"A * doesn't a good * make"



I'm curious about a certain sentence construct that I've seen in different contexts. I'm talking about sentences in the following style:

A * doesn't a * make.

(* being a wildcard). For example:

A good camera doesn't a good photographer make.

A google search for that specific sentence construct yields several results. However, the placement of the verb at the end of the sentence seems to be a grammatical error to me.

Is this construct grammatically correct? Is it archaic? Is it derived from a famous quote? Or is it just plain wrong?


Posted 2016-05-16T11:13:47.697

Reputation: 391

I just want to replace your google search with this search, which is more specific

– zyurnaidi – 2016-05-16T12:51:10.877

It's quite a common construct, if not something you hear every day. The word "good" isn't necessarily required. – nnnnnn – 2016-05-16T14:24:50.093

@nnnnnn I edited the question accordingly. zyurnaidi, I changed the google search as well – MoritzLost – 2016-05-16T15:17:12.843

5A lightsaber doesn't a Jedi make - Yoda. – Glorfindel – 2016-05-16T15:30:19.807

@Glorfindel a good jedi or a bad jedi? – Alan Carmack – 2016-05-16T15:39:22.200

4@AlanCarmack Only a sith in absolutes deals – MoritzLost – 2016-05-16T15:41:57.893

FYI the general idea of a pattern where you fill in the blanks to make a new saying that alludes to an old one is called a "snowclone": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowclone

– Eric Lippert – 2016-05-16T18:02:27.490

Damn, I was hoping this would be about the A* algorithm. – John Dvorak – 2016-05-17T07:19:10.153



It is grammatically correct. The most common usage is probably the proverb, "one swallow does not a summer make".

Here and here are some explanations of this word order. In short, it's an hyperbaton used to emphasize "make", and it is considered archaic (or poetic).


Posted 2016-05-16T11:13:47.697


1+1, but I don't see how it can be considered archaic if the construction is still in use today. – Alan Carmack – 2016-05-16T15:37:38.740

11@AlanCarmack, afaik, if it won't be in use today, it would be considered obsolete, not archaic. Archaisms just sound old-fashioned outside of specific context – None – 2016-05-16T15:48:59.530

5@AlanCarmack: A single, idiomatic use does not a non-archaic word make. – Lightness Races in Orbit – 2016-05-16T15:59:53.657

3@AlanCarmack The construction is valid, but no one uses it these days except in this context, so it sounds very archaic. – Kevin Wells – 2016-05-16T16:10:16.250

Hello! People the Google search results included in the question shows multiple contemporary uses of this construction.......

– Alan Carmack – 2016-05-16T16:36:52.027

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 18th Edition (2012), page 78:5, attributes "One swallow does not make a summer" to Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics I, 7. – Mark Hubbard – 2016-05-16T17:22:46.313


@AlanCarmack If methinks is not archaic (based on its frequency of usage on Twitter), you may wish to inform Merriam-Webster of their error. :) Whether a word is archaic depends in part on whether it registers tonally as archaic. A word being archaic doesn't mean that it's not used or understood (as mentioned above, that's obsolete).

– apsillers – 2016-05-16T17:36:39.000

Related proverb: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barba_non_facit_philosophum “A beard does not constitute a philosopher,” attributed to "the Athenian aristocrat, ex-Roman consul and man of letters Herodes Atticus."

– Mark Hubbard – 2016-05-16T17:37:07.933

Aristotle wrote in Greek, which (afaik) had/has a more flexible word order than English. Translators into English had/have the choice of retaining the original word order or rearranging it to the English of their time, which is why 'does not a summer make' and 'does not make a summer' are both found. As well as being poetic, SOV can sound (mock-)philosophical. (I found the original quotation in Greek, but Google Translate couldn't cope with Attic Greek and returned gibberish.) (BTW, Google Ngrams shows 'does not make a summer' is far more common.) – Sydney – 2016-05-16T22:25:32.310

1The swallow/summer proverb may be the oldest and most well known use of this sentence construction, but I don't think it is archaic because it is still used quite often for non swallow/summer purposes. (It's not something everybody says, of course, but I know a few people who do say it. Including me.) – nnnnnn – 2016-05-17T01:17:24.127


The sentence that jumps into my mind is

One swallow does not a summer make.

You can read more about the sentence, including historical uses at the Wikitionary Page for it. The alternative sentence with ... does not make a summer sounds lackluster in comparison.

So, no it's not ungrammatical or outdated, and your latest Google search brings up several examples.

Alan Carmack

Posted 2016-05-16T11:13:47.697

Reputation: 11 630

but is the swallow African or European? – Federico – 2016-05-17T09:14:08.817