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When someone says "I'll make due" what does it mean?

  • @Hot Licks. Not a very convincing stance, that people wouildn't know how to spell do. If that's supposed to be comical, imagine how funny I find that make due misspelled make do in 90% of instances. – vectory Jan 8 at 1:21
  • @vectory How often do you find "make due"? It seems a strange construction on its own, unless you're referring to a longer expression where due is the adjective in a noun phrase, e.g. "make due restitution" (where due means "proper"). Do you really find most instances of an expression like that misspelled with do? – Chappo Jan 8 at 3:48
  • @Chappo No, due doesn't mean proper. It means due as in due date (duesday?) also duly, duty (cp. Ger. Dienst "duty", Diensttag "tuesday"?). Especially with restitution the sense owed is implied. It may have a connotation of proper, good, sure. Ostensible typos of make do number around 10% in a google news corpus grammarist.com/usage/make-do-make-due that's far higher than a mere misspelling, though I can't vouch for their accuracy. Sure you don't see it often, if editors try to correct it (more so in print, I guess?) – vectory Jan 8 at 4:54
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    @agc Your edit changed the core of the question. The original posed an eggcorn; the edited version is simply a dictionary lookup. (Admittedly, this question might be closed for lack of research if posted today.) – Lawrence Jan 8 at 5:02
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    Typos should only be fixed if they are not in the sample sentence or if the question is not focused on that word. By fixing the spelling, 8 years later, you are in fact harming the answers. Invalidating answers is not the name of the game here. – Mari-Lou A Jan 8 at 5:24
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The idiom is actually “to make do”, and it means to work with what you have, to continue somehow despite an impediment or non-ideal circumstance.

It uses do in the sense of “suffice”, as in “That’ll do”.

  • You have no authoritative source to back that claim, do you, on grounds of evidence? That'll do may derive from make do, so your definition is almost circular. – vectory Jan 8 at 5:40
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A further note regarding the usage of make due (an eggcorn in the question's original wording) and the intended expression make do...

A Google Ngram shows that of the two expressions, make do is currently about 15 times more common than make due, but was rarely used until about 1930. I think it's not too far of a stretch to suggest that the Great Depression may have had something to do with its increased popularity.

Usage of make do seems to have plateaued in the late '30s as economies started to recover, but it surged again from about 1940 (coinciding with World War II), and continued to gain in popularity right up to the 1980s (perhaps coinciding with thrift going out of fashion?). It's yet to be seen whether the recent "re-issuing" of the term following the Global Financial Crisis (see this answer) will transform the plateau from the 1980s into a renewed surge of popularity...

  • It seems to me that "make do" does not quite make literal sense (which is why we call it an idiom) as is, but is shortened from something like "make it (whatever you've got) do" as in the old saying "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without". Is that abpit right? – bof Jan 8 at 5:03
  • @bot that's your native speakers intuition and about as correct as any opinion, but only a historical treatment would be rather convincing. For what it's worth. make it <verb> is still odd and idiomatic. – vectory Jan 8 at 5:35
  • @bof I think that makes sense. Etymonline says "To make do 'manage with what is available' is attested by 1867" but gives no indication of how it came about - it's certainly a weird construction, as it's the only "make" idiom with a bare infinitive. – Chappo Jan 8 at 5:46
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Some supplementary information in addition to Jon Purdy's answer:

In British English (as opposed to American English) due is pronounced like few or queue so it's never confused with do.

To "make do" is a useful expression in tough times such as war or recession. [This British Library page](http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item106365.html] provides an example of both historic and contemporary usage:

Make Do and Mend was a pamphlet issued by the British Ministry of Information in the midst of WWII. It was intended to provide housewives with useful tips on how to be both frugal and stylish in times of harsh rationing. With its thrifty design ideas and advice on reusing old clothing, the pamphlet was an indispensable guide for households. Readers were advised to create pretty ‘decorative patches’ to cover holes in warn garments; unpick old jumpers to re-knit chic alternatives; turn men’s clothes into women’s; as well as darn, alter and protect against the ‘moth menace’. An updated version of the book was recently released to coincide with the economic recession, offering similar frugal advice for 21st century families.

  • Welcome to EL&U. This had merit, but it was too short: the system had flagged it as "low-quality because of its length and content." I didn't want to see it deleted so I've taken the liberty of editing it, but you can edit it further if you don't like my changes. [NB the -uel words don't work since some pronounce these as "yoo-el" rather than "yool".] For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the EL&U Tour :-) – Chappo Jan 8 at 3:34
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    There's another possible misspelling though.."I'll make dew" and what's more, it's grammatical! – Mari-Lou A Jan 8 at 5:55
  • @Mari-LouA - I had a cousin in Appalachia that did that! – Hot Licks Jan 8 at 17:55
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I always think that "make due" would make almost more sense (I realize the idiom is actually "make do"). "Making due" could imply accomplishing something owed/expected despite obstacles, which is really the sense of the phrase.

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    The sense of the idiom is "make X do the job that (the more difficult/rare/expensive) Y would do if there were no limitations. – Hot Licks Jan 8 at 3:26
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make due means the same as make do, to get along with little, to reach a certain goal.

It is often called a spelling mistake, but there's no established dividing line between accepted and unacceptable spellings. It's however not a subjective issue. If somebody, objectively, does not think of the verb to do in this idiom, than it's not a spelling mistake. The issue is more complicated.

It's perfectly reasonable to assume this stem from an expression to make dues to get by or from to make due restitution, but that should be hard to prove. Americans, barring knowledge of French and English history, have a hard time fathoming this. And due to lack of historical sources, it should be hard to prove either way.

to make ends meet has a ring of direction towards a goal. To pay the bills and save money for food, debtors may scrape together all their pennies, to make do.

Also note that lend or borrow do not denote the same directions of lending everywhere. Colloquial speech is prone to corrupting legal terms. Hence somebody who has to make due, will later have to pay due. The -s there might be a possessive clitic 's, reinterpreted as plural. I don't know.

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    In order to support your stance, a sentence showing how "make due" makes logical sense would be helpful. I can't think of any full sentence where this could work. She is making her dues. has not the same meaning as She is making do (with what she's got) – Mari-Lou A Jan 8 at 5:44
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    Durely? scrap? Maybe you meant "surely" and "scrape"? Or were you making a point about "misspellings"? – Mari-Lou A Jan 8 at 5:47
  • @Mari-LouA to make debt, to pay debt, to pay due, to make due. Does make sense, does it? – vectory Feb 10 at 21:25

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