# Excel VLOOKUP Function

VLOOKUP is an Excel function to look up data in a table organized vertically. VLOOKUP supports approximate and exact matching, and wildcards (* ?) for partial matches. Lookup values must appear in the *first* column of the table passed into VLOOKUP.

**value**- The value to look for in the first column of a table.**table**- The table from which to retrieve a value.**col_index**- The column in the table from which to retrieve a value.**range_lookup**- [optional] TRUE = approximate match (default). FALSE = exact match.

VLOOKUP is an Excel function to get data from a table organized vertically. Lookup values must appear in the *first* column of the table passed into VLOOKUP. VLOOKUP supports approximate and exact matching, and wildcards (* ?) for partial matches.

Vertical data | Column Numbers | Only looks right | Matching Modes | Exact Match | Approximate Match | First Match | Wildcard Match | Two-way Lookup | Multiple Criteria | #N/A Errors | Videos

### V is for vertical

The purpose of VLOOKUP is to get information from a table organized like this:

Using the Order number in column B as a lookup value, VLOOKUP can get the Customer ID, Amount, Name, and State for any order. For example, to get the customer name for order 1004, the formula is:

=VLOOKUP(1004,B5:F9,4,FALSE) // returns "Sue Martin"

For horizontal data, you can use the HLOOKUP, INDEX and MATCH, or XLOOKUP.

### VLOOKUP is based on column numbers

When you use VLOOKUP, imagine that every column in the **table** is numbered, starting from the left. To get a value from a particular column, provide the appropriate number as the "column index". For example, the column index to retrieve first name below is 2:

The last name and email can be retrieved with columns 3 and 4:

### VLOOKUP only looks right

VLOOKUP can only look to the right. The data you want to retrieve (result values) can appear in any column *to the right* of the lookup values:

If you need to lookup values to the left, see INDEX and MATCH, or XLOOKUP.

### Exact and approximate matching

VLOOKUP has two modes of matching, exact and approximate. The name of the argument that controls matching is "**range_lookup**". This is a confusing name, because it seems to have something to do with *cell ranges* like A1:A10. Actually, the word "range" in this case refers to "range of values" – when **range_lookup** is TRUE, VLOOKUP will match a *range of values* rather than an exact value. A good example of this is using VLOOKUP to calculate grades.

It is important to understand that **range_lookup** *defaults to TRUE*, which means VLOOKUP will use approximate matching by default, which can be dangerous. Set **range_lookup** to FALSE to force exact matching:

*Note: You can also supply zero (0) instead of FALSE for an exact match.*

### Exact match

In most cases, you'll probably want to use VLOOKUP in exact match mode. This makes sense when you have a unique key to use as a lookup value, for example, the movie title in this data:

The formula in H6 to find **Year**, based on an exact match of movie title, is:

=VLOOKUP(H4,B5:E9,2,FALSE) // FALSE = exact match

### Approximate match

In cases when you want the *best match*, not necessarily an *exact match*, you'll want to use approximate mode. For example, below we want to look up a commission rate in the table G5:H10. The lookup values come from column C. In this example, we need to use VLOOKUP in *approximate match* mode, because in most cases an exact match will never be found. The VLOOKUP formula in D5 is configured to perform an approximate match by setting the last argument to TRUE:

=VLOOKUP(C5,$G$5:$H$10,2,TRUE) // TRUE = approximate match

VLOOKUP will scan values in column G for the lookup value. If an exact match is found, VLOOKUP will use it. If not, VLOOKUP will "step back" and match the previous row.

*Note: data must be sorted in ascending order by lookup value when you use approximate match mode with VLOOKUP.*

### First match

In the case of duplicate values, VLOOKUP will find the *first match* when the match mode is exact. In screen below, VLOOKUP is configured to find the price for the color "Green". There are three entries with the color Green, and VLOOKUP returns the price for the *first* entry, $17. The formula in cell F5 is:

=VLOOKUP(E5,B5:C11,2,FALSE) // returns 17

### Wildcard match

The VLOOKUP function supports wildcards, which makes it possible to perform a partial match on a lookup value. For instance, you can use VLOOKUP to retrieve values from a table after typing in only *part* of a lookup value. To use wildcards with VLOOKUP, you must specify exact match mode by providing FALSE or 0 for the last argument, *range_lookup*. The formula in H7 retrieves the first name, "Michael", after typing "Aya" into cell H4:

=VLOOKUP($H$4&"*",$B$5:$E$104,2,FALSE)

Read a more detailed explanation here.

### Two-way lookup

Inside the VLOOKUP function, the column index argument is normally hard-coded as a static number. However, you can also create a *dynamic column index* by using the MATCH function to locate the right column. This technique allows you to create a dynamic two-way lookup, matching on both rows *and* columns. In the screen below, VLOOKUP is configured to perform a lookup based on Name and Month. The formula in H6 is:

For more details, see this example.

*Note: In general, INDEX and MATCH is a more flexible way to perform two-way lookups.*

### Multiple criteria

The VLOOKUP function does not handle multiple criteria natively. However, you can use a helper column to join multiple fields together, and use these fields like multiple criteria inside VLOOKUP. In the example below, Column B is a helper column that concatenates first and last names together with this formula:

=C5&D5 // helper column

VLOOKUP is configured to do the the same thing to create a lookup value. The formula in H6 is:

=VLOOKUP(H4&H5,B5:E13,4,0)

For details, see this example.

Note: INDEX and MATCH and XLOOKUP are more robust ways to handle lookups based on multiple criteria.

### VLOOKUP and #N/A errors

If you use VLOOKUP you will inevitably run into the #N/A error. The #N/A error just means "not found". For example, in the screen below, the lookup value "Toy Story 2" does not exist in the lookup table, and all three VLOOKUP formulas return #N/A:

One way to "trap" the NA error is to use the IFNA function like this:

The formula in H6 is:

The message can be customized as desired. To return nothing (i.e. to display a blank result) when VLOOKUP returns #N/A you can use an empty string like this:

The #N/A error is useful because it tells you something is wrong. In practice, there are many reasons why you might see this error, including:

- The lookup value does not exist in the table
- The lookup value is misspelled, or contains extra space
- Match mode is exact, but should be approximate
- The table range is not entered correctly
- You are copying VLOOKUP, and the table reference is not locked

Read more: VLOOKUP without #N/A errors

### More about VLOOKUP

### Other notes

**Range_lookup**controls whether**value**needs to match exactly or not. The default is TRUE = allow non-exact match.- Set
**range_lookup**to FALSE to*require*an exact match and TRUE to*allow a non-exact match*. - If
**range_lookup**is TRUE (the default setting), a non-exact match will cause the VLOOKUP function to match the nearest value in the table that is*still less than*.**value** - When
**range_lookup**is omitted, the VLOOKUP function will allow a non-exact match, but it__will use__an exact match if one exists. - If
**range_lookup**is TRUE (the default setting) make sure that lookup values in the first row of the table are sorted in ascending order. Otherwise, VLOOKUP may return an incorrect or unexpected value. - If
**range_lookup**is FALSE (require exact match), values in the first column of**table**do not need to be sorted.

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