Summing up numbers is one of those repetitive tasks you need to do over and over again in your practical code projects.

To help you accomplish this task in a concise, readable, and efficient way, Python’s creators have added the built-in `sum()`

function. It sums over all elements in a Python list—or any other iterable for that matter. (Official Docs)

Table of Contents

## Python sum() Syntax

**The syntax is sum(iterable, start=0):**

Argument | Description |
---|---|

`iterable` | Sum over all elements in the `iterable` . This can be a list, a tuple, a set, or any other data structure that allows you to iterate over the elements. Example: `sum([1, 2, 3])` returns `1+2+3=6` . |

`start` | (Optional.) The sum of all values in the `iterable` will be added to this start value. The default start value is 0.Example: `sum([1, 2, 3], 9)` returns `9+1+2+3=15` . |

## Python sum() Video

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## Python sum() Example

**Code**: Let’s check out a practical example!

lst = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] print(sum(lst)) # 21 print(sum(lst, 10)) # 31

Let’s explore some important details regarding the `sum()`

function in Python.

## Python sum() Time Complexity

The time complexity of the `sum()`

function is linear in the number of elements in the iterable (list, tuple, set, etc.). The reason is that you need to go over all elements in the iterable and add them to a sum variable. Thus, you need to “touch” every iterable element once.

## Python sum() Dictionary Values

**Problem**: How to sum all values in a dictionary?

**Solution**: Use `sum(dict.values())`

to sum over all values in a dictionary.

customers = {'Alice': 10000, 'Bob': 9900, 'Carl': 21100} # total sales: total = sum(customers.values()) # print result: print('Sales: ', total) # Sales: 41000

## Python sum() List of Strings

**Problem**: How can you sum a list of strings such as `['python', 'is', 'great']`

? This is called string concatenation.

**Solution**: Use the `join()`

method of Python strings to concatenate all strings in a list. The `sum()`

function works only on numerical input data.

**Code**: The following example shows how to “sum” up (i.e., concatenate) all elements in a given list of strings.

# List of strings lst = ['Bob', 'Alice', 'Ann'] print(''.join(lst)) # BobAliceAnn print(' '.join(lst)) # Bob Alice Ann

## Python sum() List of Lists

**Problem**: How can you sum a list of lists such as `[[1, 2], [3, 4], [5, 6]]`

in Python?

**Solution**: Use a simple for loop with a helper variable to concatenate all lists.

**Code**: The following code concatenates all lists into a single list.

# List of lists lst = [[1, 2], [3, 4], [5, 6]] s = [] for x in lst: s.extend(x) print(s) # [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]

The `extend()`

method is little-known in Python—but it’s very effective to add a number of elements to a Python list at once. Check out my detailed tutorial on this Finxter blog.

## Python sum() List of Tuples Element Wise

**Problem**: How to sum up a list of tuples, element-wise?

**Example**: Say, you’ve got list `[(1, 1), (2, 0), (0, 3)]`

and you want to sum up the first and the second tuple values to obtain the “summed tuple” `(1+2+0, 1+0+3)=(3, 4)`

.

**Solution**: Unpack the tuples into the zip function to combine the first and second tuple values. Then, sum up those values separately. Here’s the code:

# list of tuples lst = [(1, 1), (2, 0), (0, 3)] # aggregate first and second tuple values zipped = list(zip(*lst)) # result: [(1, 2, 0), (1, 0, 3)] # calculate sum of first and second tuple values res = (sum(zipped[0]), sum(zipped[1])) # print result to the shell print(res) # result: (3, 4)

Need a refresher of the `zip()`

function and unpacking? Check out these articles on the Finxter blog:

## Python sum() List Slice

**Problem**: Given a list. Sum up a slice of the original list between the start and the step indices (and assuming the given step size as well).

**Example**: Given is list `[3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]`

. Sum up the slice `lst[2:5:2]`

with `start=2`

, `stop=5`

, and `step=2`

.

**Solution**: Use slicing to access the list. Then, apply the sum() function on the result.

**Code**: The following code computes the sum of a given slice.

# create the list lst = [3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10] # create the slice slc = lst[2:5:2] # calculate the sum s = sum(slc) # print the result print(s) # 12 (=5+7)

Let’s examine an interesting problem: to sum up conditionally!

## Python sum() List Condition

**Problem**: Given is a list. How to sum over all values that meet a certain condition?

**Example**: Say, you’ve got the list `lst = [5, 8, 12, 2, 1, 3]`

and you want to sum over all values that are larger than 4.

**Solution**: Use list comprehension to filter the list so that only the elements that satisfy the condition remain. Then, use the `sum()`

function to sum over the remaining values.

**Code**: The following code sums over all values that satisfy a certain condition (e.g., `x>4`

).

# create the list lst = [5, 8, 12, 2, 1, 3] # filter the list filtered = [x for x in lst if x>4] # remaining list: [5, 8, 12] # sum over the filtered list s = sum(filtered) # print everything print(s) # 25

Need a refresher on list comprehension? Check out my in-depth tutorial on the Finxter blog.

## Python sum() Errors

A number of errors can happen if you use the `sum()`

function in Python.

**TypeError**: Python throws a `TypeError`

if you try to sum over non-numerical elements.

For example:

# Demonstrate possible execeptions lst = ['Bob', 'Alice', 'Ann'] # WRONG: s = sum(lst)

If you run this code, you’ll get the following error message:

Traceback (most recent call last): File "C:UsersxcentDesktopcode.py", line 3, in <module> s = sum(lst) TypeError: unsupported operand type(s) for +: 'int' and 'str'

Python attempts to concatenate strings using the default start value of 0 (an integer). But as you cannot concatenate a string with an integer, this fails.

If you try to “hack” Python by using an empty string as start value, you’ll get the following exception:

# Demonstrate possible execeptions lst = ['Bob', 'Alice', 'Ann'] # WRONG: s = sum(lst, '')

Output:

Traceback (most recent call last): File "C:UsersxcentDesktopcode.py", line 5, in <module> s = sum(lst, '') TypeError: sum() can't sum strings [use ''.join(seq) instead]

You can get rid of all those errors by summing only over numerical elements in the list.

For more information about the `join()`

method, check out this blog article.

## Where to Go From Here?

Enough theory. Let’s get some practice!

Coders get paid six figures and more because they can solve problems more effectively using machine intelligence and automation. To become more successful in coding, solve more real problems for real people. That’s how you polish the skills you really need in practice. After all, what’s the use of learning theory that nobody ever needs?

**You build high-value coding skills by working on practical coding projects!**

Do you want to stop learning with toy projects and focus on practical code projects that earn you money and solve real problems for people?

If your answer is ** YES!**, consider becoming a Python freelance developer! It’s the best way of approaching the task of improving your Python skills—even if you are a complete beginner.

Join my free webinar “How to Build Your High-Income Skill Python” and watch how I grew my coding business online and how you can, too—from the comfort of your own home.

While working as a researcher in distributed systems, Dr. Christian Mayer found his love for teaching computer science students.

To help students reach higher levels of Python success, he founded the programming education website Finxter.com. He’s author of the popular programming book Python One-Liners (NoStarch 2020), coauthor of the Coffee Break Python series of self-published books, computer science enthusiast, freelancer, and owner of one of the top 10 largest Python blogs worldwide.

His passions are writing, reading, and coding. But his greatest passion is to serve aspiring coders through Finxter and help them to boost their skills. You can join his free email academy here.