I know this verb does not take "to" after the direct object. Although, I spot T.L. Short in his "Peirce's Theory of Signs" always inserting "to" in this construction. What happens? Is it some formal-style feature or something idiosynctratic? Is there something inaccurate with the rule instead?

For example:

But Peirce supposed that the argument for realism (the underlying argument that he discerned, and not an argument found in his Scholastic sources) denies the existence of anything not general and that the argument for nominalism (again, one he discerned) makes the individual to be the cause, external to experience, of those sensations that make up experience.


It also makes the real to be independent of what you or I think about it, which allows for there to be real thoughts, dreams, mistakes, and so on, that is, things that are not independent of what is thought.


Those are the three problems with Peirce’s early semeiotic: it makes the object signified to disappear; it makes significance to be arbitrary; and it fails to tell us what significance is.


2 Answers 2


Here is one sentence from the book that uses "make [x] to", twice in one sentence:

For the latter differs from the evolutionary semantics of Millikan, Papineau, et al. in this respect: it does not make significance, in general, to be a function, whether biological or cultural, nor does it make signs, in general, to have a function (i.e., a purpose, whether biological or cultural.

Here, "make" does not mean to "force someone to do something" as in: "I made him wash the car."

to make something to be: to define it as or to do something for the purpose of.

"I did not make [defined or produced] the argument to be a shibboleth."

Make here means produce or cause to exist in the first sense given for the word in most dictionaries.

Pierce's Theory of Signs, see Page 309

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    I can't accept that this (produce or cause to exist) is the sense involved here. It is the 'interpret' sense. Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 16:24
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    @EdwinAshworth I also said: define it to be also.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 16:31
  • But then you deselected this by opting for 'Make here is produce or cause to exist in the first sense given for the word in most dictionaries.'. Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 16:55
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    If you make something to [some thing], you are in a sense producing it. Define is more precise. I definitely need to work on the "flow of logic of my answer."
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 17:20
  • I'd say that you should accept what Phil Sweet says. Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 22:46

In the first example "makes the individual to be" is short for "makes the individual out to be". The phrasal verb makes ST out takes the to infinitive. It can be used to either mean figures out what ST is, or establishes ST to be.

  1. make somebody/something out to manage to see someone or something or read or hear something
    synonym distinguish
    I could just make out a figure in the darkness.
    make out what, who, etc… I could hear voices but I couldn't make out what they were saying.
  2. to say that something is true when it may not be
    synonym claim
    She's not as rich as people make out.
    make out that… He made out that he had been robbed.
    make out to be/do something She makes herself out to be smarter than she really is.

bold mine.https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/american_english/make-out

The bold shows the to infinitive use, albeit applied to the second definition instead of the first one that is applicable to your sentence. There is a difference in meaning with or without the out. With the out, there is the implication of doubt or uncertainty about the claim. Without the out, there isn't any issue of doubt, and it reads as establishes to be.

Making something to last a lifetime is different than making something last a lifetime.

  • I don't think that is how the author (Short) of the book on Pierce means this. Make something out to be is pretty colloquial. "to make signs to have a function" in the paragraph, is not "make out to be".
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 15:56
  • @Lambie 'makes the individual to be the cause' makes more sense interpreted as 'identifies the individual as the cause' than 'creates an individual so that the individual will ...'. Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 16:27
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    @EdwinAshworth In any case, I was merely saying what is was not. And it is not "make out to be".
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 16:30

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