The TRUE and FALSE Excel functions

Some of Excel's most powerful tools are called "Conditional Functions". Formulas utilizing Conditional Functions do different things depending on whether certain criteria are met. For example, a streaming music company could calculate the monthly payment due for a particular customer based on whether they subscribe to the Standard or Premium plan.

At the heart of Conditional Functions lie Excel's TRUE and FALSE functions. TRUE and FALSE are "Boolean Functions", which means that they help us understand whether a given statement or claim is actually true or not.

Let's take a look at the basics of Boolean Functions in Excel.

TRUE and FALSE with operators

Let's start by using Excel's TRUE and FALSE functionality to evaluate a statement. Take a look at the following:

Output: TRUE

The preceding formula is a great example of Boolean Functions in action. After the initial equals sign, which denotes that we are typing a formula into Excel, we write (6=6). That may seem obvious to us, but Excel treats the statement within the parentheses as a question that needs to be verified as either TRUE or FALSE. The output of this formula is the operator TRUE, because it's true that the number 6 is equal to the number 6.

Take a look at another example, in which the statement we input into Excel is evaluated as FALSE:

Output: FALSE

Excel evaluates this statement as FALSE because, as you've likely guessed, the number six is not equal to the number three.

Here's the cool part about Boolean Functions: They can do much more than check to see whether two values are equal to each other. We can use a number of operators besides = to test the truth of statements. Check out our tutorial on Excel logical operators for the complete list.

TRUE and FALSE on their own

We can also use TRUE and FALSE on their own, without having to evaluate the truth of a particular statement. Take, for example, the following simple formula, which just fills a cell with the default TRUE value:

Output: TRUE

We can also do it with FALSE:

Output: FALSE

It may not make sense just yet why you would want to set a cell value to simply TRUE or FALSE, but this will come in handy later on when we start to take a look at IF statements in Excel.

Leaving off the parentheses

Since the TRUE and FALSE functions are used so commonly within Excel, Microsoft has provided us with a handy shortcut: we can leave off the parentheses after the functions, and they'll work just the same. Take a look at the following examples:

Output: TRUE
Output: FALSE

No parentheses required!

TRUE and FALSE within logical statements

We can also use Excel's TRUE and FALSE functions within logical statements of their own. Check out the following:

Output: TRUE

The previous code block returns TRUE because the TRUE function is, indeed equal to itself. Let's see what happens when we try to equate the TRUE and FALSE functions:

Output: FALSE

As you might expect, TRUE and FALSE are not equal to each other, so this formula evaluates as FALSE.

Numerical values of TRUE and FALSE

Here's one more interesting tip about the TRUE and FALSE functions: they're also numbers. In Excel, the function TRUE is equivalent to the number 1, and the function FALSE is equal to the number 0. That's a bit confusing when we think about it, so let's take a look at a couple of examples to help understand what's going on:

First, the TRUE function in Excel is equivalent to the number 1 — they can be used interchangably. That means that if we multiply TRUE by any number x, we should get x as an output. Take a look:

=TRUE() * 8
Output: 8
=TRUE() * 18
Output: 18

It may seem strange to multiply a number by TRUE, but it makes sense when you consider the fact that TRUE is a function — and can be multiplied in a formula just like any other function.

Similarly, since the FALSE function in Excel is equivalent to the number 0, multiplying FALSE by any number should return 0. Let's check it out:

=FALSE() * 8
Output: 0
=FALSE() * 18
Output: 0

The reason behind this strange use of functions traces back to machine language — the most fundamental code that computers use to operate. Machine language uses the binary system (a way of communicating using only the numbers 1 and 0) to construct virtually everything that happens on our computers and devices today. In other words, everything you're reading on this screen, at its base, is represented by your computer by 1s and 0s — in other words, TRUE and FALSE functions.

Have a good handle on how Boolean Functions work? Check out our tutorial on Excel logical operators to take your Conditional Formulas to the next level.

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