# How to use the N function

**What is the N function?**

The N function returns a value converted into a number.

The N function in Excel is rarely needed to convert values in formulas. Excel automatically handles conversion of numbers, text, logical values, and error values as required. N is provided for compatibility with other spreadsheet applications. In most cases, Excel will format values correctly without requiring the N function.

Only use N if you find Excel is not properly converting a value to a number in a specific formula. In general, you can avoid using it entirely since Excel auto-converts types seamlessly in most situations.

## 1. Introduction

**How does Excel handle value data types?**

Excel changes the position of the value in a cell based on the value type. For example:

- Cells B2 and B8 contain text values that are aligned left.
- Cell B3 contains a number that is right aligned in the cell.
- Cell B4 contains a date, which Excel handles as a number. The date is right aligned.
- Cells B5 and B6 contain boolean values, which are automatically centered in the cell.
- Cell B7 contains an error value, which is also centered.

Note, the user may have changed the cell formatting making these guidelines useless. To revert back to default settings check that the align buttons are not selected:

- Align left
- Center
- Align right

**What is the difference between the T and N function?**

The T function deletes numbers and dates, the N function removes text values and returns 0 (zero).

**What other functions let you identify/format/convert values?**

ISTEXT function | TEXT function | VALUETOTEXT function | T function

## 2. Syntax

N(*value*)

value |
Required. The value you want to convert. |

## 3. Example 1

The N function in cell C3 contains a cell reference to cell B2. B2 contains a number, the N function returns the number.

Formula in cell C3:

Cell B4 contains a date, Excel dates are actually numbers and the N function returns the number itself. Excel represents dates as serial numbers, where each date is assigned a unique number starting from January 1, 1900, which is represented as the serial number 1 and 43466 represents 1/1/2019. The serial number representation of dates allows you to perform various calculations with dates in Excel. Adding or subtracting a number to a date serial number will result in a new date serial number, which can then be formatted as a date.

Cells B5 and B6 are TRUE and FALSE respectively, the N function returns the corresponding numerical values which are 1 and 0. There are other ways you can convert boolean values like adding 0 (zero) TRUE + 0 = 1 or FALSE + 0 = 0. Multiplying by 1: TRUE * 1 = 1 and FALSE * 1 = 0

Cells B7 contains an error value and the N function returns the same error value.You need a method to catch or trap errors before they are processed by the N function. You have the following options among others:

- The IFERROR function allows you to specify an alternative value to be returned if the formula encounters an error.
- The ISERROR function checks if a formula or value contains an error and returns TRUE if an error is present, and FALSE otherwise.

Cell B8 contains a text value, but the text value is ignored and 0 (zero) is returned instead.

## 4. Example 2

The N function can't take an array as input value, however, there is a workaround based on the new BYROW function. The image above contains random values in cell range B3:B8. Excel 365 dynamic array formula in cell D3:

The formula in cell D3 works only in Excel 365, it returns an array of values that spills to adjacent cells, in this case, to cell D3 and cells below. The BYROW function allows us to pass values, one by one, to the N function and then return a dynamic array that spills to cells below as far as needed.

The formula is a combination of three Excel functions

- BYROW(): This function applies a specified operation to each row of a range and returns the results as an array.
- LAMBDA(): This function allows you to define a custom function that can be used within the BYROW() function.
- N function: Converts a value into a number.

Here's a breakdown of what this formula does:

- B3:B8: This is the range of cells that the formula is being applied to.
- LAMBDA(a,N(a)): This is the custom function being defined using the LAMBDA() function. The function takes two arguments:
- a: This represents the current row being processed.
- N(a): The N() function is used to convert the value in the current row to a numeric value.

- BYROW(B3:B8,LAMBDA(a,N(a))): The BYROW() function applies the custom function defined by LAMBDA(a,N(a)) to each row of the range B3:B8. The result is an array of the numeric values for each row.

This technique allows us to use arrays with the N function which was not possible in earlier Excel versions.

## 5. Example 3

This example utilizes the N functions ability to convert text values to 0 (zeros). In other words, the formula in cell C5 extracts the numbers only from the string in cell C3. Cell C3 contains: ABC123CDG4VX

Formula in cell C5:

If we remove the letters from the string we get 1234 filtering out ABCCDGV and X. Here is how the formula works:

- LEN(C3): Counts the number of characters in cell C3.
- SEQUENCE(,LEN(C3)): Creates a sequence from 1 to n, n represents the number of characters in cell C3.
- MID(C3,SEQUENCE(,LEN(C3)),1): Extract each character into one array. Each container in the array has a single character. The position in the array determines which character in the string.
- MID(C3,SEQUENCE(,LEN(C3)),1)*1: The asterisk allows us to multiply each character by 1 which converts text values to numbers.
- N(MID(C3,SEQUENCE(,LEN(C3)),1)*1): The N function converts text values to 0 (zero).
- IFERROR(N(MID(C3,SEQUENCE(,LEN(C3)),1)*1),""): The IFERROR function catches errors and replaces them with nothing "".
- TEXTJOIN("",TRUE,IFERROR(N(MID(C3,SEQUENCE(,LEN(C3)),1)*1),"")): Appends all remaining values and returns a string containing only single digits.

## 6. N function not working

The above image shows that the N function doesn't return numbers, dates and boolean values, why does that happen? Select these cells to evaluate the values in the formula bar.

The apostrophe character converts numbers, dates and boolean values to text values, there is no way to tell unless you select one of the values and examine the formula bar. This sometimes happen when you import data from databases, the internet, and other sources.

The #NAME error appears if the function name is misspelled.

Other errors may have their origin in the source data. Check the source data for errors.

**Can I use the N function in an array formula?**

No, it returns only the first value in an array. The example above demonstrates that the N function returns the first value in the cell range B3:B8 which is 23. The remaining values in cell range B3:B8 are ignored.

However, Excel 365 subscribers can use arrays if they implement the fairly new BYROW function demonstrated in section 4 example 2 above.

### Functions in 'Information' category

The N function function is one of 19 functions in the 'Information' category.

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