Is it proper to use suffice as an equivalent of make do with, as in: "to suffice with"?

"To suffice with this description would ignore its context."

Is that a legitimate sentence structure?

Random House Dictionary has both transitive and intransitive verbs:

  1. to be enough or adequate
  2. to be enough or adequate for; to satisfy

Yet the etymology includes a variation of to make, do which seems to be the source of our idiom to make do (with). In which case it would seem proper to use

I would suffice with that explanation. God’s speech suffices for creation throughout the first week. But to suffice with this description would ignore the hermeneutical context.

  • If you substitute the Random House Dictionary definitions of suffice for the word itself in your two example sentences, you can quickly tell that they don't sound right: "To be enough or adequate [for] with this description would ignore its context." and "I would be enough or adequate [for] with that explanation."
    – Sven Yargs
    Aug 22, 2016 at 18:02

6 Answers 6


This is not a common usage. The Ngram viewer does not find with in the top ten words following to suffice, and the google finds about 550K hits for "to suffice" with only about 25K being "to suffice with". That said (and noting the shortcomings of these tools), we can still find examples where to suffice with seems idiomatic. For example, from Fly Me to the Moon: Lost in Space with the Mercury Generation by Brian Ethier:

Since my annual space budget was a zillion dollars less than that of NASA, I had to suffice with the gadgets and odds and ends I was able to scrape up from around the house.


In my experience, "make do" is a transitive verb, and takes as its object whatever is being used in the absence of something better:

  • I would have liked healthier food on my road trip, but I made do with McDonald's hamburgers.

On the other hand, "suffice" is intransitive, and takes as its subject what "make do" would take as its object:

  • I would have liked healthier food on my road trip, but McDonald's hamburgers sufficed.

I would rephrase your initial example as something like, "Allowing this description to suffice would ignore its context."

  • :O I am shocked that this was downvoted. It could be improved be references backing up that "make do" is transitive and "suffice" intransitive; but it's correct and explains the grammar. +1 from me.
    – AndyT
    Aug 19, 2016 at 10:05
  • Random House Dictionaryhas "suffice" as both transitive and intransitive verbs. I am not experienced but I truly appreciated your comment. Mike
    – Mike
    Aug 22, 2016 at 13:52

I can't comment directly as I don't have enough reputation, so I'm going to have to make a couple of presumptions.

If you look at the definition of make do on dictionary.com this is what you get:

something that serves as a substitute, especially of an inferior or expedient nature

While Mr Google says:

manage with the limited or inadequate means available.

So you're probably looking more along the lines of the Google definition. Suffice on the other hand is defined as:

to be enough or adequate, as for needs, purposes etc.


be enough or adequate

When using suffice as a synonym for make do with, things are not totally straight forward. For example, if I had the sentence, "Can you make do with half the amount you asked for?" And I wanted to use suffice instead of make do with, it would be more along the lines of, "Will half the amount you asked for suffice?" The position of the verb is different, but the meanings are exactly the same as understood by humans. I hope this somewhat clarifies how to use suffice instead of make do with, as the way they are used is not exactly the same.


Yes, it can be used although you will more commonly see the variation that goes "suffice it to say..."

Here's a link with several cases such as yours:


These will suffice to give a general idea

Here it must suffice to notice Frederick William's personal share in the question


The meaning of 'to suffice' is 'to be sufficient' so the subject of the verb 'suffice' is always the limited resource which provides the sufficiency and not the person or system to whom the sufficiency is provided. The resouce can be a person as in 'I'm afraid the manager isn't available, will I suffice?' although this usage is uncommon, usually awkward and probably a bit pretentious. The correct form of the posed sentence would be 'In the given context this description would not suffice.'


Suffice is not used with "with" and it is always used as a passive. The correct way to express this is "Since....the gadgets and odds and ends I was able to scrape up from around the house had to suffice.

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