Excel SIGN Function Tutorial

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The purpose of the SIGN function in Excel is to tell you whether a number in a specific cell is either negative or positive in value or whether it is equal to zero. The SIGN function is one of Excel's functions that is most valuable when it is used along with another function, such as the IF function.

Syntax for SIGN Function

The syntax for the SIGN function is:

= SIGN(Number)

Where Number is the number to be tested. This can be an actual number, but it is usually the cell reference for the number to be tested.

If the number is:

  • Positive, such as 45, the function returns a 1
  • Negative, such as -26, the function returns a -1
  • Zero, the function returns a 0 

Try Using SIGN With This Example

  • Enter the following data into cells D1 to D3: 45, -26, 0
  • Click on cell E1 in the spreadsheet. This is the location of the function.
  • Click on the Formulas tab of the ribbon menu.
  • Choose Math & Trig from the ribbon to open the function drop-down list.
  • Click on SIGN in the list to bring up the SIGN function's dialog box.
  • In the dialog box, click on the Number line.
  • Click on cell D1 in the spreadsheet to enter that cell reference as the location for the function to check.
  • Click OK or Done in the dialog box.
  • The number 1 should appear in cell E1 because the number in cell D1 is a positive number. 
  • Drag the Fill Handle in the bottom right corner of cell E1 down to cells E2 and E3 to copy the function to those cells.
  • The cells E2 and E3 should display the numbers -1 and 0 respectively because D2 contains a negative number (-26) and D3 contains a zero.
  • When you click on cell E1, the complete function =SIGN(D1) appears in the formula bar above the worksheet.