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 August 19, 2017)

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 Leading Zeroes to ZIP Codes

Import a bunch of ZIP Codes into Excel, and you may be surprised that any leading zeroes disappear. Here's a handy little ...

Discover More

Controlling Overtype Mode

Some people like to have Word replace previous information as they type; this is called 'overtype mode.' You can control ...

Discover More

Finding Duplicate Documents

Over time, it is very possible to end up with multiple copies of the same document on your system. If you have (or suspect ...

Discover More

Save Time and Supercharge Excel! Automate virtually any routine task and save yourself hours, days, maybe even weeks. Then, learn how to make Excel do things you thought were simply impossible! Mastering advanced Excel macros has never been easier. Check out Excel 2010 VBA and Macros today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Counting Cells According to Case

Text placed in cells can either be lowercase, uppercase, or a mixture of the two. If you want to count the cells based upon ...

Discover More

Combining Numbers and Text in a Cell

There are times when it can be beneficial to combine both numbers and text in the same cell. This can be easily done using a ...

Discover More

Counting Employees in Classes

Excel is very good at counting things, even when those things need to meet specific criteria. This tip shows how you can do a ...

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 two more than 4?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


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.