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By default, a cell reference is relative. For example, when you refer to cell A2 from cell C2, you are actually referring to a cell that is two columns to the left (C minus A), and in the same row (2). A formula that contains a relative cell reference changes as you copy it from one cell to another. For example, if you copy the formula =A2+B2 from cell C2 to C3, the formula references in C3 adjust downward by one row and become =A3+B3.

If you want to maintain the original cell reference when you copy it, you "lock" it by putting a dollar sign ($) before the cell and column references. For example, when you copy the formula =$A$2+$B$2 from C2 to D2, the formula stays exactly the same. This is an absolute reference.

In less frequent cases, you may want to make a cell reference "mixed" by preceding either the column or the row value with a dollar sign to "lock" either the column or the row (for example, $A2 or B$3). To change the type of cell reference:

  1. Select the cell that contains the cell reference that you want to change.

  2. In the formula bar Formula bar, click the cell reference that you want to change.

  3. Press + T to move through the combinations.

    The following table summarizes what happens if a formula in cell A1, which contains a reference, is copied. Specifically, the formula is copied two cells down and two cells to the right, to cell C3.

    Formula being copied

Current reference (description):

Changes to:

$A$1 (absolute column and absolute row)

$A$1 (the reference is absolute)

A$1 (relative column and absolute row)

C$1 (the reference is mixed)

$A1 (absolute column and relative row)

$A3 (the reference is mixed)

A1 (relative column and relative row)

C3 (the reference is relative)

Calculation operators and order of operations

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