How to use LEFT function in Microsoft Excel

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LEFT function in Excel is used to extract one or more characters from the left side of a supplied text string.

Syntax:

=LEFT(text, num_chars)

Arguments:

  • text – It is the original text from which characters to be extracted.
  • [num_chars] – (optional) The number of characters to be extracted from the beginning of the text string. In case skipped, value of 1 is considered by default.

Useful Additional Notes: 

  • In case numbers supplied in text argument, the function extracts number of digits as well.
  • The returned output by LEFT function will always be in a text string only even though number is provided in text argument.
  • Function returns #VALUE! error if the number of character i.e. second argument of function is contains value less than 0.
  • Any custom number formatting will not be a part of actual value hence will be ignored.

Examples – LEFT Function

Example 1: Extracting leftmost character from

In the first example, we have used LEFT function supplying only sample text in its’ first argument and the function returned the leftmost character as the answer. Since, if the [num_chars] argument is skipped, it is default set to 1.

Example 2 & 3: Extracting specific number of characters from the left side of the text

In last two examples, we have extracted 7 number of characters from the left side of the string. In the 2nd example, we can see as it extracted the word “Welcome” as the 7 characters from the left side. However, when the same function copied down where the supplied text string contains numerical values, function extracted 7 digits from the left side however, the returned output is a text string not a number anymore.

The use of LEFT function is more when combined with other functions to build customize formulas.

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