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Using VLOOKUP to Access Information to the Left

Titi asked if there is a way to use a negative index number with the VLOOKUP function so that info can be accessed to the left of the lookup column. If a negative index number is used with VLOOKUP, then Excel returns an error value (#VALUE) instead of looking up the information you want.

Obviously, since VLOOKUP can only use positive index values, one solution is to reorganize your data so that it all appears to the right of your index column. Such an approach may not be feasible for many people, however. (The layout of the worksheet may be "cast in stone" by your company, for instance.)

There are a couple of ways you can approach this problem—ways that do not involve the use of VLOOKUP at all. The first is to simply use the LOOKUP function. Assuming that the value you want to look up is in cell A1, the range in which you want to find it is in the range G12:G145, and the "to the left stuff" is in F12:F145, you could use this formula:

=LOOKUP(A1,G12:G145,F12:F145)

This approach works just fine, provided that you are working with data in the lookup range (G12:G145) that is sorted. If your data is not sorted, then you should skip this approach and instead use the section approach, involving a combination of INDEX and MATCH. Assuming your data is in the exact same ranges, you could use this:

=INDEX(F12:F145,MATCH(A1,G12:G145,0))

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7001) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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