Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: How Operators are Evaluated.

How Operators are Evaluated

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 19, 2015)

1

The operators in a formula are generally evaluated from left to right. Thus, in the following formula the addition is performed first and then the subtraction:

= C7 + A2 – B3

However, this is not always the case. For instance, Excel will perform any exponentiation first, then multiplication or division, then addition or subtraction, then text concatenation, and finally any comparisons. Thus, in the following formula, the multiplication is performed before the addition, even though the multiplication occurs to the right of the addition:

= C12 + D4 * A1

The order in which operators are evaluated is referred to as precedence. Operators with higher precedence are evaluated before those with lower precedence. The following is the order of evaluation for operators in Excel.

Operator Meaning
 Negative indicator (such as –123)
% Percent
^ Exponent
* and / Multiplication and division
+ and – Addition and subtraction
& Text concatenation
= < > <= >= <> Comparison

As you enter formulas, you will want to remember these rules so you can get the desired results. If you cannot remember them or you want to change the order in which operations are performed, you can use parentheses. For instance, if you wanted the addition to occur before the multiplication in the previous formula, you would enter it like this:

= (C12 + D4) * A1

As you work with formulas in Excel, you will find yourself using parentheses quite often. The reason for this is simple—they remove any confusion about how a formula should be processed by Excel.

As a real-world example, suppose you were developing a formula that applied tax to the sum of two different values. For instance, if you want to take the value in cell F2, add $5.00 to it, and then adjust for tax (assuming 5.25% in your state), the formula would be written as follows:

= (F2 + 5) * 105.25%

For the sake of simplicity, if the value in F2 is $95.00, then the result of this formula would be $105.25. Without the parentheses, however, the result would be $100.26 because Excel would do the multiplication (5 * 105.25%) first and then add the result to the value in F2.

Remember, parentheses remove any confusion that might arise concerning what a formula means.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12060) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: How Operators are Evaluated.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Unwanted Cover Pages with Print Jobs

When you print a document, do you get more than you bargained for? If you get extra pages printed either before or within ...

Discover More

Spell Checking Your Worksheet

One of the indicators of a well-done worksheet is if there are any spelling errors within it. Excel allows you to easily ...

Discover More

Merging Cells to a Single Sum

One way to make your worksheets less complex is to get rid of detail and keep only the summary of that detail. Here's how you ...

Discover More

Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Identifying Values that Don't Follow a Specific Pattern

When you store textual information in a worksheet, it can be helpful to figure out if that information follows a pattern that ...

Discover More

Finding Odd Values Greater Than 50

If you have a special need to find cell values that meet two different criteria, where to start can be daunting. This tip can ...

Discover More

Ignoring Case in a Comparison

Do you want Excel to take the case of your text into account when it does comparisons in a formula? The IF statement ignores ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is one more than 9?

2015-12-20 07:57:24

Roy Taylor

One of the few things I still remember for my Math lessons is BODMAS. This is the order of operation in a mathematical expression.
Of course as with all things it has changed now and is BIDMAS, but it means much the same.
B Brackets
I Indices
D Division
M Multiplication
A Addition
S Subtraction
The division / multiplication and addition / subtraction have no hierarchy but hey.


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.