Checking for Either of Two Text Values

Chris wants to count cells that contain text value A or text value B, anywhere in the cell’s text. If the cell contains both A and B, she wants to count it, but only once. For instance, Chris has three cells containing “apple seed”, “apple tree”, and “peach seed” and she wants to know the number of cells containing either “apple” or “seed”. (The proper answer that should be returned is 3.)

There are many ways that this can be approached. In considering solutions, I examined only those solutions that avoid intermediate answers, which occupy additional columns. The first solution involves using the COUNTIF function in this manner:


The formula counts all the cells that contain either “apple” or “seed” and then subtracts all the cells that contain “seed” followed by “apple” (both words are in the cell) or “apple” followed by “seed” (the same words in reverse order).

Another solution, this one a bit shorter, relies on the COUNTA and FIND functions, as shown here:


The formula counts the cells containing values and then subtracts all those cells that don’t contain either “apple” or “seed”.

You can also, if you prefer, use one of Excel’s database functions. Provided you have a column heading for your original phrases, this is not that difficult to do and it results in the shortest formula. All you need to do is set up a corresponding criteria table. For instance, let’s say your data is in A1:A9, and the first cell in the column contains a header such as “My Phrases”. In another column you should put the same header and then, in the two cells directly under it, place these two formulas:


The criteria specify that you want to match any cells that contain “apple” or “seed” within the cell. With this set up (I’m assuming you placed the criteria table in D1:D3), you can use the following formula:


Of course, you could also use an array formula (entered by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Enter) to get your answer. The following is one such formula that relies, again, on the phrases being checked to be in A1:A9:


If you lean more towards working with macros, you could create a user-defined function that returns the count for you. The following is an example of one that will work:

Function FindTwoStrings(rng As Range, s1 As String, _
  s2 As String) As Integer
    If TypeName(rng)  "Range" Then Exit Function
    Dim cell As Range
    For Each cell In rng.Cells
        If (InStr(1, UCase(cell.Value), UCase(s1), _
          vbTextCompare) > 0) Or (InStr(1, UCase(cell.Value), _
          UCase(s2), vbTextCompare) > 0) Then _
          FindTwoStrings = FindTwoStrings + 1
    Next cell
End Function

To use the function you could use this formula in a cell: