The easiest way to explain relative and absolute cell references is with the following visual:

With a relative cell reference, if I were to take cell F2 and autofill it to the surrounding cells, check out how it becomes exactly the same as the diagram to the left of it.


Relative cell references change column/row values when copied to a different cell.

How to code a relative cell reference

If I told you that I want to reference the value of B2 in F2, what should I type into F2?

I should type...


...since that's where our desired value of "Center" is!

Remember, when referencing a cell, always start with a "="!

If you do that, you'll legit end up with "B2" in your cell, which is not referencing anything.

How can we know for sure though that we relatively referenced B2?

Try autofilling (by click and hold the little green box in bottom-right corner) F2 into E2. You'll get the following:

Animated GIF

This successfully matches what we experienced in the example at the start of this article. But how?

To illustrate what's going on behind the scenes, let's first remind ourselves that F2 references B2.

Even though we copied the value of F2 into E2, E2 does not reference B2. It actually references A2, since we moved one column to the left.

See how our column changed since we copied a relative cell reference into a different cell?

We can do the same thing with rows. Autofill the value of F2 into F1. You'll get the following result:

Once again, notice that our copied value does not reference B2. It actually references B1, since we moved one row upwards.