# The difference between relative and absolute references

Relative references   When you create a formula, references to cells or ranges are usually based on their position relative to the cell that contains the formula. In the following example, cell B6 contains the formula =A5; Microsoft Excel finds the value one cell above and one cell to the left of B6. This is known as a relative reference.

When you copy a formula that uses relative references, Excel automatically adjusts the references in the pasted formula to refer to different cells relative to the position of the formula. In the following example, the formula in cell B6, =A5, which is one cell above and to the left of B6, has been copied to cell B7. Excel has adjusted the formula in cell B7 to =A6, which refers to the cell that is one cell above and to the left of cell B7.

Absolute references   If you don't want Excel to adjust references when you copy a formula to a different cell, use an absolute reference. For example, if your formula multiplies cell A5 with cell C1 (=A5*C1) and you copy the formula to another cell, Excel will adjust both references. You can create an absolute reference to cell C1 by placing a dollar sign (\$) before the parts of the reference that do not change. To create an absolute reference to cell C1, for example, add dollar signs to the formula as follows:

=A5*\$C\$1

Switching between relative and absolute references   If you created a formula and want to change relative references to absolute (and vice versa), select the cell that contains the formula. In the formula bar, select the reference you want to change and then press F4. Each time you press F4, Excel toggles through the combinations: absolute column and absolute row (for example, \$C\$1); relative column and absolute row (C\$1); absolute column and relative row (\$C1); and relative column and relative row (C1). For example, if you select the address \$A\$1 in a formula and press F4, the reference becomes A\$1. Press F4 again and the reference becomes \$A1, and so on.