you had to <make excuses for her>, because she was not altogether dependable


Senior Member
Here are some words from the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover(page 353, chapter 16) by Lawrence (planetebook,here):
(background:Connie was staying with Mellors for the last night before she went to Venice, and her sister Hilda had to drive her to there, and she's also angry with Connie's decision and even sympathetic to Clifford.)

And Clifford decided that Hilda, after all, was a decidedly intelligent woman, and would make a man a first-rate helpmate, if he were going in for politics for example. Yes, she had none of Connie’s silliness, Connie was more a child: you had to make excuses for her, because she was not altogether dependable.

Normally, make excuses means give false reasons why you cannot do something(including the meaning of cheating). But I feel here make excuses for her means look for (or think of) all kinds of reasons(no cheating) to change her mind, persuade her into doing something, or help make decisions, because Connie didn't know how to do(that is altogether dependable in Hilda's eye)

Is that right please?
Thank you in advance
  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    To make excuses for someone means to give reasons or explanations (not necessarily false ones) for something that falls below the standard of what is expected.
    Here there is no allusion to cheating. Connie is described as "not altogether dependable", which means she is somewhat unreliable: If you give her a task to complete, there is a risk that she might not do it well, or even at all.
    Here Clifford observes that because of Connie's child-like unreliability, one often had to excuse her behaviour by saying that she is dim/scatty/whatever.

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    No, long. Clifford is being very patronising about Connie, who he sees as silly and childish but at the same time believes that it is not her fault, so he excuses her behaviour as you would that of a child.

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    'Excuse her' ('make excuses for her') means to forgive her or to pardon her, as when we say 'Excuse me, please!' This is different from the meaning you mention. He means forgive her for any behaviour that's not reasonable,'silly', or not that of a mature adult, in his opinion.

    Have you looked up 'dependable'? The definition given in our WR dictionary fits neatly into this sentence.

    This is Clifford thinking about Connie, comparing her to Hilda. I don't see how 'dependable in Hilda's eye' comes into Clifford's thoughts.


    Senior Member
    Thank you a lot for all the interpretations. I get it.
    'Excuse her' ('make excuses for her') means to forgive her or to pardon her, as when we say 'Excuse me, please!' This is different from the meaning you mention.
    My Goodness. From the very beginning, I have been being affected by the definition: to give false reasons why you cannot do something(by Cambridge Dictionary), e.g., You're always making excuses for not helping me, that's why I couldn't get out of the confusion.
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