Converting Fahrenheit to Celsius

Fahrenheit and Celsius are two distinct but widely used temperature scales. The unit of measure for Fahrenheit is written using the degree Fahrenheit symbol (°F), whereas the unit for Celsius is denoted by the degree Celsius symbol (°C).

Fahrenheit is the most commonly used temperature measurement in the United States. However, if you travel to other countries, you will notice that Celsius is more commonly used. Therefore, learning how to convert temperatures between the two scales can help you understand what kind of temperature is being discussed no matter where you are in the world.

thermometer with celsius and fahrenheit temperatures

How to Convert from Fahrenheit to Celsius

When converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius, we use the following standard formula:

degrees Celsius = (5/9)(degrees Fahrenheit minus 32)

If we take a closer look at the formula, below are the steps to convert a given Fahrenheit temperature to Celsius.

  1. Subtract [latex]{32}[/latex] from the given Fahrenheit temperature (simplify operations that are inside the parenthesis first)
  2. Multiply the difference by [latex]\Large{5 \over 9}[/latex]
  3. Express or write the answer with the degrees Celsius symbol (°C)

Alternate Method (°F to °C)

Another formula that we can use as an alternative to convert temperatures from the Fahrenheit scale to the Celsius scale is dividing the quantity [latex]\left( {^\circ F – 32} \right)[/latex] by [latex]\textbf{{1.8}}[/latex]. But you might ask, how did we get this alternate method?

Well, multiplying the quantity [latex]\left( {^\circ F – 32} \right)[/latex] by [latex]\Large{5 \over 9}[/latex]

[latex]{\Large{5 \over 9}}\left( {^\circ F – 32} \right)[/latex]

is equivalent to dividing the quantity [latex]\left( {^\circ F – 32} \right)[/latex] by [latex]\Large{9 \over 5}[/latex]. Notice that the numerator and denominator have switched.

[latex]\Large{{\left( {^\circ F – 32} \right)} \over {\large{{9 \over 5}}}}[/latex]

Since [latex]{\Large{9 \over 5}} = 1.8[/latex], we have the alternate formula:

degrees Celsius = (degrees Fahrenheit minus 32)/1.8

Now, let’s convert 86° Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius using both formulas to see if we get the same answer.

30 degrees Celsius

And we did! Using both formulas, we get the same answer of 30° C. Therefore, we can say that 86 degrees Fahrenheit is 30 degrees Celsius.

Converting Temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius Examples

There is no such thing as too much practice. For a better understanding of the formulas and steps involved in Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion, let’s go through a few examples.

Example 1: Convert 140° F to °C.

For this first example, we’ll use the standard formula for converting temperature to the Celsius scale.

60 degrees Celsius

Answer: 140 degrees Fahrenheit is 60 degrees Celsius OR 140° F = 60° C.

Example 2: What is 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit in Celsius?

The Fahrenheit temperature in this example contains a decimal. Will it also have a decimal once converted to the Celsius scale? Let’s find out.

Using the alternative formula, we have

36 degrees Celsius

Our answer came up as a whole number. Therefore, just because a Fahrenheit temperature has a decimal, it does not mean that the corresponding Celsius temperature will also have a decimal.

Answer: 36° C

Example 3: Convert -13° F to °C.

Sometimes, you’ll also be given temperatures in the negatives. This is common especially if you’re talking about very cold or below freezing temperatures. However, as long as you know the formula, converting them from Fahrenheit to Celsius is easy.

negative 25 degrees Celsius

Answer: -13 degrees Fahrenheit is -25 degrees Celsius OR -13° F = -25° C.

Example 4: The normal body temperature of a cheetah is at 101° F. After sprinting during a hunt, its body temperature increased 1.2° F. What was its increased body temperature in Celsius?

cheetah on a hunt

Before we do any conversion, we first need to find out the cheetah’s increased body temperature in Fahrenheit. We’ll do so by adding 1.2° F to it’s normal body temperature.

  • Cheetah’s Normal Body Temperature: 101° F
  • Cheetah’s Body Temperature After Sprinting: 101° + 1.2° = 102.2° F

Now that we know it’s increased body temperature in Fahrenheit, we can proceed with converting 102.2° F to Celsius. We’ll use the alternative formula for this one.

39 degrees Celsius

Answer: The cheetah’s increased body temperature was 39° C.

open window showing snowing outside

Example 5: When I woke up on Christmas morning last year, the temperature outside was 25° F. By dinner time, the outside temperature has decreased by 6° F. What was the decreased temperature in Celsius?

First, we need to get the decreased temperature in Fahrenheit.

  • Morning Outside Temperature: 25° F
  • Dinner Time Outside Temperature: 25° – 6° = 19° F

Next, let’s find out what 19° F is in Celsius using the Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion formula.

negative 7.2 degrees Celsius

Answer: It was about -7.2° C outside by dinner time on Christmas day last year.

You may also be interested in these related math lessons or tutorials:

Converting Fahrenheit to Celsius Practice Problems with Answers

Converting Celsius to Fahrenheit