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: Understanding Operators.

# Understanding Operators

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 15, 2021)

Operators are symbols used in a formula to define the relationship between two or more cell references, or between two or more values. They cause Excel to perform some action. For instance, consider the following formula:

```= B3 + B4
```

In this case, the plus sign is the operator. This is not the only operator that Excel supports, however. There are several types of operators supported by Excel. Operators of the most common type, arithmetic, are shown here:

Operator Meaning + Addition — Subtraction * Multiplication / Division % Percent (placed after a value) ^ Exponentiation

Excel also supports Boolean, or comparison, operators. These operators are used to compare two values or expressions, returning either the logical value TRUE or FALSE. These are special values supported by Excel to represent the outcome of a comparison. Comparison operators are used most often in arguments for logical functions. For example, consider the following formula:

```=IF(B3 > 99,"Limit has been exceeded","")
```

This formula uses the IF function to determine whether the value contained in cell B3 is greater than 99. If it is, the indicated text message is displayed in the cell containing this formula. Otherwise, nothing is displayed.

As you develop more complex Excel worksheets, you will find yourself relying more and more on comparison operators. The comparison operators are listed in Table 1-3.

Operator Meaning = Equal to > Greater than >= Greater than or equal to < Less than <= Less than or equal to <> Not equal to

Finally, Excel also provides a text operator, which is used to combine (or concatenate) text. This operator is the ampersand (&) character.

You should note that operators only function as operators when they are in formulas. If you want to make sure that a character is not interpreted as an operator, then you need to enclose it within quote marks. For instance, consider the following:

```= A1 & " & " & B1 & " work together"
```

If there are names of people (Bill and Betty) in cells A1 and B1, then the result of this formula would be the following:

```Bill & Betty work together
```

Note that there are four ampersands in the formula, but only three of them are considered operators. The ampersand within the quote marks is treated as a string by Excel.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12426) 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: Understanding Operators.

##### 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

Adding a Horizontal Watermark with a PostScript Printer

In Windows, printer drivers translate formatting into a printer control language, like PostScript, that the printer ...

Discover More

Creating Shortcuts

Shortcuts can be a great timesaver, allowing you to quickly access frequently used programs and files. This tip explains ...

Discover More

Creating Excel macros allows you to extend your productivity with Excel. Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

##### More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Calculating Statistical Values on Different-Sized Subsets of Data

Discovering different ways to analyze your data can be a challenge. Here's how to work with arbitrary subsets of a large ...

Discover More

Relative References to Cells in Other Workbooks

When you construct a formula and click on a cell in a different workbook, an absolute reference to that cell is placed in ...

Discover More

Finding the Nth Occurrence of a Character

The FIND and SEARCH functions are great for finding the initial occurrence of a character in a text string, but what if ...

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.

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}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. Youâ€™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 8 + 2?

2021-07-15 13:46:06

Barry Brookshire

To Jennifer, Thanks for the mnemonic - much easier to remember!!!

2021-07-15 09:45:58

Jennifer Thomas

Don't forget that the order of operations (the sequence in which they are performed) is critical - expensive errors result from ignorance of this.

For example, what is the answer to 3 + 5 x 2? If you said 16 (solving in the order the numbers are listed), you are wrong; the answer is 13 (solving with the correct order of operations). The order is:

Parenthesis
Exponents
Multiplication
Division
Subtraction

The typical mnemonic is 'Please excuse my dear aunt sally'.

##### 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.