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Excel IF Function

MS Excel, or Microsoft Excel, is a powerful spreadsheet program that enables users to record large amounts of data in cells within multiple worksheets. Additionally, it allows users to perform various mathematical calculations and analytical operations on recorded data using a wide range of existing functions and formulas. The IF function is one such built-in widely used, most popular Excel function.

Excel IF Function

In this tutorial, we discuss the brief introduction of the Excel IF Function. The tutorial also discusses the step-by-step process of using the Excel IF function, including the relevant examples.

What is the IF Function in Excel?

The Excel IF function performs a logical comparison between two values (or cells containing values). The function evaluates if the supplied condition satisfies and then returns an output value depending on whether the result of the condition is TRUE or FALSE. In particular, the IF function is an inbuilt conditional function that returns a value based on the fulfillment or non-fulfillment of the supplied condition.

For example, we can use the IF function to compare two values, whether the value in cell A1 is greater than that in cell B1. If the conditions satisfy, it results as the TRUE; otherwise, FALSE.

The working of the Excel IF function is almost similar to the appropriately structured Flow Chart. The function is mainly useful when making logical interpretations for decision-making. We can also extend the logical test functionality of the Excel IF function by combining it with other logical functions, such as AND, OR, etc.

Syntax of IF Function

The syntax of the Excel IF function is defined as below:

Where, the 'logical_test', 'value_if_true', and 'value_if_false' are the three parts or arguments in the IF function.

Based on the above syntax, the general format of the Excel IF function is defined as below:

=IF(A1>B2, "TRUE", "FALSE")

We separated the different arguments (or parts) in the IF formula by a Comma (,). However, we can also use the Semicolon (;) based on the language settings of the machine/ device.

Arguments of IF Function

The IF Formula in Excel accepts the following three arguments:

  • Logical_test: It is the first and the mandatory argument. It helps us specify the condition to be tested or evaluated as either TRUE or FALSE. The specified condition can be a value or a logical expression.
  • Value_if_true: It is an optional argument accepted by the IF function. It helps us specify the value that we need to return as output when the given condition (logical_test) is 'TRUE'.
  • Value_if_false: It is another optional argument accepted by the IF function. It helps us specify the value that we need to return as output when the given condition (logical_test) is 'FALSE'.

General Flow Chart Structure of Excel IF Function

As discussed above, the IF function works on the concept of a flow chart. Depending on the condition and usage of several logical functions, the flow chart of the IF function may appear to range from simple to complex accordingly. We can draw a flow chart of generic IF function like below:

Excel IF Function

The above flow chart shows that there is only one condition or criteria, while the two outcomes are based on condition satisfaction. If the condition is satisfied (evaluated as TRUE), the function returns the value from the left box. If the condition is not satisfied (evaluated as false), the function returns the output from the other side.

Logical Operators used in IF function

The Excel IF formula typically uses logical operators to compare the values based on the given condition. When evaluating a test using the IF function, we can use any of the below logical operators:

Operator Description Example
= Equal to A1=B1
< Less than A1
<= Less than or equal to A1<=B1
> Greater than A1>B1
>= Greater than or equal to A1>=B1
<> Not equal to A1<>B1

How to use the IF Function in Excel?

To use the IF function in our Excel sheet, we must perform the following steps:

  • First, we must enter or type the equal sign (=) to start the function name.
  • Next, we must type the function name, followed by the starting bracket, i.e., =IF(.
  • In the next step, we need to give the function the first argument (logical_test). We must specify the condition using operators' signs for logical comparison.
  • After that, we need to give optional arguments, returning a value as an output based on the TRUE or FALSE.

Excel IF Function Examples

Let us understand the concept and working of the Excel IF Function better with the help of the following examples:

Example 1: Basic IF Function application for empty/ non-empty cell

Everyone knows that life is not possible without oxygen. Suppose we have the following excel sheet as an example data set where column A contains the list of some planets and column B contains data about the availability of oxygen for these planets.

Excel IF Function

We only need to use the Excel IF function to find the planets where life is possible. We can use the oxygen availability criteria in the IF function to get the desired result. Let us now put the IF formula in our resulting column C (cells C2 to C5) and find the names of the planets with the potential for life among the planets listed in our example sheet:

  • First, we find the possibility of life on the first planet (i.e., Jupiter). So, we select the respective resultant cell C2 and start the formula by entering an equal sign. After that, we enter the IF function name and the starting bracket, as shown below:
    Excel IF Function
  • Next, we apply the condition for the first planet. Since we are checking for oxygen availability as the life factor, we apply the condition (B2="YES") as B2 has data for oxygen availability. It will look like this:
    Excel IF Function
  • Lastly, we give values to be returned based on the satisfaction and dissatisfaction of the condition. If the condition matches, we want the IF function to return: 'Life is possible here'. If the condition does not match, we want the IF function to return: 'Life is not possible here'. We use the Comma (,) to separate the arguments. So, the entire formula looks like this:
    Excel IF Function
    After that, we type the closing bracket and press the Enter key to get the corresponding result. This provides the result that life is not possible on Jupiter.
    Excel IF Function
  • After finding the result for the first planet, we can apply the IF formula in the remaining resultant cells accordingly. However, it will be easier to copy-paste the formula from C2 to other cells below. Also, we can drag the formula using the Fill Handle. This will help us perform the task quickly.
    Excel IF Function

Example 2: Using IF Function with AND, OR, and MOD functions

Since the IF function can be combined with many other Excel functions, we discuss using the IF function with AND, OR, and MOD functions in this example. Suppose we have the following list of many years (1990-2022).

Excel IF Function

We need to determine whether a respective year is a leap year or not using the IF function. As we know that the leap year consists of 366 days, whereas February has 29 days. We find the leap year using the following concepts:

  • A year exactly divisible by 4 and not exactly divisible by 100, or
  • A year exactly divisible by 400

We can use any of the above two conditions and combine the IF function with AND, OR, and MOD. In the formula, the AND function typically evaluates the conditions of finding the leap years to become the respective value 'TRUE'. The OR function evaluates one of these two conditions to become the respective output as 'TRUE'. Furthermore, the MOD function will mainly help us find a remainder after a dividend is divided by a divisor.

Based on the given conditions of the leap year, we can use the MOD function in two following ways:

MOD(year,4)=0 and MOD(year,100)<>0



If any of the above MOD criteria are satisfied, the corresponding year is a leap year.

Now let's combine these criteria into the IF function, our formula will be:

=IF(OR(AND((MOD(year,4)=0),(MOD(year,100)<>0)),(MOD(year,400)=0)),"It is a Leap Year", "It is not a Leap Year")

Where the term 'year' is used to represent the desired year or use its corresponding cell reference from the sheet. So, when we apply the entire formula in our resultant first cell (B2), we replace the term 'year' with cell A2. It will look like this:

=IF(OR(AND((MOD(A2,4)=0),(MOD(A2,100)<>0)),(MOD(A2,400)=0)),"It is Leap Year", "It is not a Leap Year")

Excel IF Function

Similarly, we can apply the IF formula in other resultant cells in column B to find whether the respective years are the leap years. Once we apply the formula in all the resultant cells, our example sheet looks like this:

Excel IF Function

If we hide the formula in the resultant cells and check their results, we get to know which years in our list are the leap years. The following image displays that the following years 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020 are the leap years, while others are no-leap years.

Excel IF Function

Example 3: Using IF Function in VLOOKUP

In this example, we combine the IF function with the VLOOKUP function to make it more effective. Suppose we have the following example data sheet with a list of a few items in column A and their availability in column B.

Excel IF Function

We need to use the IF function to determine whether the specific item is available in our stock (inventory). We use cell D2 to enter the item's name to be searched, while the availability of the related item will be recorded in cell E2. So, cell D2 will serve as the lookup value for the VLOOKUP function, and cell E2 will be our resulting cell to insert the entire formula.

When combining the IF function with VLOOKUP, the VLOOKUP function mainly looks up the values referring to the availability of the respective item, while the IF function checks whether the number of availability is greater than zero. If the number of items is above zero, the corresponding item is in our inventory.

Based on our example data, we can apply the VLOOKUP function in the following way:


Where A2:B8 is the table array, and '2' is the column number used to return a value.

Now, we apply the condition for the item availability by combining the above VLOOKUP formula with the IF function in the following way:

=IF(VLOOKUP(D2,A2:B8,2,0)>0, "Item Available","Item Not Available")

Excel IF Function

The formula returns 'Item Not Available' for the item 'SSD' in the above image. Likewise, our data table shows zero items for SSD in our inventory. So, the formula works correctly. We can change the item name in cell D2, and the item's availability will be automatically reflected in cell E2. However, the formula remains the same.

Excel IF Function

Nested IF Function

The IF function in Excel can be nested. The Nested IF Function is a combination of multiple IF functions. A 'nested IF' contains at least one IF function inside another to evaluate more than one condition at once and return the output accordingly. In Excel, up to 64 IF functions can be nested in a formula. But, we must double-check to ensure that each IF condition is correctly nested inside the other.

The following example shows the use of nested IF where IF functions are used (nested) inside another.

The condition in the IF function is used to find the corresponding grade based on the scores. The reasoning for assigning grades is in the table below:

Score Grade
0-600 F
61-700 D
71-840 C
85-940 B
95-100 A

We usually move in a nested IF formula in one direction, whether from high to low or low to high. In our example, we go from low to high. We start by testing to find grades for scores below 60, then move on to the next IF function and test grades for scores below 70, and so on. This way, we allow the function to return output (grade) only if the condition is TRUE, and the function checks the next IF condition only if the previous function has already returned FALSE.

Note: Instead of using the multiple nested IF functions, we can use an IFS function in Excel. However, the IFS function is only available in Office 2019 and Microsoft 365. In older versions, we can consider using VLOOKUP or HLOOKUP because they can handle many conditions properly, even in complex situations.

Important Points to Remember

  • The IF function does not support wildcards. However, we can use basic wildcard functionality by combining the IF function with the COUNTIF function.
  • If any argument in the IF function is supplied as the array, the function evaluates each array element accordingly.
  • The #NAME! error occurs for the IF formula when we type the wrong function name. For example, IFF, IEF, etc.
  • The #VALUE! error for the IF formula occurs when the argument 'logical_test' is not evaluated as TRUE or FALSE.

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