Using VLOOKUP to Access Information to the Left

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 21, 2020)

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.

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

Fixed-Width Settings when Converting Text to Columns

The Convert Text to Columns capabilities of Excel are very helpful when pulling apart information. When working with ...

Discover More

Formatting Differences between Word Versions

Create a document in one version of Word on one machine and then open that document in a different version of Word on a ...

Discover More

Using Very Long Worksheet Tab Names

Excel places a limit on how many characters you can use in a worksheet name. This tip discusses that limit and provides ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Using the COLUMN Function

Need to know the column number for use in a formula? The worksheet function you want is the COLUMN function, described in ...

Discover More

Returning Blanks or Asterisks from a Lookup

Want to return more than a value when doing a lookup? Here's one way to do it by adding an IF clause to your formula.

Discover More

Making VLOOKUP Case Sensitive

The VLOOKUP function, like other lookup functions in Excel, is not case sensitive. In other words, it doesn't matter ...

Discover More
Subscribe

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

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

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}] in your comment text. You’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 7 + 9?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


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.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

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

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.