I've always thought of subtotal as a calculated value that is not the final amount on an invoice (for example, a sum of individual prices before discounts/taxes are applied, or the total for a selection of items depending on how the invoice is itemised). The absolute final amount (after all calculations) is then the total.

But, I'm working with a third party shopping cart and it seems to insist on calling the final total subtotal. Is this acceptable, or should I fix this?

I think people are fixing on the specific situation I bring up in my question rather than the general 'subtotal' vs 'total' - I'm pretty sure I've seen other receipts/invoices where 'subtotal' is used where I'd have thought 'total' would be more appropriate.

I'm asking which would be the correct word for the final amount on an invoice after all calculations and considerations.

  • 3
    Doesn't "subtotal" in that context mean "before tax"? Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 0:42
  • 1
    Can you ask the 3rd party provider why they would have such an odd reason for using "subtotal"? Is this a situation where the 3rd party intends to allow you one last opportunity to inject fees or shipping calculations in and displaying the grand total yourself?
    – Rikon
    Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 1:15
  • I could ask - but there'd probably not be a timely response.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 1:39
  • Hahaha... I feel your pain!
    – Rikon
    Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 1:43
  • I'm voting to close, on the grounds that the only person who will benefit from any answers is OP, who should take this up with his 3rd party and wait for their answer. Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 3:15

3 Answers 3


It would be advisable to fix it, if the sum is the absolute total, the absolute end sum. Anything before the absolute end sum, such as before the taxes are calculated, or the discounts are calculated, is the subtotal. The amount actually paid is the total, not the subtotal.

If the shopping cart insists on calling the final 'subtotal', he probably has confused the meaning of 'subtotal'.

  • 11
    Oranges: $2, Apples: $3, Subtotal: $5, Taxes: $1, Total: $6
    – Dorian
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 19:27

English is not my native language, so please correct me if I'm wrong, but common sense tells me that instead of using 'subtotal', we should use 'final total' after all the calculations are done.

  • 4
    Your common sense is correct in this case, 'subtotal' would be incorrect. However, 'final total' is not a common choice of words in English; usually if you just say 'total', it is implied that it is final.
    – IQAndreas
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 7:32
  • There is term "grand total". "Final total" is your wrong idea for "grand".
    – i486
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 12:34

I'm not a native English speaker, but I have a feeling that the "total" amount on the bill sometimes means the final amount after you ADD UP different charges. And the term "subtotal" is used to show the final amount when some amounts are TAKEN AWAY from the original amount. I think, I've seen this trend for "subtotals" on the Wells Fargo deposit slip. Please, correct me if this is not right.

  • 1
    If you are not sure your answer is correct, please do not post it. Instead, do some research and find out if your answer is correct, then post it (along with where you got you information from).
    – Jay Elston
    Commented May 15, 2014 at 19:38
  • 1
    This answer is incorrect. "Subtotal" is similar to "subcategory", where it means a "smaller part of a larger group"; in the former, the subtotal is a smaller group within the larger total, and the latter, subcategory is a smaller group within a larger category.
    – IQAndreas
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 7:28

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