Operators specify the kind of calculation that you want to perform on the
elements of a formula. Excel performs calculations in a standard order,
but you can also control the order of calculations.
To perform basic mathematical operations (such as addition, subtraction,
or multiplication), combine numbers, and produce numeric results, use
the following arithmetic operators.
Arithmetic operator Meaning (example)
+ (Plus sign) Addition (3+3)
– (Minus sign) Subtraction (3–1) or negation (–1)
* (Asterisk) Multiplication (3*3)
/ (Forward slash) Division (3/3)
% (Percent sign) Percent (20%)
^ (Caret) Exponentiation (3^2)
You can compare two values with the following operators. When two
values are compared by using these operators, the result is a logical
value either TRUE or FALSE.
Comparison operator Meaning (example)
= (Equal sign) Equal to (A1=B1)
> (Greater than sign) Greater than (A1>B1)
< (Less than sign) Less than (A1<B1)
>= (Greater than or equal to sign) Greater than or equal to (A1>=B1)
<= (Less than or equal to sign) Less than or equal to (A1<=B1)
<> (Not equal to sign) Not equal to (A1<>B1)
Use the ampersand (&) to join one or more text strings to produce a
single piece of text.
Join operator Meaning (example)
Joins two values to produce one continuous text value
Combine ranges of cells for calculations with the following operators.
Range operator, which produces one reference to all the
cells between two references, including the two references
Union operator, which combines multiple references into
one reference (SUM(B5:B15,D5:D15))
Intersection operator, which produces one reference to
cells common to the two references (B7:D7 C6:C8)
Order of operations in formulas
A formula in Excel always begins with an equal sign (=). Following the
equal sign are the elements to be calculated (the operands), which are
separated by calculation operators. Excel calculates the formula from left
to right, according to a specific order for each operator in the formula.
If you combine several operators in a single formula, Excel performs the
operations in the order shown in the following table. If a formula
contains operators with the same precedence — for example, if a
formula contains both a multiplication and division operator — Excel
evaluates the operators from left to right.
– (Minus sign) Negation (as in -1)
% (Percent sign) Percent
^ (Caret) Exponentiation
/ (Forward slash)
Multiplication and division
+ (Plus sign)
– (Minus sign)
Addition and subtraction
Connects two strings of text
= (Equal sign)
> (Greater than sign)
< (Less than sign)
>= (Greater than or equal to
<= (Less than or equal to sign)
<> (Not equal to sign)
To change the order of evaluation, enclose in parentheses the part of the
formula to be calculated first. For example, the following formula
produces 11 because Excel calculates multiplication before addition. The
formula multiplies 2 by 3 and then adds 5 to the result.
In contrast, if you use parentheses to change the syntax, Excel adds 5
and 2 together and then multiplies the result by 3 to produce 21.
In the following example, the parentheses around the first part of the
formula force Excel to calculate B4+25 first and then divide the result
by the sum of the values in cells D5, E5, and F5.
How Excel converts values in formulas
When you enter a formula, Excel expects certain kinds of values for
each operator. If you enter a different kind of value than is expected,
Excel sometimes can convert the value.
The formula Produces Explanation
When you use a plus sign (+), Excel
expects numbers in the formula. Even
though the quotation marks mean that "1"
and "2" are text values, Excel
automatically converts the text values to
When a formula expects a number, Excel
converts text if it is in a format that would
usually be accepted for a number.
Excel interprets the text as a date in the
mm/dd/yyyy format, converts the dates to
serial numbers, and then calculates the
difference between them.
Excel cannot convert the text to a number
because the text "8+1" cannot be converted
to a number. You can use "9" or "8"+"1"
instead of "8+1" to convert the text to a
number and return the result of 3.
When text is expected, Excel converts
numbers and logical values such as TRUE
and FALSE to text.