Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Displaying Negative Times.

# Displaying Negative Times

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated July 1, 2021)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003

Mike has a worksheet that contains some times. If he subtracts 6:33 from 6:21 he noticed that he doesn't get a negative elapsed time, as in -:12. Instead he gets ############# in the cell. Mike is wondering how he can display the negative time difference properly?

The easiest way to solve this problem is to just change the date system used by the workbook. This may sound goofy, but if you use a 1900 date system (which is the default for Windows versions of Excel), then you get the ############# in the cell. If, instead, you change to the 1904 date system (which is the default for Mac versions of Excel) then you'll see the correct negative elapsed time in your formula.

To change the date system, follow these steps:

1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Excel displays the Options dialog box.
2. Make sure the Calculation tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
3. Figure 1. The Calculation tab of the Options dialog box.

4. The 1904 Date System check box controls which dating system is used. If the check box is not selected, then the 1900 dating system is used; if it is selected, then the 1904 system is used.

If you prefer to not change the dating system used in the workbook (perhaps it may mess up some other date formulas you have in the worksheet), then the only thing you can do is to create a text-based version of the time differential using a formula such as the following:

```=IF(B2-A2<0, "-" & TEXT(ABS(B2-A2),"hh:mm"), B2-A2)
```

If the difference between the two time values (in A2 and B2) is negative, then the formula concatenates a text value consisting of the minus sign and the absolute value of the difference between the times.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3514) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Displaying Negative Times.

##### Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

##### MORE FROM ALLEN

Making Your Formulas Check for Errors

Want to use a formula to check if there is an error in your formula? (Sounds confusing, but it's not that bad.) You'll ...

Discover More

Setting a VBA Variable from a Bookmark

Bookmarks are quite helpful in a document. You may want to transfer the contents of a bookmark into a macro variable in ...

Discover More

Template Changing On Its Own

When you attach a template to a document, you expect that template to stay attached. When you share the document with ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

Converting UTC Times to Local Times

Dates and times are often standardized on UTC time, which is analogous to GMT times. How to convert such times to your ...

Discover More

Date for Next Wednesday

When working with dates, it is often helpful to be able to calculate some date in the future based on a starting date. ...

Discover More

Pulling All Fridays

It can be handy to know when specific weekdays occur within a range of dates. Figuring out this information, using ...

Discover More
##### Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. Youâ€™ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is seven minus 1?

2017-03-21 11:28:17

Meg

In trying to set up a chart for shift work,
A1 = the time in (i.e.,7:30)
B1 = lunch break (i.e., 1:00)
C1 = shift ends (i.e., 16:30)
D1 = total time worked is 8:00
E1 needs to indicate how many hours was overtime, if any, and
F1 needs to indicate how many hours was under worked, if any.

##### This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.