In the Seinfeld series, Jerry says:

Well, birthdays are merely symbolic of how another year has gone by and how little we've grown. No matter how desperate we are that someday a better self will emerge, with each flicker of the candles on the cake, we know it's not to be, that for the rest of our sad, wretched pathetic lives, this is who we are to the bitter end. Inevitably, irrevocably; happy birthday? No such thing.

I can't get the verb "be". Does it have any thing that's dropped?

2 Answers 2


"It is not to be" is an idiom meaning "It is not supposed/intended/destined to happen". Sometimes this just means "It is not going to happen" with a connotation of regret or disappointment.

  • Thank you. Would you provide the resource?
    – Masih K
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 16:16
  • I've looked it up but I couldnt find this idiom in my dictionary. What dictionary should I check?
    – Masih K
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 17:46
  • 3
    I'd say this is a variation of "meant to be", which is a much more commonly seen idiom Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 17:54
  • 1
    not to be reference
    – James
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 17:56
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    @FirstLastname: In the present tense mode, you could reasonably assume an element of intention. But per previous comment, that's not very common anyway. I don't naturally assume any allusion to God / Fate / other interested parties thwarting expectations in the past tense usage. It just means the writer knows already that something doesn't lie in the future of his narrative reference time, and wishes to convey that to the reader. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 18:06

"it's not to be" in this context means that he is not going to become a better person, saying he desperately wants to become a better version but it's not to be. That is,he won't become a better person, no matter how many years go by. Hope this helps.

  • Maybe edit your answer to match the wording of the original quote. ... 'Desperate... for a better self to emerge,...,we know its not to be' The author believes that themselves (and by extension of their own pessimistic view through the use of 'we' meaning everyone ) cannot improve themselves. If something is to happen (a better self will emerge) it 'will be' - the author believes it will not ('its not to be').
    – charmer
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 8:12

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