Linux HowTo: Apparent false syntax error using UNIQUE() in COUNTIF()

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I have a spreadsheet with the following values for A1:A8:

1   1   1   2   3   3   4   5

I want to count the number of unique values >= 3. (The values aren’t guaranteed to be sequential or with uniform step sizes)

This would seem trivial using UNIQUE(), but oddly doesn’t work.

If I set B1 to =UNIQUE(A1:A8), the result is a new column with the values we’d expect

1   2   3   4   5

However, if I then set C1 to =COUNTIF(UNIQUE(A1:A8), ">=3"), I get the standard syntax error:

There's a problem with this formula.
Not trying to write a formula?
To get around this, type an apostrophe ( ' ) first

Obviously, if I remove the call to UNIQUE() (=COUNTIF(A1:A8, ">=3")), everything works. I just get the wrong result, since it obviously counts the two 3‘s.

Trying to see if the problem is with UNIQUE(), I tried replacing COUNTIF() with AVERAGE() (=AVERAGE(UNIQUE(A1:A8))), but that works.

Is this expected behavior?

The problem is UNIQUE returns an array and COUNTIFS does not work with arrays.

Filter first and use COUNT:


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What is interesting is if you use helper cells and spill UNIQUE then refer to that it works. B1 = =UNIQUE(A1:A8) and C1 = =COUNTIF(B1#,">=3")

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This works because the formula creates a Spill Range that the B1# refers to. It is like a named range.


This method works with any version of Excel:

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  1. An Array (CSE) Formula in cell I55:

  2. Finish formula with Ctrl+Shift+Enter.

How it works:

  • FREQUENCY returns an array of values that corresponds to filtered set of data for the data array.

  • The IF function filters data.


  • Then each of these values tested to be greater than or equals to 3, and looks like this.


  • SUM adds these values & returns the total, is 3.
  • This formula can be extended to handle multiple criteria.



Adjust cell references in the formula as needed.

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