To extract the first three characters of “January”: If the optional argument num_chars is not provided, it defaults to 1: If num_chars exceeds the string length, LEFT returns the entire string: When LEFT is used on a numeric value, the result is text: The LEFT function is often combined with other functions like LEN and FIND to extract text in more complex formulas. For example, to split text at a specific character, use LEFT with the FIND function like this: FIND returns the position of the character, and LEFT returns all text to the left of that position.  Full explanation here.

The LEFT function is used to extract text from the left side of a text string. Use the RIGHT function to extract text starting from the right side of the text, and the MID function to extract from the middle of text. The LEN function returns the length of text as a count of characters.


num_chars is optional and defaults to 1. LEFT will extract digits from numbers as well as text. Number formatting is not counted or extracted.

Dave Bruns

Hi - I’m Dave Bruns, and I run Exceljet with my wife, Lisa. Our goal is to help you work faster in Excel. We create short videos, and clear examples of formulas, functions, pivot tables, conditional formatting, and charts.