The idiom "doesn't add up" typically conveys a sense of inconsistency, disbelief, or puzzlement in the face of a situation that seems to defy logic, expectations, or the sum of its parts. This idiom is used when the facts in a situation or the components of an argument don't come together to form a coherent or believable whole. It underscores the importance of coherence and credibility in mathematical equations and life's puzzling situations.
When someone says, "it doesn't add up," they're likely using the phrase in its figurative sense. The expression often conveys doubt, confusion, or suspicion about a situation or explanation. It can refer to anything from a math problem to a complex social situation, suggesting that something is off, contradictory, or inconsistent. For example, someone might say, “it doesn’t add up,” after discovering a discrepancy in a budget or hearing a lie or an excuse.
Key elements of the idiom's meaning include:
The phrase "doesn't add up" derives from mathematics, where adding up refers to the summing of numbers to obtain a total. If the sum isn't correct, it literally "doesn't add up." Eventually, this phrase has been metaphorically extended to general use, symbolizing situations where details, facts, or components fail to come together in a logical or plausible manner. People often use this phrase when they find inconsistencies in a story, when the pieces of information don't fit together, or when something simply doesn't seem believable.
"It just does not add up. It does not make sense. I want to alert you — of course, you are alerted — and some of us who are not only friendly, but deeply concerned about it, just cannot quite understand what is going on."
- Statistical Abstract of the United States , 1916
"It just doesn't make sense, gentlemen, it doesn't add up."
- Hearings Before the Committee on Naval Affairs, United States Senate, Seventy-seventh Congress, 1941
Here are ten examples of "doesn't add up" utilized in sentences and varying contexts:
Given its universal applicability to situations involving confusion, disbelief, or inconsistency, the phrase "doesn't add up" often appears in pop culture, including films, television series, and literature.
Here are a few examples:
There are several alternatives to expressing the sentiment of the idiom.
Here are a few examples:
This idiom can mean two things. First, it's used when numbers or amounts don't sum to the expected total. Secondly, it's applied when a situation or explanation doesn't seem logical, plausible, or believable.
The phrase "doesn't add up" originates from the mathematical context where numbers don't result in the correct or expected sum. It has since been used figuratively to express suspicion or disbelief.
You can use "doesn't add up" when expressing doubt or suspicion. For instance, " I tried to inquire about their whereabouts, but it doesn't add up why they won't respond."
No, while "doesn't add up" originated from mathematical contexts, it is now widely used in various situations to denote any circumstance that seems inconsistent or implausible.
Yes, similar idioms include "doesn't compute," "doesn't tally," and "doesn't make sense."
Not necessarily. The phrase "doesn't add up" merely expresses a lack of understanding or coherence. The connotation depends on the context in which it's used.
Yes, "doesn't add up" can be used in both formal and informal writing, as long as it suits the context.
No, "doesn't add up" is typically used figuratively. It represents an inconsistency or implausibility in a situation, statement, or series of events rather than a literal mathematical operation.
Yes, "doesn't add up" can be used in a personal context to describe anything that appears inconsistent or doesn't make sense, such as an event or someone's behavior.
Yes, "doesn't add up" is often used to express skepticism or doubt about the validity or truthfulness of a situation or statement.
The phrase "doesn't add up" is a useful idiom that we can use to express our doubts, confusions, or suspicions about a situation. Whether used in a mathematical context or applied to describe a puzzling scenario, it underscores our innate desire for things to make sense, follow a logical pattern, or be consistent.
Here's a quick summary:
Remember, saying something "doesn't add up" when things seem off or inconsistent is perfectly okay. It's an essential part of critical thinking and problem-solving in daily life.