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    #1

    can make nothing

    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to tell me whether I am right with my interpretation of the expression in bold in the following sentences?

    Bella could make nothing it but that John was in the right.

    Altogether an extraordinary man. I confess that I can make nothing of him.

    can make nothing = fail to accomplish, understand, or solve something


    His great-great-grandfather had planted them! His own was the fifth man's life, but the trees were almost as young as ever; they made nothing of a man's life!

    He makes nothing of swimming a few miles.

    make nothing of = regard as unimportant, make light of

    make light of = make little of; treat as unimportant

    Thanks for your efforts.

    Regards,

    V
    Last edited by vil; 13-Aug-2010 at 10:13.

  1. Tullia's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: can make nothing

    Quote Originally Posted by vil View Post
    Bella could make nothing of it but that John was in the right.

    Altogether an extraordinary man. I confess that I can make nothing of him.

    can make nothing = fail to accomplish, understand, or solve something

    Is there a missing "of" in the first example?
    These two examples are slightly different.

    In the first one the full expression of it "to make nothing of it but" = to only be able to understand that (John was right), to be forced to conclude that (John was right)
    It means that the only possible conclusion the person can reach is that (John was right). The implication is that they have wracked their brains to think of other possibilities but haven't been able to come up with any.

    In the second example you are correct, it means to fail to understand.




    Quote Originally Posted by vil View Post
    His great-great-grandfather had planted them! His own was the fifth man's life, but the trees were almost as young as ever; they made nothing of a man's life!

    He makes nothing of swimming a few miles.

    make nothing of = regard as unimportant, make light of
    Again there are shades of meaning here. It is a very versatile phrase!

    In the first example, it is not that a man's lifespan is regarded as unimportant by the trees. Obviously the trees and their life span can't actively regard something as unimportant themselves as they aren't sentient!
    The idea is that in comparison with the lifespan of trees, the lifespan of a man seems like nothing i.e. is very small.

    make nothing of = make seem so incredibly small in comparision that they are like nothing


    In the second example you are perfectly correct to say it means "made light of".

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