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They cannot make a man wise or foolish; they achieve whatever luck would have it.

I understand the former but don't the latter which is italic. I think whatever can be replaced with any or what but the following sentence still remains dubious.

They achieve luck.

Luck would have it.

What is it?

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  • I think, even if we leave whatever, the second phrase is not grammatically correct
    – Bella Swan
    Jul 2 '19 at 9:52
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    You should quote the source of your example.
    – BillJ
    Jul 2 '19 at 10:18
  • @BillJ It's from Crito (44d) in The Last Days of Socrates by Hugh Tredennick and Harold Tarrant, Penguin Books, p.83. It's the whole quote. Do you mean the whole paragraph? Thanks. Jul 2 '19 at 13:32
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"they achieve whatever luck would have it." does not sound correct to my modern ear, but maybe it was written long ago and that language was more common then.

"As luck would have it" is a common English phrase used to indicate that something happened purely by chance. (The it in the sentence is referring to luck as if luck were an entity that was making a decision)

I searched Google for the phrase and it appears the quote is from Crito written by Plato in 360BCE. The phase is, therefore, a translation into English. As such there will be different ways of translating it. In this version, Socrates says to Crito, "But the truth is, that they can do neither good nor evil: they cannot make a man wise or make him foolish; and whatever they do is the result of chance."

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  • I am not an expert on the English language and have no formal qualifications in English. I offer my advice only as a native British English speaker. I believe the advice of an untrained English speaker can sometimes be beneficial.
    – RedPython
    Jul 3 '19 at 21:32
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It's a poorly written sentence that is missing the preposition "as". Also, it should be "whichever", not "whatever" because there is a limited choice.

The sentence should read "They cannot make a man wise or foolish; they achieve whichever as luck would have it.

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