# Subtraction

## One of the four basic arithmetic operations / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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**Subtraction** (which is signified by the minus sign −) is one of the four arithmetic operations along with addition, multiplication and division. Subtraction is an operation that represents removal of objects from a collection.^{[1]} For example, in the adjacent picture, there are 5 − 2 peaches—meaning 5 peaches with 2 taken away, resulting in a total of 3 peaches. Therefore, the *difference* of 5 and 2 is 3; that is, 5 − 2 = 3. While primarily associated with natural numbers in arithmetic, subtraction can also represent removing or decreasing physical and abstract quantities using different kinds of objects including negative numbers, fractions, irrational numbers, vectors, decimals, functions, and matrices.^{[2]}

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In a sense, subtraction is the inverse of addition. That is, *c* = *a* − *b* if and only if *c* + *b* = *a*. In words: the difference of two numbers is the number that gives the first one when added to the second one.

Subtraction follows several important patterns. It is anticommutative, meaning that changing the order changes the sign of the answer. It is also not associative, meaning that when one subtracts more than two numbers, the order in which subtraction is performed matters. Because 0 is the additive identity, subtraction of it does not change a number. Subtraction also obeys predictable rules concerning related operations, such as addition and multiplication. All of these rules can be proven, starting with the subtraction of integers and generalizing up through the real numbers and beyond. General binary operations that follow these patterns are studied in abstract algebra.

In computability theory, considering subtraction is not well-defined over natural numbers, operations between numbers are actually defined using "truncated subtraction" or monus.^{[3]}