This guide covers everything you need to know about the Google Sheets SUM function, including its definition, syntax, use cases, and how to use it.
What is the SUM Function? How Does It Work?
The SUM function in Google Sheets returns the sum of a series of numbers and/or cells. At its most basic, the SUM function works by adding together the values of the numbers or cells you specify. For example, using SUM(A2:A100) would add together all the numbers contained within cells A2 through A100.
Similarly, SUM(1,2,3,4,5) would return the sum of these five numbers, which is 15. You can also mix numbers and cell ranges, as in SUM(1,2,A2:A50), which would add together the numbers 1 and 2, and then add the sum of all the values found in cells A2 through A50.
One unique feature of the SUM function is that it can handle an arbitrary number of arguments despite the Google Sheets documentation specifying a maximum of 30. This means you can calculate the sum of more than 30 numbers or cell ranges at a time, making it a versatile function for handling large datasets.
It’s worth noting that if you only supply a single number or cell reference for value1, the SUM function will simply return that value.
The SUM function plays a crucial role in various data analysis tasks, including financial analysis, statistical analysis, and inventory management.
The syntax and arguments for the function are as follows:
SUM(value1, [value2, …])
In the syntax, there are two parts:
- value1: This is the first number or range you want to add together. This is a required argument.
- value2, …: These are additional numbers or ranges you want to add to value1. This is an optional argument, and you can include as many additional values or ranges as you need.
Usage notes related to the syntax and arguments include:
- If you only supply a single number for value1, the SUM function will return that value. In other words, SUM(5) will return 5.
- While the SUM function is specified as taking a maximum of 30 arguments, Google Sheets actually supports an arbitrary number of arguments for this function. This means you can add together more than 30 numbers or ranges if you need to.
- The arguments can be actual numbers, or cell references that contain numbers. If a cell reference contains text or an error, SUM will ignore those cells.
- The SUM function will also ignore any logical values (TRUE or FALSE) in the arguments unless they are in array or reference form.
- If an argument is an array or reference, only numbers in that array or reference are added. Text, logical values, or empty cells in the array or reference are ignored.
Examples of How to Use the SUM Function
Here are some practical examples of how to use the SUM function in Google Sheets:
Example #1: Summing a range of cells
Suppose you have a list of numbers in cells A1 to A5 and want to find the total. You would use the SUM function as follows:
This formula will add up all the numbers in cells A1 through A5 and display the total in the cell where you entered the formula.
Example #2: Summing individual cells
The SUM function can also add up individual cells that are not in a sequence. Suppose you have numbers in cells A1, B3, and C5 that you want to add together. You would use the SUM function as follows:
=SUM(A1, B3, C5)
This formula will add up the numbers in cells A1, B3, and C5 and display the total in the cell where you entered the formula.
Example #3: Summing a range with empty cells
If your range includes empty cells, the SUM function will ignore them. For example, if you have numbers in cells A1, A2, and A4, and A3 is empty, you can still use the SUM function as follows:
This formula will add up the numbers in cells A1, A2, and A4, ignore the empty cell A3, and display the total in the cell where you entered the formula.
Why Is SUM Not Working? Troubleshooting Common Errors
If you’ve ever had issues with the SUM function in Google Sheets, you’re not alone. Many users experience common errors when using this function. In this section, we’ll go over some of the most common errors, their causes, and how to resolve them.
Cause: This error typically occurs when the SUM function is trying to perform calculations on non-numeric data types. This could include text, blank cells, or cells containing non-numeric symbols.
Solution: Make sure the range of cells you’re trying to sum contains only numeric values. If there are non-numeric values, remove them or convert them into a number before summing.
Cause: The #REF! error often occurs when the formula refers to a cell that does not exist, such as when a column or row referenced in the formula has been deleted.
Solution: Check your formula to ensure that all cell references are valid. If a referenced column or row has been deleted, restore it or adjust the formula to reference a valid cell.
Cause: This error is observed when a number is divided by zero within the formula. Although the SUM function doesn’t perform division, this error could occur if the formula includes division in addition to the SUM function.
Solution: Review the formula to see if any division operation is being performed. If so, ensure that the denominator is never zero.
Cause: The #N/A error is typically seen when the SUM function is used with a range that includes an array formula that returns an ‘N/A’ error.
Solution: Inspect the range you’re summing to see if it includes any array formulas that might be returning an ‘N/A’ error. If there is, you will need to fix the error in the array formula before you can use the SUM function on the range.
Cause: This error is rare in the case of the SUM function, but it can occur if the result of the sum operation is a number too large or too small for Google Sheets to handle.
Solution: This error can be rectified by reducing the size of the numbers being summed or by breaking down the sum operation into smaller parts.
Using SUM With Other Google Sheets Functions
Combining the SUM function with other Google Sheets functions can elevate your data analysis skills to a whole new level. This approach allows you to perform complex calculations, extract key data insights, and create dynamic reports. Below, we’ll explore how to use the SUM function in conjunction with a few other Google Sheets functions.
Usage: The COUNT function in Google Sheets counts the number of numeric values in a dataset. When combined with the SUM function, it can be used to find the average of a range of numbers.
Example: Suppose you have a list of sales figures in cells A1 to A10 and want to find the average. You could calculate this using the formula =SUM(A1:A10)/COUNT(A1:A10). This formula will add up all the sales figures and then divide the total by the number of figures to find the average.
Usage: The IF function in Google Sheets is used to create conditional statements. It can be combined with the SUM function to sum values that meet a certain condition.
Example: Suppose you have a list of sales figures in cells A1 to A10 and want to find the total sales exceeding $500. You could calculate this by using an array formula =SUM(IF(A1:A10>500, A1:A10, 0)). This formula will check each sales figure, and if it’s greater than $500, it will be included in the sum. If it’s not, zero will be added to the sum instead.
For more details on the SUM function, check out the official documentation at the Google Docs Editors Help Center.