Italian expression of the day: ‘Tirare le somme’

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected] • 3 Mar, 2023 Updated Fri 3 Mar 2023 10:38 CEST
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Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

You might want to review this phrase before using it.


Reflection and self-assessment are essential parts of decision-making and, as trite as it may sound, the old ‘learn from your mistakes’ adage lies at the core of human knowledge. 

But while English speakers may say that they’re taking stock of or drawing conclusions from past experiences to make better decisions in future, what would an Italian say?

Most native speakers would likely use tirare le somme (pronunciation available here).


The expression literally means ‘to throw the sums’ but has nothing to do with arithmetic additions nor with any throwing gestures.

It’s used to talk about evaluating the positives and negatives of a past experience, as in the following example: 

Cosa ne pensi del mio lavoro fino a questo momento?

Preferirei non dirtelo ora. Tireremo le somme quando sarà finito. 

What do you think of my work so far?

I’d rather not tell you now. We’ll review it when it’s done.

Due to the importance of reflective learning in many occupations, the expression is widely used in professional settings.

For instance, it would be common for an Italian employee to be asked to write a report where they ‘throw the sums’ in regards to a task or project they’ve just completed. 

But the phrase is also very common in news reports. Here’s an extract from an article recently featured on Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

Screengrab from Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper

An extract from an article on Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

Dopo il test delle regionali nel Lazio e in Lombardia, per il centrodestra di governo è il momento di tirare le somme [...].

After the regional elections in Lazio and Lombardy, it’s time for the centre-right government to draw some conclusions [...].

The expression is also used by romantic partners discussing how things have been faring in their relationship, as in the following example:


Non so se le cose stiano funzionando tra noi due. E’ il momento di tirare le somme. 

I’m not sure things are quite working out between us. It’s time to assess the situation.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.



Giampietro Vianello 2023/03/03 10:38

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