VLOOKUP is a super popular formula but suffers from a major drawback. You can’t lookup data to the left!

However, there’s a sneaky trick that lets us VLOOKUP to the left, so we can search for a term and return a result from a column *to the left* of the original search column:

Table of Contents

# How do we create a leftwards VLOOKUP?

What we do is create a new virtual table with an array, where the columns are switched, so the VLOOKUP can work on this temporary, virtual table.

## What’s the formula?

Let’s assume we have data in columns A and B. I want to search column B and return the value from column A, then we use:

=VLOOKUP(D2,{$B$1:$B$10,$A$1:$A$10},2,FALSE)

## Can I see an example worksheet?

## How does this formula work?

Imagine this is your raw data table and you want to search for a name and return the rent figure:

The first step is to use an array formula to create a new table on the fly, and then perform the VLOOKUP on this new temporary table.

This formula creates the temporary table:={B1:B10,A1:A10}

as shown in the following image:

This formula has curly brackets to denote an array and inside, the two columns are swapped. This creates an array output with the two columns reversed.

*Note, they don’t have to be adjacent columns, they just happen to be in this simple example.*

Next, this formula performs a vlookup on the new temporary table (which is all done inside the vlookup, so you won’t actually see the temporary table):

=VLOOKUP(D2,{$B$1:$B$10,$A$1:$A$10},2,FALSE)

which effectively performs a search like so:

Bingo!

It returns $2,214 as we want.

*Note: A better way to solve this is by using a combination of the INDEX and MATCH functions.*