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Why is “xxxx doth not a yyyy make” considered valid English?
Proper usage/origin of the generic phrase “[action phrase] does not a [noun] make”
“Dazzling images do not a shining nation make”

I came across an article in TOI Crest Edition about black-and-white films. It had the following sentence, which looked dubious to me:

Two films don't a revolution make, and it would be even more simplistic to suggest that these two films are a reaction to the increasing use of CGI, motion capture and 3D in films today.

It is about the two recent black-and-white movies 'The Artist' and 'Good Night Good Morning'.

Is this sentence grammatically correct? Why?

marked as duplicate by James Waldby - jwpat7, RegDwigнt Feb 15 '12 at 10:25

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  • 3
    I suggest: 1. When asking if a sentence is "grammatically correct", provide the whole sentence. 2. If context matters, which it might, provide it, or give an exact reference. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Feb 15 '12 at 7:05

It is an informal variant on the well-known formula one x does not an y make. Word order is unusual because it comes from an older translation of a famous line attributed to Aristotle:

One swallow does not a summer make.

This means, "one swallow does not make a summer", i.e. if you see one swallow, that doesn't mean it is summer yet. The first swallow observed is often taken as a sign that the weather has reached summer temperatures, or so I believe.

A version of this saying already existed in English in 1539 (in a translation of Erasmus, who in turn is no doubt quoting Aristotle). Somehow the above version has become the most popular one, and it is still used today, although modernized versions are also used.

In your article, the contraction don't is combined with the archaic word order in does not an y make, which makes the whole sound incongruous. It is better to either keep the traditional version or modernize it altogether.


It's fine. "Two films don't a revolution make" is a word order variant of "Two films don't make a revolution". This is often used poetically. For example:

"But one game doesn't a season make. One game is not going to determine who belongs where or who doesn't belong where."

You can find dozens of examples if you punch "one * doesn't a * make" or "two * doesn't a * make" into Google.

  • If I search your first suggestion ("one * doesn't a * make") in Google and exclude examples that Google corrects as "does not" (-"one * does not a * make"), I get only 153 results after going to the last page of results (page 16). I don't think this formula is usually contracted. – Cerberus Feb 15 '12 at 8:00
  • @Cerberus That's true, largely because you want to put emphasis on not. But it's certainly grammatical either way. – David Schwartz Feb 15 '12 at 8:07
  • @DavidSchwartz: But doesn't it sound odd to you to contract "does not" while keeping the archaic word order? – Cerberus Feb 15 '12 at 8:17
  • @Cerberus Sometimes yes, sometimes no. "One game doesn't a season make" sounds fine to me. "Two films don't a revolution make" does sound odd to me. – David Schwartz Feb 15 '12 at 8:34
  • @DavidSchwartz yes it sounded odd to me too!! By the should we such a sentence in verbal or non-verbal communications? – Ashutosh Dave Feb 15 '12 at 8:58

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