LEFT Formula


The LEFT formula, an integral part of the advanced excel functions for data analysis, is a function that extracts a certain number of characters from a text string, starting from the left.


The purpose of the LEFT formula is to assist users in isolating specific parts of a text string. It’s among the most common Excel formulas used in text data processing and manipulation, allowing for more intricate data analysis.


The syntax for the LEFT formula is as follows:

LEFT(text, [num_chars])


The LEFT formula takes two parameters:

  1. Text: The text string that contains the characters you want to extract.
  2. Num_chars (Optional): The number of characters to extract from the text string. If omitted, one character will be extracted.


The LEFT formula returns the specified number of characters from the beginning of a text string.

Usage notes

You can use the LEFT formula to extract characters from any position in the text, not just the start. Pair it with other text functions to unlock more possibilities.


The LEFT formula is available across all Excel versions, making it a convenient tool for your Excel calculator needs.

Example #1

Let’s start with a basic example:

=LEFT("Excel Formula Help", 5)

This formula will return “Excel”.

Example #2

Using cell references with the LEFT formula:

=LEFT(A2, 3)

Assuming A2 contains “Spreadsheet Calculator”, the formula will return “Spr”.

Example #3

Combining the LEFT formula with other functions, like LEN:

=LEFT(A2, LEN(A2)-5)

If A2 contains “Excel Calculation Automatic”, the formula will return “Excel Calculation Auto”.

Example #4

Let’s take a look at the default behaviour when the number of characters is omitted:

=LEFT("Excel Functions")

The formula will return “E”, since when no character count is provided, the formula defaults to 1.

Example #5

LEFT formula with a number:

=LEFT(123456, 3)

The formula will return “123”. If the text argument is a number, it’s first converted to text.

Tips and tricks

Remember that spaces are also counted as characters when using the LEFT formula.


This can only extract characters from the left side of the text string.

Common errors and solutions

If you use a negative number for ‘num_chars’, Excel will return a #VALUE! error. Make sure ‘num_chars’ is a positive number.

Best Practices

Always ensure the ‘num_chars’ value doesn’t exceed the total number of characters in your text string to avoid getting a shorter output than expected.

List of Related functions

Here are some related Excel functions:

  • RIGHT: Extracts a specified number of characters from the right side of a text string.
  • MID: Extracts a specified number of characters from the middle of a text string.
  • LEN: Returns the number of characters in a text string.

Frequently Used with the formulas

The LEFT formula often collaborates with LEN, MID, RIGHT, and other text-related functions in various data manipulation tasks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can I utilize numbers with the LEFT formula?

Indeed, you can. However, it’s crucial to understand that Excel will automatically convert the number into text before processing.

Q. Is it possible to use cell references with the LEFT formula?

Absolutely! This is one of the great strengths of this formula – its compatibility with cell references. This feature significantly extends its versatility and usefulness in various data manipulation tasks.

Q. What transpires if I leave out ‘num_chars’ in the LEFT formula?

In the event you do not specify ‘num_chars’, this formula has a default behaviour. It will simply extract one character from the text.

To wrap things up, by embracing the versatility of the LEFT formula, you can certainly enhance your Excel proficiency, particularly when it comes to managing and manipulating text data. With a bit of practice and experimentation, you will find that you’re not just able to use this function for basic tasks but also for more complex data processing applications.


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