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The COLUMN formula returns the column number of a given cell reference. It is most commonly used as a helper function for other formulas that require the column number as an argument.


Use the COLUMN formula with the syntax shown below, it has 1 required parameter:

  1. cell_reference (required):
    The cell reference for which to return the column number.


Here are a few example use cases that explain how to use the COLUMN formula in Google Sheets.

Finding the column number of a cell

By using the COLUMN formula in combination with other formulas, you can perform operations that require the column number of a cell as an argument, such as VLOOKUP.

Conditional formatting based on column number

You can use the COLUMN formula to set up conditional formatting rules that apply to specific columns in a range of cells.

Converting column letters to column numbers

If you have a column letter and need to convert it to a column number, you can use the COLUMN formula in combination with the INDEX formula.

Common Mistakes

COLUMN not working? Here are some common mistakes people make when using the COLUMN Google Sheets Formula:

Missing argument

The COLUMN formula requires an argument to be passed in the function. Make sure to include the cell reference within the parentheses.

Incorrect cell reference

Make sure that the cell reference being used in the COLUMN formula is valid and exists within the sheet.

Using a range instead of a single cell

The COLUMN formula only accepts a single cell reference as an argument. If you want to reference a range of cells, use a different formula such as SUM or AVERAGE.

Using absolute cell reference

If you use an absolute cell reference in the COLUMN formula, the formula will always return the same column number regardless of which cell it is copied to. Use a relative cell reference instead.

Not using the COLUMN formula

If you are trying to return the column number of a cell, make sure to use the COLUMN formula and not a different formula such as ROW or INDEX.

The following functions are similar to COLUMN or are often used with it in a formula:

  • ROW

    The ROW formula returns the row number of a specified cell reference. If no cell reference is provided, it returns the row number of the cell in which the formula is entered. This formula is most commonly used for data analysis and manipulation.


    The INDEX formula in Google Sheets is used to return a value or reference of a cell at the intersection of a specified row and column in a given range. The formula is commonly used to lookup and retrieve values from a table or range of cells.


    The MATCH formula is used to search for a specified value within a range and returns the relative position of the value within the range. This formula is commonly used in conjunction with the INDEX formula to retrieve a value from a specific cell in a range. The search_type parameter is optional and determines the type of match to be performed, such as exact match, less than, or greater than.


    The VLOOKUP function is a lookup formula used to search for a value in the first column of a range of cells (the search key) and return a value in the same row from a specified column in that range. This function is most commonly used to look up and retrieve data from a table.

Learn More

You can learn more about the COLUMN Google Sheets function on Google Support.