CONCATENATE function: formulas to merge cells in Google Sheets

Natalia Sharashova by , updated on

"Concatenate" usually means to link something together in a series or a chain. This operation is used whenever you need to join text from multiple Google Sheets cells. This article collects the most popular and easy solutions to help you solve the concatenation puzzle.

However big your dataset is, you may come across the task of combining multiple cells in Google Sheets together. And I have no doubt you will want to not only keep all values from losing, but also add some commas, spaces, or other characters, or even separate those records with other text.

Well, spreadsheets offer several tools for this task.

Google Sheets CONCAT function

The CONCAT function is a simplified version of Google Sheets CONCATENATE:

=CONCAT(value1, value2)

To join cells with this function, you need to list the required values:

  • value1 – a record to which value2 should be appended.
  • value2 – the value to join.

To get one string from 2 text or numeric units, the formula will look like below, with each record in double-quotes:

=CONCAT("2019:","The Lion King")
Put the records directly into the formula to concatenate.

In reality, your data is most likely already in cells. You can refer to those cells directly instead of putting down each number or text as an argument. So the real-data formula will be like this:

=CONCAT(A2,B2)
The result of the Google Sheets CONCAT formula.

Tip. To copy your formula to the whole column, select the cell with the formula and double-click the little square at the bottom right corner of the cell. The entire column will be automatically filled with the formula, till the very end of the table.

As you can see, the function is super simple, but it has major weak points:

  • it merges only two cells in Google Sheets at a time.
  • it cannot combine columns, rows, or other big data ranges, it takes only single cells. If you try to join multiple cells, you'll either get an error or only the first two values will be joined, like this:

    =CONCAT(A2:A11,B2:B11)
    Try to join ranges with CONCAT.

CONCAT alternative: concatenation operator ampersand (&)

There are lots of different operators for various purposes in formulas. Concatenation is not an exception. Using an ampersand character (&) in formulas instead of the CONCAT function will provide you with the same result:

=A2&B2
Use the ampersand instead of the CONCAT function.

But little do you know that this concatenation operator is more flexible. Here's what it can do:

  1. Merge more than two values at a time:

    =A2&B2&C2
    Combine multiple records with the ampersand.

  2. Not just merge cells in Google Sheets, but also separate them with various characters:

    =A2&" "&B2&"; "&C2
    Merge cells in Google Sheets using delimiters.

If you still don't get the desired result with these options, there's one more function to try.

How to use CONCATENATE in Google Sheets

I believe the Google Sheets CONCATENATE function is the first one to use when it comes to appending several records together.

CONCATENATE text strings and numbers in Google Sheets

The formula pattern consists of the following arguments:

=CONCATENATE(string1, [string2, ...])
  • string1 is the first string you want to append other values to. This argument is required.
  • string2, … stands for all other strings you may want to append. This argument is optional.

Note. The outcome record will consist of the strings in the order of their appearance in the formula.

If I adapt the formula to my data, I will get this:

=CONCATENATE(A2,B2,C2)

Or, since the function accepts ranges:

=CONCATENATE(A2:D2)
Google Sheets CONCATENATE in use on real data.

You can immediately notice the first advantage of Google Sheets CONCATENATE: it easily joins over two cells with both text and numbers.

Google Sheets: concatenate strings with separators

Combining cells in Google Sheets is half the work. But to make the result look pretty and readable, you should add some extra characters.

If you keep the formula as is, it will just glue everything together: BonnieJacksonCA, BonnieJacksonIN, etc. But Google Sheets CONCATENATE takes characters as arguments, too.

Thus, to add some separators for readability, mention them in double-quotes in the formula:

=CONCATENATE(A2," ",B2,", ",C2)

Here I want to concatenate A2 & B2 with space and separate B2 from C2 with a comma and space:
Add extra characters for readability.

You are free to use almost any character in the function like this, yet a line break requires a different approach.

Tip. In case there are empty cells in some of the columns you're merging, there's one more function you may be interested in. TEXTJOIN not simply merges cells in Google Sheets but ignores blanks:

=TEXTJOIN(" ",TRUE,A2:C2)

Here's how it works:

  1. Indicate the desired delimiter as a first argument – space (" ") for me.
  2. Put TRUE as a second argument to skip blank cells or FALSE to include them in the result.
  3. Enter the range to merge.

Merge cells ignoring blanks.

Concatenate with line break in Google Sheets

While it's obvious how to enter most delimiters to the function, you cannot type a line break the same way there. But luckily Google lets you play many different cards.

There's a function that helps to get special characters – it's called CHAR. You see, each character has a place in the Unicode table. You just need to feed the ordinal number of the character from that table to the function and the latter will return the character itself.

Here's a formula to get the line break:

=CHAR(10)

Add it to the formula to concatenate with the line break in Google Sheets:

=CONCATENATE(A2,CHAR(10),B2,CHAR(10),C2,CHAR(10),D2)
Use the CHAR function for a line break.

Combine date and time in Google Sheets

If you try to combine date and time in Google Sheets using one of the methods above, it won't work. Your spreadsheet will return numbers:
Date and time require a special approach.

To combine date and time in Google Sheets correctly, use the TEXT function:

=TEXT(number, format)
  • where number is any number, date, or time you'd like to get in the desired format
  • and format is the pattern you'd like to see as a result.

Tip. In my example, I'm going to reference cells with dates and times, but you are free to use date/time units or even such functions as DATE or TIME directly in the formula.

  1. I use the first TEXT formula to change the date format from 7/9/2019 to 9 Jul 2019:

    =TEXT(B2,"D MMM YYYY")

  2. The second TEXT returns the time:

    =TEXT(C2,"HH:MM:SS")

  3. Using these in CONCATENATE, Google Sheets lets me combine date and time in the desired format with other characters or text:

    =CONCATENATE(TEXT(B2,"D MMM YYYY"),", ",TEXT(C2,"HH:MM:SS"))

Combine date and time in Google Sheets with other characters & text strings.

Combine columns in Google Sheets

With slight adjustments, all the ways I mentioned are capable of merging columns in Google Sheets.

Example 1. Google Sheets CONCAT

To merge whole columns in Google Sheets with CONCAT, select the entire range that should contain the result (C2:C11 in my case) and enter your formula wrapping it in ARRAYFORMULA:

=ARRAYFORMULA(CONCAT(A2:A11,B2:B11))
Array formula to combine two columns in Google Sheets.

Note. You could use the CONCATENATE function, but it will join all records within one cell since it easily merges multiple cells and data ranges.

Example 2. Concatenation operator

Create array formulas to combine columns in Google Sheets using the ampersand and add separators at the same time:

=ARRAYFORMULA(A2:A11&" "&B2:B11&"; "&C2:C11)
Use the ampersand in the array formula to merge cells in Google Sheets.

This looks good, but I have to point out some major cons.

If you have too many columns, enumerating them all can become a pain in the neck, especially if you accidentally skip/duplicate/mix up any characters.

Also, if you decide to add more columns to the formula later, you'll have to edit each and every existing range in the formula manually.

The next example solves these problems.

Example 3. Google Sheets QUERY

Google Sheets QUERY function is also suited to merge several columns in Google Sheets. Have a look:

=TRANSPOSE(QUERY(TRANSPOSE(A2:D10),,9^9))
How to combine cells in Google Sheets using QUERY.

You may think this strange formula is beyond your grasp, but let me lay its all pieces out for you:

  1. =TRANSPOSE(A2:D10) turns the rows of data into columns.
  2. =QUERY(TRANSPOSE(A2:D10),,9^9) merges records in each column to the top cells.

    Tip. When I put 9^9 into the formula, I make sure all rows from all columns will be pulled into the first row as if they were headers. It is 9^9 since this expression includes all possible cells in the spreadsheet (remember the limit for 10M cells?) and is easy to remember. :)

  3. =TRANSPOSE(QUERY(TRANSPOSE(A2:D10),,9^9)) takes that header row from QUERY and turns it into a column like the one I've got.

Here are the perks of merging columns in Google Sheets using QUERY:

  • you don't need to select the entire column as you do for array formulas
  • you don't need to mention each column in the formula unless they are non-adjacent. In this case, here's how the formula will look:

    =TRANSPOSE(QUERY(TRANSPOSE({A2:A10,C2:C10,E2:E10,G2:G10}),,9^9))

Concatenate and add text by position

You already know that you can add missing text, numbers, and characters to your strings using the CONCATENATE function.

Tip. See more formulas on that in this tutorial.

But if there are too many records to join, any extra characters can extend your formula way beyond what you have planned. In cases like this, it's better to merge cells in Google Sheets as they are or use simple delimiters like space and add the text after that. A special tool of ours will help you.

Add text by position inserts any chars and strings by the position you specify, no formulas are needed. Let me show you how it works.

In the previous example QUERY joined names and phone numbers for me. But I'd like to add country abbreviations: (USA/CA) before phone numbers that start with +1 and UK before +44:
Add text by position with Ablebits add-on.

Split cells in Google Sheets

If you combine cells in Google Sheets, chances are you'll need to split them back at some point. There are three ways to do that:

  1. Build a formula using Google Sheets SPLIT function.
  2. Use the standard spreadsheet instrument – Split text to columns.
  3. Or try out the enhanced version of the built-in tool – Split text to columns for Google Sheets:
    Ablebits add-on to split cells to columns in Google Sheets.

    It lets you split cells by any delimiter or even sets of separators, treating them as one and including conjunctions if necessary. It also offers the option to split cells in Google Sheets by position.

Tip. There's an option to extract data from Google Sheets cells rather than split the contents.

How to merge cells in Google Sheets without formulas

If mastering different formulas is not part of your plan, you will benefit from our Merge Values add-on. The add-on quickly joins records in rows, columns, or the entire range of cells. Its options are crystal clear, and all you are to do is select the range and decide on how the result should look.

  1. You can choose to combine columns in Google Sheets — even non-adjacent ones, separate them with commas and spaces, and place the result to the right of the original records:
    Merge values in each selected row.
  2. Or merge rows in Google Sheets, divide records with line breaks, and clear the contents of selected cells:
    Merge values in each selected column.
  3. Or select the range and combine all cells in Google Sheets into one altogether:
    Merge cells in Google Sheets without losing the data.

    If you've got interested in the tool, you can look through everything it does on this special page or in this short video tutorial:

  4. There's one more utility we offer to concatenate in Google Sheets — Combine Duplicate Rows. On one hand, it merges duplicate rows by key columns. On the other hand, it consolidates numbers that are scattered over your table but still belong to the same record:
    How to combine duplicate cells in Google Sheets.

    Learn how to use Combine Duplicate Rows in this video:

I hope by now you've decided which of the ways suits your case best. If you have any other methods in mind, please do share with us in the comments section below :)

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