magic. 

Now, you can drag the fill handle to apply the formula to multiple rows. 


Method 3: Using the SUM and MINUS functions to subtract entire columns

The above formulas help if you want to subtract the data in each row. What if you want to see the difference between two columns?

In the example above, you can see the savings for each month. What if you want to know the savings for the entire year? 

You need to add the income received throughout the year and the year’s expenditure. Finally, you subtract the total expenditure from the total income.

Step 1: Identify the range of cells and a cell to enter the formula.

Identify the columns you want to subtract and pick a cell to display the difference. 

Step 2: Enter the formula. 

You need to enter the formula =MINUS(SUM(B:B), SUM(C:C)). Here, the first parameter is the sum of the entire B column. The second parameter is the sum of the entire C column. It automatically ignores empty cells. 

Step 3: Press Enter.

After typing your formula, press Enter. You can now see the entire subtracted value of the two columns. 


Method 4: Using the SUM function and subtraction formula to subtract entire columns

Just like Method 1, you can use the usual subtraction formula instead of the MINUS function. 

Step 1: Identify the range of cells and a cell to display the result. 

As described in the earlier method, pick out the columns whose data is to be calculated. Along with that, choose a cell to display the results. 

Use the same cells as before for this method as well. 

Step 2: Enter the formula. 

Type in the formula in the cell you’ve selected to display the result. The formula is =(SUM(B:B) – SUM(C:C)). 

Step 3: Press Enter. 

After typing your formula, press Enter. You can now see the formula in action. Your result will be displayed in the cell you’ve picked.


Wrapping up

You now know how to calculate the difference in data between two cells. Apart from cells, you also know how to subtract data in two columns. 

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