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The verb make is used in various sentence patterns as follows.

  1. SVO = She made some coffee.

  2. SVOC (Adjective Complement) = Music makes me happy.

  3. SVOC (Noun Complement) = They made her the team captain for the coming year.

  4. SV(iO) (dO) = The chef made him a special cake.

  5. SVO+PP with for = I’ve made an appointment for you at the dentist’s.

  6. SVO+AC/NC+PP with for = He made life difficult for me.

All these example sentences are from the "Cambridge Dictionary's" English Grammar Today, and all of them show the presence of an object after the verb make.

The question is: Why does the saying/idiomatic phrase Practice makes perfect not take an object after make? Or, Should it not be perfection (a noun) after make instead of perfect (an adjective)?

3 Answers 3

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I interpret the saying as being a general statement about things, thus you can plug anything in. "Music practice makes music perfect." Etc. In more mathematical terms "For all x, x practice makes x perfect". It doesn't give a specific x specifically because it's not an assertion about a particular x, it's a statement about all x. It's a shortened form of "practicing something makes that something perfect". It's like how "power corrupts" can be analyzed as a shortened form of "a person having power corrupts that person" or "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" can be analyzed as a shortened form of "imitating someone is the sincerest form of flattering that person". In none of these sayings is an object required; the object is a "wild card", so to speak.

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Probably because it is (or was originally) a word-for-word translation from the Latin uses promptos facit (use makes perfect).

Source (one of many): https://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/12/messages/86.html

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    I don’t know where the misspelling originated (it seems to have spread far and wide, so it may go back to John Adams who seems to have popularised the phrase in English), but the Latin word is usus. Uses is definitely not a word in Latin. The trouble here is that the literal meaning of usus promptum/promptos facit is not really that close to ‘practice makes perfect’: it means ‘use makes [you] ready/prepared/quick’. So it’s not a very word-for-word translation at all, and there’s no real reason they shouldn’t have substituted a noun instead. -> Oct 5, 2018 at 1:15
  • -> Especially when you consider that lots of other languages use a noun instead, saying ‘practice makes the master’. Oct 5, 2018 at 1:17
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"Practice makes perfect" is a phrase that is hundreds of years old, dating back as far as the 1550s. Like dozens of other phrases or proverbs with a long history, it doesn't necessarily make 100% sense when analysed, but presumably did at the time!

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