The whole sentence is "Few things are impossible in themselves; and it is often for want of will, rather than of means, that man fails to succeed". It's a quote from Francois de La Rochefoucauld.

The "that" in " ..., that man fails to succeed" made me a bit confused. From my point of view, the latter part of the sentence is to say "man fails to succeed due to the lacking of want of will". Thus the "that" here sounds more like "thus" or "in this way". But looking up in the dictionary, I didn't find such a meaning of "that". So what is "that" mean here and what is its grammar function in this sentence?

  • 2
    The skeleton of the phrase is "it is because of X that something else happens" so that seems fine to me and you do not need to search for a different meaning of that.
    – mdewey
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 12:43

1 Answer 1


You mean a translation of a quote from La Rochefoucauld!

To paraphrase: "The reason that man fails to succeed is more often a lack of will than a lack of means." (Want in this context means lack, so you don't need both words.)

  • Il y a peu de choses impossibles, et l'application pour les faire réussir nous manque plus que les moyens - I would translate that as "There few things that are impossible to do, and it is lack of effort to make them succeed that we lack more than means". I think application and its English cognate comprise will, effort, and determination. Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 13:09
  • Thank you, Michael. Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 13:10

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