Easy 2023 Guide to the Google Sheets Not Equal Operator

Google Sheets is a feature-rich and easy-to-use spreadsheet tool with a fantastic set of features that allow users to create and manage their spreadsheets. Unfortunately, because it’s so powerful, it’s also quite complicated. Sometimes working out something as simple as using not equal to can be a little beyond a beginner’s reach.

Using operators in Google Sheets can be a great way to compare values in different cells. This article will discuss the Google Sheets not equal operator, how it works, and how to use it.

How to use the Google Not Equal Function or Operator

The does not equal symbol is represented as <> in Google Sheets formulas. If a specific value in a cell is not equal to, the formula will return the result TRUE, if not, it will return the result FALSE. If values in selected cells are not equal, then the formula will return the result TRUE. You can also use the function =NE() instead of the comparison operator.

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What Are Comparison Operators?

You use Comparison operators when analyzing the content of a cell with the content of another cell. Google Sheets users can utilize these operators in conjunction with other operators or alone. Some examples of operators are:

Name of Operator Symbol
== Compares values
<> Not Equal To
< Less Than
> Greater Than
<= Less Than Equal To
>= Greater Than Equal To
!~ Does Not Contain

What Is the Not Equal To Google Sheets Comparison Operator?

Not Equal To is an evaluation operator that compares the values in two cells to see if they are not equal to each other. This is very similar to comparing if two values are identical, but instead, it compares to see if the two values are not equal to each other. If the two values are not equal, the value returned is “TRUE.” The output of this operator is always either True or False. You can use this for either numerical data, formulas, or text data strings.

Google Sheets Does Not Equal Syntax

There are essentially two ways to use the Google Sheets formula for not equal. The first method is to use the function. The syntax for the not equal to function is:

=NE(val1, val2)

Here, val1 represents the cell reference of the cell you want to compare. Val2 represents the cell address or the value to which the val1 should be compared.

The second method is to use the does not equal sign Google Sheets (also known as the not equal to operator). You can do this by entering “<>“.

The syntax for this is:


For consistency, we will use the second method for demonstration. However, both ways will give the same results.

How to Use the Google Sheets Not Equal Operator

The symbol of Not Equal To is <>. In this example, we are using a simple spreadsheet showing students in different groups.

Sample data

To use the <> symbol in Google Sheets, use the following steps:

Step 1: Select a cell you wish to use for your calculations and type the = symbol to indicate to Google Sheets that you’re starting a formula.

Using equals operator

Step 2: Now, we need to select the cell or cell range that contains the first data to compare. To do this, you can either click on the cell, and Google Sheets will automatically add the contents of the cells, or you can write the cell address manually. In the case of our example, it’s B2.

Adding the google sheets not equal to operator

Step 3: Now, we need to add the comparison operator into the formula. You can simply do this by adding the Less Than symbol “<” followed by the Greater Than symbol “>”, which should look like “<>.”

Adding a text value for the not equal operator

Step 4: You have to write the value or the cell address to which you want the first value to be compared. In this example, we will compare the cells to see whether the cell value is not equal to B. For this, we will write B inside quotation marks. However, you can also use a cell address that contains a value compared with the value.

Results of using the not equal to operator

Step 5: Press Enter to activate the formula.

Step 6 (optional): If you have more cells you want to evaluate, select them by clicking on the cell and then dragging on the blue square at the bottom right of the box. The formula will automatically apply to all the cells.

Not Equal Formula for Area Comparison

We can use the not equal symbol to compare the results of formulas rather than executing the formulas first and then using the not equal formula to compare.

Here’s how to use Google Sheets if not equal Google Sheets for area comparison:

Step 1: Select an empty cell next to the data set

Step 2: Use does not equal formula together with SUM

e.g : =SUM(A2:A3)<>SUM(B2:B3)

Using SUM with not equal to

Step 3: Click enter to check results

True results for not equal to

Not Equal Function Examples: =NE()

The not equal function also returns either true or false just like the not equal operator. The only difference is that it needs 2 values to compare with. You can’t compare more than 2 values using this function in Google Sheets. If you must, then you may have to create multiple different rows to perform a Google Sheets not equal to calculation with multiple values. Here’s how to do it with two values.

Step 1: Click on an empty cell next to the data set

Using NE instead of the operator

Step 2: Use does not equal function, which in our case is =NE(A2,B2)

Step 3: Click enter to see the results

Results with the NE function

You can also use the values directly instead of the cell references as shown above. In this case, we don’t need to use quotation marks as we always do.

Using Conditional Formatting With Not Equal To

Once you have applied the Not Equal To function in your spreadsheet, it can still be difficult to distinguish between the True and False values at first glance. We can use conditional formatting to make it easier to read them.

To use Google Sheets does not equal conditional formatting, follow these steps:

Apply conditional formatting

Step 1: Click on the Format menu in the top bar and select Conditional Formatting. You should see a sidebar show up.

How to add conditional formatting

Step 2: Here, you need to set up the formatting. To do this:

  1. Select the cell range under the Apply to the range option. In this example, we use the cell range C2:C8.
  2. Look at the Format rules section. There you can specify conditions. Make sure Text contains is selected from the drop-down menu, then type TRUE in the box underneath.
    Click done

Step 3: Click on Done to save the changes. You should be able to see your changes instantly.

Results of conditional formatting

You can also set up different colors for different values. For example, you can set up conditional formatting to show red for false and green for true.

When to Use Not Equal to in Google Sheets

The Not Equal formula is commonly used in spreadsheets when filtering through a dataset and comparing it with another one. For example, in this screenshot, we want to filter the data set to find the people who don’t live in New York.

Using text values for the <> operator

To do this, we use the following formula:

=B2<>”New York”

This formula then compares the value in the quotation marks. If the value is not equal to the one in the cell reference, the output is TRUE.

This is just one of the examples where you can use the Does Not Equal formula in Google


Combining the Google Sheets Formula for Not Equal With Other Functions

You can also use the Google Sheets not equal to operator in more complex functions. A good example of this would be using it with the IF function to create a Google Sheets if not equal function, as in;

If X is not equal to Y, perform calculation Z.

To find out more about this, check out our in-depth IF function guides:

Does Not Equal Google Sheets Guide – Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Do Does Not Equal in Google Sheets?

The symbol used for the Does Not Equal function in Google Sheets is “<>.” This is a comparison function that allows you to check if the value inside the cell is not equal to the value of another cell. The output is then given out as either TRUE or FALSE.

What Is the Not Equal to Symbol in Google Sheets?

The symbol used for Not Equal is “<>“.

What Is Not Equal in Conditional Formatting Google Sheets?

Conditional formatting can be used to change the properties of cells if a specific condition is met. We can use this to change the color or other visual formatting parameters of a cell when the = value returns True and another formatting in the cell when the value returns as False.

What Is the Formula for Does Not Equal?

The formula syntax for Does Not Equal is:

=NE(val1, val2)

The val1 is the first value, while the val2 is the value tested against val1 for inequality.

How Do You Type More Than and Less Than or Equal To?

There are multiple ways in which you write these symbols in Google Sheets. The most commonly used method is to write “>=” for greater than or equal to and “<=” for less than or equal to.

Using Not Equal To in Google Sheets

While working in Google Sheets, there are times when we need to compare the values of different cells in different columns. Using operators can be a great way to do so and can make your life easier without having to go to every cell and manually do so. The Google Sheets not equal operator is one of the more common ones, and we hope this article helped you understand everything about it.

If you’d like to learn more about Google Sheets, we have plenty on offer. Check out our Google Sheets tips. For a more structured learning experience, check out some of the best Google Sheets courses available on the web.


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Chris Daniel

Chris Daniel

Chris is a spreadsheet expert and content writer. He has a double Bachelor's Degree in Teaching and has been working in the education industry for over 11 years. His experience makes him adept at breaking down complex topics so that everyone is able to understand.