This article describes the formula syntax and usage of the SUBSTITUTEfunction in Microsoft Excel.


Substitutes new_text for old_text in a text string. Use SUBSTITUTE when you want to replace specific text in a text string; use REPLACE when you want to replace any text that occurs in a specific location in a text string.


SUBSTITUTE(text, old_text, new_text, [instance_num])

The SUBSTITUTE function syntax has the following arguments:

  • Text    Required. The text or the reference to a cell containing text for which you want to substitute characters.

  • Old_text    Required. The text you want to replace.

  • New_text    Required. The text you want to replace old_text with.

  • Instance_num    Optional. Specifies which occurrence of old_text you want to replace with new_text. If you specify instance_num, only that instance of old_text is replaced. Otherwise, every occurrence of old_text in text is changed to new_text.


The example may be easier to understand if you copy it to a blank worksheet.

How do I copy an example?

  1. Select the example in this article.

    Important   Do not select the row or column headers.

    selecting an example from help

    Selecting an example from Help

  2. Press CTRL+C.

  3. In Excel, create a blank workbook or worksheet.

  4. In the worksheet, select cell A1, and press CTRL+V.

    Important   For the example to work properly, you must paste it into cell A1 of the worksheet.

  5. To switch between viewing the results and viewing the formulas that return the results, press CTRL+` (grave accent), or on the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group, click the Show Formulas button.

After you copy the example to a blank worksheet, you can adapt it to suit your needs.













Sales Data


Quarter 1, 2008


Quarter 1, 2011



Description (Result)

=SUBSTITUTE(A2, "Sales", "Cost")

Substitutes Cost for Sales (Cost Data)

=SUBSTITUTE(A3, "1", "2", 1)

Substitutes first instance of "1" with "2" (Quarter 2, 2008)

=SUBSTITUTE(A4, "1", "2", 3)

Substitutes third instance of "1" with "2" (Quarter 1, 2012)

Applies To: Excel 2010, Excel Starter, Excel Online, SharePoint Online

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