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Which of the following has the closest meaning to "This makes no sense"?

  • "I do not understand this"
  • "This has no meaning"

Update I will try to explain: My friend has proposed a solution to some problem. I believe that his solution will not help. Is it possible to answer him with "This makes no sense"? Is that a correct usage of the phrase?

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Are you asking what "makes no sense" means? Or are you asking which of the two examples you provided is a better alternative to "makes no sense"? – MrHen Mar 31 '11 at 16:01
yes, you could reject your friend's proposal that way. Be aware that this is a strong statement, and will make you look arrogant if you can't back it up with a strong reasons. – user1579 Mar 31 '11 at 16:43
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Neither. "This makes no sense" means that the speaker cannot construct a rational argument as to why the particular situation (whatever "this" is) should be true or reasonable, and in particular contends that it is false or unreasonable.

"We'll go tomorrow."

"That makes no sense; the shop is closed tomorrow!"

ETA: this is quite a strong statement, so you had better be able to back it up if you don't want to cause offense!

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  • "I don't understand this." is stating your opinion that in you in particular cannot get any sense out of 'this' (others might).
  • "This has no meaning." is stating your opinion that in general no one can make sense of 'this'.

So the sentence "This makes no sense." is closer to the second one.

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Why not just say "I don't think your solution will help" or "I don't think your solution will work"? "This makes no sense" makes it seem like the solution has no sense in it. Unless your friend has no sense, I'm sure his solution has at least some sense in it. He certainly thinks it does so saying it makes no sense will probably be taken personally.

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It depends on what you think of his solution. Let's say the car won't start. Your friend suggests you get jumper cables because he thinks the battery is bad. You don't think that is the problem, but it is not a completely unreasonable idea. I would not use "that makes no sense". If your friend suggested changing the tires because the car wouldn't start, then using "that makes no sense" would, well, make sense.

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"make sense":

  1. To be coherent or intelligible:

an explanation that made sense.

  1. To be practical or advisable:

It makes sense to go now.


"to make sense" means to be logical, intelligible or reasonable. Your example should be "People sometimes make sense". As a complete sentence, this is a slightly unusual thing to say because experience shows that most people are reasonably logical and intelligible for much of the time. It could be used with a touch of irony, but one would need more context to judge.

Some more examples:

"It makes sense to get professional advice."

"Ah, so I should have added rather than subtracted. That makes sense."

"It tells me to click 'OK', but there's no OK button to click. These instructions don't make sense."

"He tried to explain his theory to us, but frankly he wasn't making much sense."

You can also "make sense of" something, meaning that you manage to understand it:

"I can't make sense of these instructions."

"It took me all night, but finally I made sense of these accounts."

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I would say the second, although "meaningless" is better

"It's meaningless to talk about conditions inside the black hole event horizon"

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To me, "makes no sense" also says that a conclusion doesn't follow from its arguments.

  1. Some women are named Helen.
  2. She is a woman.
  3. Therefore, her name is Helen.

It makes no sense.

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If something makes no sense it means it is illogical, nonsensical, and unreasoned. This phrase can be used in situations where the proposal or affirmation appears to be absurd, or even preposterous. We can make no sense of it.

Oxford Dictionaries defines this meaning of sense as

[MASS NOUN] A sane and realistic attitude to situations and problems: he earned respect by the good sense he showed at meetings

And for the phrasal verb expression make sense

Be intelligible, justifiable, or practicable. Examples:

  • it makes sense to start saving early for higher education
  • The problem is that the narrative makes no sense on a realistic level.
  • This of course makes medical sense but the situation appears to be less manageable as the weeks go by.

For instance when a person refuses salad or most kinds of vegetables by saying: "I'm not vegetarian". Although the sentence is grammatically correct and we can understand it, it makes no sense because the term vegetarian means a person who doesn't eat any meat or fish, perhaps some would even label that response an oxymoron. People often criticize certain poems or the works of William Shakespeare because they make no sense. What they mean is that they cannot interpret, or understand many of the archaic words used. Therefore if a friend's solution makes no sense you are saying 1) it is evidently illogical or 2) you cannot understand it.

A less harsh but still idiomatic way of contesting someone's idea might be to say

That doesn't make much sense to me (could you explain it through?).

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protected by tchrist Mar 29 '13 at 12:09

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