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2 's Complement Subtraction

Last updated date: 24th Feb 2024
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Let’s Understand About 2 's Complement Subtraction

Would you like to know more about 2 's complement subtraction for kids? Well, then, you've come to the right place! This article will cover a 2's complement and how it works in subtraction with complements. Two binary numbers can be subtracted using the approach of the second complement. By the end of this article, you should be more confident with your ability to perform 2 's complement subtraction, including binary subtraction using 2's complement. Let's get started!

What is a 2 's Complement?

To implement this method for subtracting two binary numbers, the first step is to find the 2’s complement of the number to be subtracted from another number. To get the 2’s complement, first of all, 1’s complement is found, and then 1 is added. The addition is the required 2’s complement.

Suppose we need to find the 2’s complement of the binary number 10010. First, find 1’s complement. To find this, replace all 1 to 0 and all 0 to 1. Therefore, 1’s complement of 10010 will be 01101. Add 1 to this, and we will get the 2’s complement, i.e. 01110.

Binary Subtraction Using 2's Complement

To learn how to subtract binary numbers using 2's complement, which is the subtraction of a smaller number from a larger number using 2’s complement subtraction, the following steps are to be followed:

  • Step 1: Determine the 2’s complement of the smaller number

  • Step 2: Add this to the larger number.

  • Step 3: Omit the carry. Note that there is always a carry in this case.

The following example illustrates the above-mentioned steps:

Exampe: Subtract $(1010)_2$ from $(1111)_2$ using 2's complement method.


  • Step 1: 2's complement of $(1010)_2$ is $(0110)_2$.

  • Step 2: Add $(0110)_2$ to $(1111)_2$.

This is shown below:

Subtract Using 2's Complement Method

Subtract Using 2's Complement Method

To subtract a larger number from a smaller number using 2’s complement subtraction, the following steps are to be followed:

  • Step 1: Determine the 2’s complement of the smaller number.

  • Step 2: Add this to the larger number.

  • Step 3: There is no carry in this case. The result is in 2’s complement form and is negative.

  • Step 4: To get an answer in true form, take 2’s complement and change its sign.

Example: Subtract $(1010)_2$ from $(1000)_2$ using 2's complement.


  • Step 1: Find the 2's complement of $(1010)_2$. It is $(0110)_2$.

  • Step 2: Add $(0110)_2$ to $(1000)_2$.

2’s complement

2’s complement

Step 3 and Step 4 have been explained in the above difference calculation.

Subtraction Using r's Complement:

Let's say you want to subtract the number 01010100 from 11100011. We can do this using 2 's complement by simply doing the subtraction using r's complement.

Steps to Find r's Complement:

To find r's complement, add 1 to the calculated ($r-1$) 's complement.

Here is an example:

Q. Find the 7's and 8's complement of the number $(5 63)_8$

  • Step 1: Identify the base (or) radix. Here $r=8$.

  • Step 2: Since 7 is the largest digit in the number system, subtract each digit of the given number from 7, i.e. if it's a three-digit number, subtract the number from 777.

$\therefore(214)_8$ is the 7's complement of a given number

  • Step 3: To find r's complement, i.e. 8's complement, then add ' 1 ' to the result of 7 's complement number.

$\therefore(215)_8$ is the 8 's complement of the given number.

Solved Examples

Q 1. 10110 - 11010

Ans: 11010 has a 2s complement of (00101+1) or 00110.

Add the 2's complement to the minuend (10110+00110) or 11100.

Now taking its complement;

The solution is (00011+1)= - (00100)

Q 2. 10110-01111

Ans: 01111's 2s complement is 10001.

The minuend plus the complement of two (10110-10001) equals 100111.

The response is 00111.

Q 3. 0100-11101

Ans: 11101's 2s complement is 00011

The minuend plus the complement of two (10100- 00011) equals 10111.

Since there is no carry here, the response is 01001.

Q 4. 110101 - 101001

Ans: 101001's complement in 2 is 010111

(110101-010111) Add the minuend and the 2's complement to get 1001100.

Carry, the result's leftmost bit is a 1 and is ignored.

The response is 001100.

Practice Questions

Q 1. 1001 - 0100

Ans: 0101

Q 2. 0100 - 1011

Ans: 1011

Q 3. 0110 - 0100

Ans: 0010

Q 4. 10110- 11101

Ans: 00111

Q 5. 110-101

Ans: 001


In conclusion, in this article, we went over two's complement subtraction. We've done an example problem to show you how it works and how it is performed on paper. The examples provided in this article are used for demonstration purposes only and thus do not necessarily model the types of problems you would encounter on a standardised test.

Instead of simply memorising the steps in this article, you should practice the problems. You can choose to use paper and pencil or use a calculator, 2 's complement subtraction calculator, or your fingers on your smartphone. Therefore, if you want to perform division (and thus subtraction) without using r's complement, you will need to learn how to use 2 's complement while performing division.

FAQs on 2 's Complement Subtraction

1. What is a good resource for learning how to do 2 's complement subtraction?

The 2’s complement subtraction is the opposite of integer subtraction. The best resource for learning how to do 2 's complement subtraction would be an online course, 2 's complement subtraction calculator or another source that teaches algorithm design. Online resources are recommended because they are convenient, and the teacher can adjust the difficulty level (make it easier or harder) to match your skill level. 

2. Why do we need 2’s complement subtraction? 

2’s complement subtraction is adding a negative number to the end of a number. The result becomes one less than the original number and results in an equivalent positive number. We need 2’s complement subtraction because, without the use of it, we wouldn’t be able to subtract. For example, if you had to add 52 and -3. You would need something like this: 2’s Complement is used as an alternative to r’s complement.

3. How do I convert between 2 's complement and r 's complement? 

The 2's complement of a binary number is simply the negative value of it plus 1 (i.e., the one's complement). The 1's complement is equal to the one's complement +1. We can use the calculator to easily convert between the two.