ROW Formula


Peeling the layers of Excel’s rich function repository, we uncover the ROW formula. This function is a basic yet powerful tool within Excel’s arsenal. Simply put, it returns the row number of a given cell reference.


The primary purpose of the ROW function is to extract the row number of a specific cell reference or the row of the cell the formula is entered in if no reference is given. This becomes particularly handy in various scenarios when handling data analysis, making it an essential entry in the list of advanced excel functions for data analysis.


The syntax for the ROW function is straightforward:



The ROW function only has one optional parameter:

  • reference: This is the specific cell reference for which you want to know the row number. If omitted, the function will return the row number of the cell in which the ROW formula is placed.


As the name suggests, the ROW function delivers the row number of a cell reference. If no reference is given, it provides the row number of the cell that contains the formula.

Usage notes

Remember, if you’re applying the ROW function without any reference, it will consider the cell in which the formula resides and return its row number.




The ROW function is readily available across all versions of Excel. This universal availability makes it one of the most common excel formulas used for a variety of spreadsheet tasks.


Example #1


The simplest way to use the ROW function is to enter it without any arguments, like so:




If you place this in cell B5, it will return 5.


Example #2


To find the row number of a specific cell, provide its reference to the ROW function:




This formula will return 10.


Example #3


If you want to know the row numbers of a range of cells, use an array formula:




Remember to press Ctrl+Shift+Enter after you input this formula as it’s an array formula. It will return an array of numbers {2,3,4,5}.


Example #4


You can also combine ROW with other functions. For example, to return the current row minus one, you could use the following formula:


=ROW() - 1


This can be useful in specific calculations or data analysis tasks.


Example #5


Similarly, let’s say you want to create a formula that delivers the row number in a sequence, no matter where you place it in your spreadsheet:


=ROW() - ROW($A$1) + 1


The above formula will return the sequential row number regardless of where you start your data in the spreadsheet.


Tips and tricks


When creating formulas in Excel, consider wrapping the ROW function inside the INDEX function to return a cell reference instead of just the row number.




Keep in mind, the ROW function only returns the row number, not the actual content of the cell.


Common Errors and Solutions


The ROW function is straightforward and unlikely to result in errors. But, if you get a #REF! error, it means your reference is invalid. Ensure you’re using a valid cell or range reference.


Best Practices


Here are some best practices to consider when using the ROW function:

  • Remember that the ROW function returns the row number, not the contents of the cell.
  • Always use valid cell references to avoid errors.
  • Consider combining ROW with other functions to unlock more advanced uses.

List of Related Functions

Functions related to the ROW function include:

Frequently Used with the Formulas

The ROW function often gets used with other functions like INDEX, MATCH, INDIRECT, and others for more complex excel functions for data analysis tasks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Does the ROW function only work with individual cells?

No, not at all. The ROW function also works with cell ranges. For example, using =ROW(A1:A3) returns an array of row numbers {1,2,3}.

Q. Can the ROW function return the content of a cell?

Actually, the ROW function only returns the row number, not the content of the cell. To get the content, you might want to consider functions like INDEX or VLOOKUP.

Q. Can the ROW function be used with columns?

No, the ROW function only works with rows. But, Excel offers a similar function for columns, aptly named the COLUMN function.

Q. What happens if I don’t give any reference to the ROW function?

In this case, the ROW function will simply return the row number of the cell that contains the formula.

Q. Can I use the ROW function to manipulate arrays?

Yes, indeed! The ROW function can be used in conjunction with other functions to manipulate arrays for more advanced data analysis tasks.

Q. Can ROW function return negative numbers?

On its own, the ROW function will never return a negative number since row numbers are always positive. However, if you subtract a larger number from it, like =ROW()-10, it could return a negative number.

Q. Why am I getting a #REF! error?

A #REF! error typically means that your reference is invalid. Always make sure to use a valid cell or range reference.

By now, you should have a solid understanding of how the ROW function works, its purpose, and how to use it effectively. It’s indeed a powerful tool in the Excel functions list that can greatly enhance your data analysis capabilities. Explore, experiment, and excel with Excel!


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