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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.


Use the VLOOKUP formula with the syntax shown below, it has 3 required parameters and 1 optional parameter:

=VLOOKUP(search_key, range, index, [is_sorted])
  1. search_key (required):
    The value to search for in the first column of the range.
  2. range (required):
    The range of cells to search for the search key and to return a value from.
  3. index (required):
    The column number of the range from which to return a value.
  4. is_sorted (optional):
    An optional boolean value that indicates whether the search key is sorted in ascending order. If set to TRUE or omitted, the search will be faster, but the range must be sorted in ascending order.


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

Retrieving data from a table

VLOOKUP is commonly used to retrieve data from a table based on a specific value. For example, you could use VLOOKUP to find a price for a particular item in a price list.

Merging data from multiple sheets

VLOOKUP can be used to merge data from multiple sheets. For example, you could use VLOOKUP to retrieve data from a separate sheet based on a value in the current sheet.

Data validation

VLOOKUP can be used in data validation to check if a value exists in a list. For example, you could use VLOOKUP to ensure that a value entered in a cell is valid and exists in a table of valid values.

Common Mistakes

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

Incorrect range selected

One of the most common mistakes when using VLOOKUP is selecting the wrong range. Make sure the range you're using includes the column with the search key and the column you want to return.

Missing exact match

By default, VLOOKUP only returns exact matches. If you're not getting any results, it may be because there's no exact match for your search key. Use the optional fourth argument [is_sorted] to specify whether the range is sorted or not and to allow for approximate matches.

Wrong index number

The index argument in VLOOKUP specifies which column to return from the range. Make sure you're using the correct index number, otherwise you may get unexpected results.

Incorrect search key data type

VLOOKUP may not return any results if the search key data type doesn't match the data type in the range. For example, if your search key is a number but the range contains text, you won't get any results. Make sure the data types match.

Using VLOOKUP for multiple criteria

VLOOKUP can only search for one criteria at a time. If you need to search for multiple criteria, you'll need to use a combination of functions such as INDEX, MATCH, and IF.

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


    The HLOOKUP function is a lookup formula that searches for a key in the top row of a table and returns the value in the same column for a specified row. This function is commonly used to extract data from a table based on a specific criteria.


    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 IFERROR formula is used to check whether a specified value results in an error or not. If the value results in an error, then it returns a user-specified value instead of the error. This function is commonly used to prevent errors from breaking a formula or to replace error messages with custom messages.

Learn More

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