COUNT vs COUNTA Functions in Microsoft Excel: Key Differences

What’s the difference between the COUNT and COUNTA functions?

When working with data in Excel, you might often need to count how many cells there are. COUNT and COUNTA are two essential functions that can help you achieve this.

Both these functions will return a count based on a given range, but what each counts is slightly different.

The COUNT function is designed to count cells containing numeric values, while the COUNTA function focuses on counting the non-empty cells regardless of their content.

Understanding the difference between these two functions will allow you to choose the right function for your situation.

COUNT Function in Excel

What Does the COUNT Function Do?

The COUNT function in Excel is used to count the number of cells that contain numerical values. This includes cells containing numbers, dates, and times since they are stored as serial numbers in Excel.

COUNT Function Syntax

The syntax of the Excel COUNT function is as follows.

=COUNT(range1,... , rangeN)
  • range is the range of cells in which you want to count numbers.

COUNT Example

=COUNT(C3:C15)

You can count numeric values in the range C3:C15 with the above formula. In this example, it will return the value 4 since there are 4 numeric values in the range.

Limitations of the COUNT Function

  • The COUNT function only counts cells containing numeric values, excluding all other values.
  • The COUNT function does not count values that look like numbers. Numeric values entered as text will not get counted.
  • The COUNT function will not count blank cells that are formatted to show 0 in the cell.

COUNTA Function in Excel

What Does the COUNTA Function Do?

The COUNTA function counts cells with any value. This includes numbers, text, logical values, errors, formulas, and other data types.

It returns the number of cells that contain any value from a given range.

💡 Tip: You can remember what the COUNTA function does since it counts Any or All values in a range.

COUNTA Function Syntax

The syntax for the COUNTA function is the following.

=COUNTA(range1,... , rangeN)
  • range is the range of cells in which you want to count all values.

Examples

=COUNTA(C3:C15)

You can count all values in the range C3:C15 with the above formula. In this example, it will return the value 12 since there are 12 values in the range.

Limitations of the COUNTA Function

  • The COUNTA function will not count blank cells that are formatted to show 0 in the cell.

Differences between COUNT and COUNTA

The COUNT function is used to count the number of cells in a range that contain numeric values and does not count other types of data.

The COUNTA function counts the number of cells in a range that are not empty. It includes all other types of data. This function is particularly useful when you need to count cells containing any type of data, not just numeric values.

Here’s a comparison of the different types of data the COUNT and COUNTA functions will count.

DataExampleCOUNTCOUNTA
Number1.75✔️✔️
Date2023-09-25✔️✔️
Time1:15:00 AM✔️✔️
Percent33%✔️✔️
Empty❌❌
Empty String=""❌✔️
Space=" "❌✔️
TextHello!❌✔️
Number as Text'000123❌✔️
Error=NA()❌✔️
BooleanFALSE❌✔️
Data Type (Geography)Canada❌✔️
Image=IMAGE("https://www.howtoexcel.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/canadian-flag-image.jpg")❌✔️

The COUNTA function counts everything the COUNT function counts and more. This means the COUNTA function will always return a higher count than the COUNT when used with the same range.

⚠️ Warning: It’s possible to format empty cells to show a 0 value. This still won’t be counted by either COUNT or COUNTA as the underlying value is empty.

When to Use the COUNT Function

The COUNT function in Excel is best suited for situations when you need to count the number of cells that only contain numeric values.

You will also need to be sure your data has no numbers with leading zeros as these might be treated as text values and not included in your count.

When to Use the COUNTA Function

The COUNTA function in Excel is best suited for situations when you need to count the number of cells with any value, including numbers, text, Boolean, and other data.

Conclusion

The main difference between the COUNT and COUNTA functions lies in their behavior of counting cells with non-numeric values.

The COUNT function is specifically designed to count only cells that contain numbers, while the COUNTA function has a broader scope, counting all non-empty cells.

Did you know the differences between COUNT and COUNTA? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author

John MacDougall

John MacDougall

John is a Microsoft MVP and qualified actuary with over 15 years of experience. He has worked in a variety of industries, including insurance, ad tech, and most recently Power Platform consulting. He is a keen problem solver and has a passion for using technology to make businesses more efficient.

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John MacDougall

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