Learn the difference between a relative absolute cell reference in Excel and an absolute cell reference in Excel in this free lesson.

Introduction

There are two types of cell references: relative and absolute. Relative and absolute references behave differently when copied and filled to other cells. Relative references change when a formula is copied to another cell. Absolute references, on the other hand, remain constant no matter where they are copied.

Watch the video below to learn more about cell references.

Relative references

By default, all cell references are relative references. When copied across multiple cells, they change based on the relative position of rows and columns. For example, if you copy the formula =A1+B1 from row 1 to row 2, the formula will become =A2+B2. Relative references are especially convenient whenever you need to repeat the same calculation across multiple rows or columns.

To create and copy a formula using relative references:

In the following example, we want to create a formula that will multiply each item's price by the quantity. Instead of creating a new formula for each row, we can create a single formula in cell D2 and then copy it to the other rows. We'll use relative references so the formula calculates the total for each item correctly.

Select the cell that will contain the formula. In our example, we'll select cell D4.

Enter the formula to calculate the desired value. In our example, we'll type =B4*C4.

Press Enter on your keyboard. The formula will be calculated, and the result will be displayed in the cell.

Locate the fill handle in the bottom-right corner of the desired cell. In our example, we'll locate the fill handle for cell D4.

Click and drag the fill handle over the cells you want to fill. In our example, we'll select cells D5:D13.

Release the mouse. The formula will be copied to the selected cells with relative references, displaying the result in each cell.

You can double-click the filled cells to check their formulas for accuracy. The relative cell references should be different for each cell, depending on their rows.