I've often seen the sentence structure "____ does not a ____ make" which I've now discovered is called hyperbaton.

the use, especially for emphasis, of a word order other than the expected or usual one
from Dictionary.com

I'm wondering though if it would be considered correct use of English?

  • 2
    Good question, which shows how inadequate - how unrealistically categorical - the word "correct" is.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented May 16, 2011 at 13:07
  • 4
    HOWEVER, unless you are fluent at speaking English, do not attempt hyperbation in your everyday speech.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 1:39
  • Read up everything on Hyperbaton here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperbaton Note the remark, 'figures of disorder (deliberate and dramatic departures from standard word order') there. And here: truthortradition.com/…
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 11:23

5 Answers 5


Hyperbaton correct is indeed—from the Germanic side of the ancestry of English, a holdover must I'd wager it be—though usually archaic it is considered, and thus poetically and dialectically it is used. To see it with objects quite unusual it is, as in:

One swallow does not a summer make.

Rather more common it becomes when prepositions more involved do themselves become.

Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.

—Escalus in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, Act II, Scene 1

And poetry let us not forget:

I will arise and go now,
And go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there,
Of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there,
A hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade

—W. B. Yeats, The Lake Isle of Innisfree

Inversion of noun and adjective is a form of hyperbaton most common: it describes with force a thirst unquenchable, a hunger insatiable, a passion so wild it moans “word order be damned!”; to bolder wax (and more archaic seem), consider the object to move afore the verb, and thy speech merrily to lilt and gaily prance allow.

  • Before I saw your name, I thought maybe Yoda had written this answer. ;) Commented May 16, 2011 at 8:37
  • I think "hyperbaton" is actually the name of Yoda's dialect.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented May 16, 2011 at 12:31
  • 1
    +1: great answer to a great question! Learning about things like hyperbaton must be what the Internet is meant to be used for...
    – AAT
    Commented May 16, 2011 at 16:19
  • 1
    @AAT: Amen! And it's lucky for me I've been into Yeats recently: he was tremendously fond of hyperbaton.
    – Jon Purdy
    Commented May 16, 2011 at 19:03
  • +10... damn, can't. But it's such a great... nay, the words do fail me here, my vocab being suddenly inadequate. lost for words, aka, speechless Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 19:03

This is a gross oversimplification.

Subject-object-verb word order is an archaic feature of Old English (before 1100 AD). AFAIK, It was used mainly in subordinating clauses and perfect tenses.

It can still be seen in religious liturgies and poetry in Modern English:

"With this ring, I thee wed." "What light through yonder window breaks"

I was struck by how much Old English grammar and syntax resembles Modern High German.


Grammatically I see

Noun / linking verb / article, direct object / verb.

This could be read as blank does not make a blank which would be more of a standard/simple structure but I believe this to be correct as is.

Unless I'm mistaken this is a form of "subordinating conjunction".


There are several examples in Wikipedia:

  • "Bloody thou art; bloody will be thy end" — William Shakespeare in Richard III, 4.4, 198.
  • "Object there was none. Passion there was none." — Edgar Allan Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart.
  • "The helmsman steered, the ship moved on; / Yet never a breeze up blew" — Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
  • The quotation is apocryphal - could have been Churchill, could have been some other official, could have been made up by someone else entirely - but as I learned it, Churchill was responding to a suggested correction in one of his speeches, and said "This is the sort of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put."
    – MT_Head
    Commented May 16, 2011 at 3:36
  • @MT_Head you have a citation for that? :) Commented May 16, 2011 at 7:08
  • 2
    The Churchill tag - whether or not really Churchill - is not an inversion, and is completely correct according to the traditional rules of prescriptive grammar, as opposed to the everyday version it rejects: "which I will not put up with".
    – Colin Fine
    Commented May 16, 2011 at 13:05

Standard word order in English is SVO (subject, verb, object). The given sentence (with a bit of complexity due to the helper verb) is more SOV.

In one sense it is totally incorrect grammar. In another, if you went around talking in SOV order like the above, you'd have the tendency to sound like a crazy poet. That is, correct but strange.

  • 5
    It is not in any sense “totally incorrect grammar”. This answer explains why.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 3:17

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