What Does Put Two and Two Together Mean?

Put Two and Two Together Meaning

Definition: To draw a conclusion based upon the given evidence.

This phrase is used primarily when the inference or deduction is obvious.

Origin of Put Two and Two Together

Imagine the following scenario:

Your friend made cookies, and you want to know how many he has left. You ask him how many cookies remain, and he tells you that he has two cookies left on the red plate and two cookies left on the green plate.

He didn’t directly tell you he has four total cookies remaining. He never actually used the word four. However, you are able to put two and two together to realize he has four of them regardless.

This is the idea behind the idiom.

In fact, the earliest version of the expression included the word four. Many early examples included wording such as anyone who can put two and two together to make four must realize that (obvious conclusion). Variations of this expression date all the way back to the 1600s.

It is not clear why the equation 2 + 2 = 4 was chosen rather than another simple equation such as 1 + 1 = 2.

Examples of Put Two and Two Together

put 2 and 2 togetherHere is an example in which two roommates discuss a visitor that one of them had over at the house.

Mario: How was your date last night?

Axel: How did you know I had a date?

Mario: I remembered that you had mentioned asking out that woman you liked. Also, I found this pink jacket on the couch. Since you and I do not own a pink jacket, and you have no female friends, I put two and two together and figured out you must have invited your date back to the house.

Axel: Oh, well, now it seems obvious how you knew. Anyway, it went great! Thanks for asking! She was so cool. We already have plans to go out again.

putting two and two togetherIn this example, two college students are discussing a surprise quiz.

Roger: Uh oh. It looks like the professor is going to give us a pop quiz today.

Noel: Why do you say that?

Roger: She has spaced out the desks to make it harder to cheat. Also, she doesn’t have her projector on, so she won’t be giving a PowerPoint lecture as she normally does. I just put two and two together.

More Examples

This excerpt is about the kicker for a football team.

  • While in high school, Koo saw a viral video of a soccer player making a penalty kick, striking the ball before landing a backflip. He immediately went outside to try it. “The summer when I made the video, a bunch of other kickers from other schools were doing trick shots where they were spinning the ball with their feet,” he said. “I kind of just put two and two together.” –LA Times

The second example is about a medical problem that caused a man to die.

  • But Adler had a genetic ascending aortic aneurysm that had dissected – a tear in the large blood vessel branching off the heart. His father 20 years earlier had the same disorder, but doctors misdiagnosed it and he died while in the hospital. “It could have been prevented had he known his family history,” Nelson said. “It wasn’t until he passed away they put two and two together. –OC Register


The saying put two and two together means to make an obvious inference based on the available information.