She will make him a good wife.

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Dingdongdong

Senior Member
Bân-lâm-gú /Chinese China
I found a sentence in a textbook like this:
She will make him a good wife.

I know its meaning, but how to understand the usage of make? Please compare with a self-made sentence: She will make herself a good wife. To my knowledge, make is an incomplete intransitive verb, so I'd make a sentence in this way: She will make him a good husband.

Many thanks.
 
  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    English has two forms of "objective case", which in other languages are typically called accusative and dative. English calls these direct object and indirect object, respectively.
    Your two examples use 'him' as indirect object in make him a good wife and as direct object in make him a good husband.

    She will make him a good husband. -- She will change him (direct) into a good husband (for herself (indirect)).
    She will make him a good wife. -- She will change herself (direct) into a good wife for him (indirect).

    Grammatically the 'wife' case is similar to She will bake him a nice cake. Bake is transitive with direct object nice cake and indirect object him. The ingredients for baking the nice cake are not stated because they are unimportant. The ingredients for making the good wife are not stated because they are obvious (herself).

    In the 'husband' case, the verb 'make' is a bit special in that the implied 'into' can be omitted. Him is the direct object and good husband is an object complement. Often object complements are adjectives (I will paint the wall white; I will make you famous) but sometimes nouns (I will make you a star).
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    She will make him a good wife. -- She will change herself (direct) into a good wife for him (indirect).
    Unfortunately for your elegant explanation, the sentence idiomatically means that she is a suitable wife for him already with no changes. They are a good match. The "making of a wife" is the marriage ceremony.
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    I would interpret 'make' here as meaning 'will be' or 'will develop into'. The speaker is saying in effect that the woman already has suitable qualities to become 'a good wife' for the man in question.

    Compare:
    France would make a good choice for next vacation.
    Note that 'make' indicates future suitability, and does not necessarily involve change or development.

    Neither France nor the woman need to 'change' or 'adapt' for the word 'make' to be appropriate.
     

    MirandaEscobedo

    Senior Member
    British English
    Of course, it could be said to be ambiguous: compare "Person 1) My mother made me a homosexual. Person 2) Could she make one for me too?" But this is just a joke usage.
     
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