# How to subtract in binary

Remember how subtraction works. We work from the least-significant bits to the most-significant, and pairwise subtract them. `1-1=0`

, `1-0=1`

, `0-0=0`

.

But `0-1`

presents a problem: it’s negative 1. We represent this by outputting `1`

and *carrying* a `1`

to be subtracted from the next bits. We end up with the following logic table. It shows inputs `CI`

(carry in), `A`

(the bit being subtracted from), and `B`

(the bit to subtract). These are mapped to outputs `CO`

(carry out) and `O`

(output).

```
(Inputs) | (Outputs)
CI A B | CO O
== == == | == ==
0 0 0 | 0 0
0 0 1 | 1 1
0 1 0 | 0 1
0 1 1 | 0 0
1 0 0 | 1 1
1 0 1 | 1 0
1 1 0 | 0 0
1 1 1 | 1 1
```

The meaning here is that `CO`

and `O`

together represent the result of `A - (B+CI)`

. This is a number between -2 and 1. Here’s the meaning:

```
CO O | Meaning
== == | =======
0 0 | 0
0 1 | 1
1 0 | -2
1 1 | -1
```

This is not arbitrary. The relation is that `Meaning = ( CO * -2) + O`

. This is precisely “two’s complement representation”: `CO`

and `O`

placed side-by-side are the two’s complement representation of the number.

Tagged . All content copyright James Fisher 2017. This post is not associated with my employer.