Those who can't do, teach.

Why do you put a comma between the subject and the verb?

  • Because a comma represents a new breath group. If you spoke that sentence without a new breath roup before "teach" it wouldn't make sense.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 7 at 22:56
  • Why do you believe that a comma is needed? Jan 8 at 0:25
  • @ColinFine I think that any predicate after a long subject is a "new breath group". But you're not supposed to put a comma after the long subject. For example, when you write Those who can't vote on the day may still vote by absentee ballot, you don't normally put a comma after "day", do you?
    – listeneva
    Jan 8 at 4:20
  • @MarcInManhattan I don't think it's necessary. But the famous quote is always written with a comma. Hence the question.
    – listeneva
    Jan 8 at 4:23
  • @listeneva Got it. I edited the title to be consistent with your comment. Jan 8 at 6:49

1 Answer 1


It's not well defined formally but the meaning of "those who can't do teach" could be "those who can't (teach) do teach", which is paradoxical This ambiguity arises because of one usage of "do", ie "do teach", which is equivalent to saying just "teach". Properly punctuated it would look like "those who can't, do teach" and has different meaning.

Think of the case, "those who can't do things teach things". The meaning is unambiguous without the comma and it has different meaning than "those who can't teach do teach". Consider also "those who can't do instead teach". This example replaces the comma with "instead".

  • If you have no other issues and no editions to formally propose these comments serve no continued purpose. The comments section is not a warehouse for rebuttal from skeptics. The answer was accepted. I edited to satisfy your conditions. Now kindly do the considerate thing and remove these comments. When i see my comments don't convince anyone and i don't want to edit the content i delete my critiques. Mods go around maaa deleting this kind of stuff all the time, it needs to go. Jan 8 at 1:26
  • I've personally been banspended on stacks for doing exactly what you have done here. Anyone care to bet if i get the same protection? Jan 8 at 1:29

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