How To Subtract Dates In Excel (Quick Guide)

In this article, we included some general tips using correct date formats and being aware of delimiter variations for different regions. By combining the power of direct subtraction, the DATEDIF function, and the EDATE function, you will be well-equipped to handle date subtraction tasks in Excel effectively.

Date Subtraction in Excel

In Excel, date subtraction is a simple yet powerful functionality to determine the difference between two dates. Three primary methods can help users calculate this difference effectively:

  • Difference in days: To calculate the difference between two dates in days, use direct subtraction. Subtract the cells containing the two dates: =B3-B2

After pressing ‘enter’ the answer will appear like this:

  • Difference in months and years: For calculating the difference between two dates in months or years, utilize the DATEDIF function. The formula requires a start date, end date, and time interval (days, months, or years). For instance, use the formula =DATEDIF(A1, A2, “Y”) to find the difference in years between the dates in cells A1 and A2.

After clicking ‘enter’ the answer will appear like this:

  • Adding and subtracting months: The EDATE function allows you to add or subtract a specific number of months to or from a date. Enter the initial date, followed by the number of months you’d like to add (positive number) or subtract (negative number). For example, =EDATE(A2, -3) subtracts three months from the date in cell A2.

By mastering these basic date subtraction methods, you’ll be able to efficiently handle your date-related data in Excel, enabling more precise analyses and decision-making.

Common Date Subtraction Mistakes and Tips

When working with date subtraction in Excel, it’s essential to avoid common mistakes and follow some best practices to achieve accurate results:

  • Ensure correct date formatting: When using direct subtraction, DATEDIF, or EDATE, make sure the dates are in a proper format recognized by Excel. Incorrect formatting may yield erroneous results or errors. If necessary, change the format via Format Cells (right-click on the cell and choose “Format Cells”).
  • Use regional settings: Excel’s date delimiter may differ depending on regional settings. Pay attention to the formatting to avoid errors when entering dates, especially when collaborating with users from different locations.
  • Verify cell references: Double-check your cell references when using functions like direct subtraction, DATEDIF, and EDATE. Incorrect cell references may lead to errors or wrong outputs.
  • Awareness of leap years: Leap years can affect calculations when working with dates spanning across February. Keep this in mind when using functions like EDATE to add or subtract months to avoid unexpected results.


Effective date subtraction in Excel is integral to managing and analyzing time-based data accurately. The key methods to perform date calculations include direct subtraction for determining the difference in days between two dates, the DATEDIF function to calculate the difference in years and months, and the EDATE function to add or subtract months from a specific date. By mastering these techniques and avoiding common pitfalls, users can efficiently tackle projects and improve overall productivity.