# How to Use the Excel COLUMN Function

The Excel COLUMN function returns the referenced column as a number. Here’s a quick explanation of how to use the function.

# COLUMN Function

COLUMN([reference])

• reference = The cell or range of cells that you want to have the column numbered returned from. This is optional.

Here are a few notes about the function:

1. The reference can’t refer to multiple ranges
2. If no range is entered in the function, it assumes that you want to know the column of the cell that has the function
3. If you use an array in the reference (by selecting the cell with the COLUMN function, pressing F2, and then CTRL + SHIFT + ENTER), the function will return the column number as a horizontal array
4. If the reference is a range of more than one cell, and a horizontal array formula is not used, the function will return the left-most column number

## Examples

Here you will see some examples of the COLUMN function including using it as a horizontal array formula. The image below shows the results of using the function.

Now, here is the same spreadsheet showing the formulas:

Notice that the three formulas are all different, yet they return the same result.

=COLUMN() returns 1, since the function is located in column 1

=COLUMN(A1) also returns 1, since it is referring to cell A1, which is in column 1

=COLUMN(A1:B1) also returns 1 even though the range is over two columns. This is because it always returns the left-most column.

Now, you will see the difference by using horizontal array formulas.

In the image below, the results of the COLUMN function is shown. There are three more formulas added to help show the comparison.